Memo: EDF Action & EDF Action Votes 2020 Electoral Work
To: Interested Parties
From: EDF Action President Joe Bonfiglio
Date: October 30, 2020
Re: EDF Action & EDF Action Votes 2020 Electoral Work
With a climate science denier in the White House and the clock ticking on climate action, the 2020 election may prove to be the most consequential in our history for the environment and public health. EDF Action and EDF Action Votes have worked to meet the moment with record investments in critical races across the country. This work ran the political gamut: mobilizing grassroots activists, running ad and mail programs to defeat Donald Trump, supporting pro-conservation candidates like Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) and working to usher in pro-conservation leaders in state legislatures in Arizona, North Carolina, New Mexico and Texas.
When all is said and done, EDF Action, EDF Action Votes and EDF Action PAC will have spent a combined nearly $19 million in the current cycle, more than doubling the $9 million in spending from the 2018 cycle. That total includes $3.2 million at the presidential level, $3.2 million in the U.S. Senate, $3.6 million in bipartisan efforts in the U.S. House and $3.5 million in state and local races around the country. The work includes $8 million in television and digital advertising as well as more than $4 million in mail programs, and more than $3 million in voter mobilization efforts. EDF Action PAC gave more than $268,000 directly to pro-environment candidates and committees, which included in-kind contributions from the Green Wave program where EDF Action had on-the-ground organizers recruiting EDF Action members to volunteer for key battleground races from coast to coast.
Defeating Donald Trump
2020 was the first election where EDF Action took a position in a presidential race, officially opposing Donald Trump’s re-election in early January. In this race, EDF Action and EDF Action Votes ultimately invested $3.2 million in research and independent expenditure ads with the goal of defeating Donald Trump and his pro-polluter agenda.
EDF Action spent over a year conducting research to find out how and where to effectively spend money in a crowded arena. The organization landed on Florida, arguable one of the most important battleground states that would be needed to defeat Donald Trump. Here our research found that climate change and Trump’s denial of the crisis resonated with persuadable voters, particularly in the Tampa media market, which serves as an essential piece of the electoral puzzle and a place where voters are already familiar with the cost of ignoring climate change.
This research was the driver behind EDF Action Votes’ $1.7 million investment in the Tampa area that launched in July. Combined with our research, the timing was ripe for the organization to go in with a big summer campaign, before the convention, while the Biden campaign turned from the nomination and began to raise money. EDF Action Votes ran a month and half long campaign, including two different television ads, both of which showcased Trump’s climate denial. All told, these ads accounted for around one third of the pro-Biden ads running in Tampa between when Biden locked up the nomination and Labor Day. The first ad focused on the fact that Trump believes climate change is a hoax while the second ad focused on how he ignores the warnings coming from military experts on the national security threat posed by climate change.
By the fall, with the race tightening in states across the country, including Florida, EDF Action Votes built on the foundation of our summer work in Tampa with an additional $1 million ad campaign on premium streaming services with a focus on Hispanic voters—working to solidify support for Joe Biden. This time, the organization ran a contrast ad laying out the stakes for our climate – with Trump continuing to deny climate change and Biden’s bold plan to tackle the challenge head on.
Winning a Pro-Environment Senate
With a wide battleground in play, EDF Action and EDF Action Votes were laser focused on four seats that could dramatically re-make the Senate toward pro-environment policy: Mark Kelly in Arizona, John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Gary Peters in Michigan and Steve Bullock in Montana.
EDF Action Votes’ biggest Senate investment came in what will likely be one of the closest in the country, the Montana Senate race. EDF Action Votes hit the airways for a sustained campaign totaling $1 million over a month-long period in Helena and Great Falls. The organization used salient local issues like public lands and healthcare to showcase Sen. Daines’ deeply disappointing record. On top of a television ad campaign, EDF Action Votes also ran an $800,000 persuasion and Get Out the Vote mail program to help boost Governor Bullock across the finish line.
In Arizona, EDF Action Votes went up on air in Phoenix with a $1 million television campaign in opposition of appointed Senator Martha McSally. The ad reminded voters of McSally’s broken promises on healthcare and pollution.
In Colorado, EDF Action Votes ran a critical campaign that showcased Sen. Cory Gardner’s hypocrisy on the environment. While Gardner’s campaign was running ads, using the same windmill b-roll video from 2014, EDF Action Votes and NRDC Action Votes teamed up to lay out the stakes in this election. NRDC Action Votes had a positive spot touting Hickenlooper’s environmental credentials while EDF Action Votes ran a negative campaign on premium streaming services across the state, which called out Cory Gardner for taking $2 million from the corporate polluters while putting Colorado’s air and water at risk.
Earlier this year, EDF Action Votes worked to bolster environmental champion, Sen. Gary Peters by partnering with LCV Victory Fund and NRDC Action Votes to run a TV ad in support of Gary Peters, which reminded voters of his work protecting Michiganders from toxic “forever” chemicals.
Supporting Bipartisan Environmental Champions in the U.S. House
EDF Action and EDF Action Votes worked this cycle to defend allies in U.S. House, with an investment of more than $3.6 million, including working to re-elect champions from both parties like Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1) to Rep Cindy Axne (IA-3) to Rep. Harley Rouda (CA-48) while opposing anti-environmental incumbent Rep. Scott Perry (PA-10).
In Pennsylvania, EDF Action Votes supported Representative Brian Fitzpatrick who is an environmental leader in Congress. The organization ran a campaign on premium streaming services highlighting Fitzpatrick’s record working across the aisle to protect Pennsylvania’s air, water and health. Then in October, EDF Action Votes launched a targeted mail and digital campaign that focused on ticket-splitter voters who were supporting Brian Fitzpatrick for Congress and Joe Biden for President.
EDF Action Votes targeted just one incumbent Member of the U.S. House for defeat, Congressman Scott Perry whose extreme voting record is far out of line with his moderate central Pennsylvania constituents. Polling showed how out-of-touch Perry’s extreme anti-environmental record is in the district, and led to an ad campaign showcasing his backward views on climate change and was followed up with a second ad focused on his health care record.
EDF Action Votes ran television ads in Virginia, South Carolina and New Mexico supporting Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Joe Cunningham and Xochitl Torres Small. These three Democrats, showed common-sense pragmatism in Congress, which stood in stark contrast to their opponents, Nancy Mace, Nick Freitas, and Yvette Herrell, who had problematic records. Additionally, the organization launched a comprehensive $1 million mail program across four competitive House districts, supporting freshmen with records of standing up for the environment and public health: Reps. Harley Rouda (CA-48), Cindy Axne (IA-03), Lauren Underwood (Il-14) and Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07).
Earlier in the cycle, EDF Action and EDF Action Votes spent an additional $1 million in the closely contested special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
Voter Mobilization and Grassroots engagement
EDF Action worked to harness the power of its membership through grassroots engagement in races around the country. A collaborative effort with partners in the environmental community, Green Wave, took environmentally-minded activists across the country and plugged them into key battleground races from coast to coast.
In 2020, the Green Wave was bigger than ever before, with more groups participating including EDF Action, Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, NRDC Action Fund and the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund. EDF Action took a leadership role in the community to ensure that the groups were mobilizing their members in key battleground races, to help elect environmental champions to the White House and Congress on November 3rd. This member mobilization program was active in over 30 federal races across 15 states, with EDF Action taking the lead in eight states that had competitive House and Senate races. EDF Action members were able to fill over 1,500 phone bank shifts and made tens of thousands of phone calls to voters. Even while reeling from the recent life changes posed by COVID-19, our organizing teams have worked at top speed to adopt digital tools to reach and unleash grassroots advocates and demonstrate political strength in electorally competitive places.
Beyond the Green Wave, EDF Action and EDF Action Votes worked with partners to mobilize pro-environment voters with programs focused on Hispanic women and young voters.
In Arizona, EDF Action worked in both the primary and general elections to elect pro-environment candidates in both parties, investing over $500,000 throughout the cycle. Together, the organization’s efforts in the primary and general elections will help to secure a pro-conservation majority in the state legislature.
Here the organization’s primary work consisted of a targeted mail campaign in support of State Representatives Daniel Hernandez (Legislative District 2) and Alma Hernandez (Legislative District 3). Additionally, EDF Action used a variety of communications tactics to get the message out to voters, including mail, digital, newspaper ads and robocalls in support Republican pro-conservation leaders like Representatives Rusty Bowers, Michelle Udall, Joanne Osborne, Tim Dunn and Senator Sine Kerr.
In the general election, EDF Action built on our work in the primaries by running a mail and digital ad campaign in support of Representative Jennifer Pawlik (Legislative District 17) and House candidate Judy Schwiebert (Legislative District 20), and Senate candidate Felicia French (Legislative District 6).
In New Mexico, EDF Action Votes worked in both the primary and general election to elect pro-environment candidates by investing over $175,000 throughout the cycle.
Here the work in the primary focused on a three-piece mail and digital program supporting State Representative Matthew McQueen (House District 50), which highlighted his leadership for New Mexico families. Then in the general election, EDF Action Votes ran a substantial mail program in support of State House candidates Meredith Dixon (HD-20), Jessica Velasquez (HD-22), Representative Melanie Stansbury (HD 28) and State Senate candidate Katy Duhigg (SD-10).
EDF Action invested nearly $350,000 in legislative races across North Carolina. These investments are a mix of digital and mail programing in five state legislative races: Terri Legrand (SD-31) Sydney Batch (HD- 37), John Szoka (HD-45), Dan Besse (HD-74) and Aimy Steele (HD-82). These candidates have proven that they will fight every day to build a healthier, more resilient, and sustainable economic future for North Carolina communities and families. Then in mid-October, EDF Action went up with digital buys for Bobby Hanig (HD-6), Jim Perry (SD-7) and Vickie Sawyer (SD-34).
The 2020 cycle marks the first-ever investments in down ballot work in Texas, spending a total of $2.2 million, marking the largest down ballot expenditure of the cycle. That total includes approximately $391,000 for state legislative races across Texas, and approximately $1.8 million for the Railroad Commission race.
In Texas, EDF Action Votes invested approximately $391,000 in helping to elect candidates who will prioritize clean air, water and health while growing the clean energy economy. The investments were a mix of digital and mail in six state legislative races: Representative Erin Zwiener (HD-45), Lorenzo Sanchez (HD-67), Jeff Whitfield (HD-92), Celina Montoya (HD-121), Ann Johnson (HD-134) and Akilah Bacy (HD-138).
While we know the Railroad Commission race, which regulates oil and gas companies in Texas, will be a tough race, it is one worth fighting. This race has a consequential impact on the health and safety of Texas families, not to mention for climate progress and the future of our planet. That’s why EDF Action Votes launched a comprehensive 5-piece mail campaign along with digital ads running across the state to inform voters about Jim Wright and his concerning history. As the ads make clear, Wright is wrong for Texas.