Time will tell if Big Oil’s campaign investments in California pay off • Sacramento News & Review


Some races with moderate Democrats backed by oil money against progressives remain too close to announce.

By Aaron Cantu, Capital & Main

This story is produced by the award-winning journalism association Capital & Main and co-published here with permission.

While California Governor Gavin Newsom was easily re-elected on Nov. 8, encouraging environmentalists who want him to continue pushing his aggressive climate agenda, the state’s other midterm election results have been mixed.

The California oil and gas industry poured millions into several legislative races, some of which were always going to be competitive. Many have come down to the wire, with candidates neck and neck in the polls and no clear winner yet. In some races, it could take weeks to determine the winner. Meanwhile, the only climate-related ballot measure – Prop. 30, which would have taxed the wealthy to pay for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure – did not pass. The measure, funded by Lyft, was strongly opposed by Newsom.

As mail-in voting and other ballots continue to be counted, here’s where things stand in some of the state races where Big Oil has spent big. All the races oppose two newcomers to the legislative ones.

In California’s Senate District 8, which includes part of Sacramento County, the city’s Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby held a narrow lead over fellow Democrat Dave Jones. Capital & Main previously reported that a PAC representing state oil refinery owners invested $1.6 million in its campaign in recent weeks – the highest amount in the industry for any candidate. of the state since at least the spring. It’s unclear how her election might shape climate policy or the regulation of the oil and gas industry if elected. At press time, Ashby held a 34,749 lead to Jones’ 32,111.

Refinery owners such as Chevron, Valero and Marathon bought around $1 million in ads for Stephanie Nguyen in her race against Eric Guerra for the 10th Assembly District seat representing parts of Sacramento. Nguyen had a comfortable lead at 20,297 to Guerra’s 14,728 on Thursday morning.

In another case, the state Senate race in District 38 to represent parts of Orange County, Encinitas Mayor and Democrat Catherine Blakespear was barely ahead of Republican Matthew Gunderson. The oil and gas PAC has spent more than a million on pro-Gunderson ads and advice, and an equal amount on opposition papers against Blakespear, which taxed the industry’s excess profits because of high oil prices. gasoline and a statewide transition to renewable energy are key elements of his campaign. At press time she held a 108,548 lead to Gunderson’s 107,3580, although determining an eventual winner could, again, take weeks.

A run in California’s oil country — the state’s “most fiercely contested political turf” this election, according to CalMatters — could show the limits of industry spending in competitive elections. He spent hundreds of thousands here in the final days before the election, but at press time Jasmeet Bains held a large lead over fellow Democrat and Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez. But maybe that’s not so bad for the industry. In public statements, Bains and Perez have spoken favorably of oil and gas producers, who are the county’s biggest taxpayers and among its top employers.

Republican candidate Juan Alanis, another recipient of oil money, who is running for Assembly District 22 to represent parts of Stanislaus County and Merced County, held a comfortable lead over Democrat Jessica Self . But in a tight race to have Assembly District 27 represent part of neighboring Fresno County, oil candidate Esmerelda Soira barely held a lead over Republican Mark Pazin.

Further south in Los Angeles, the industry also sent funds through at least one PAC to elect Daniel Hertzberg, a self-proclaimed progressive and son of an incumbent senator, for Senate District 20. But Hertzberg appeared to waver against equally progressive challenger Caroline Menjivar, whose campaign website outlines her support for the transition to a clean energy economy.

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