In a signal that Democratic voters aren't satisfied with timid steps to address the human-made global climate crisis, new polling from Data for Progress—initially reported by HuffPost on Thursday—shows that incumbent congressional candidates in 2020 could be ousted by progressive primary challengers if they fail to back a Green New Deal.
Championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and a growing collective of Democratic lawmakers and climate campaigners, a Green New Deal would combine efforts to curb global warming and create a more just economy through generating clean energy jobs and other initiatives. Such a deal, however, has been met with opposition from more conservative Democrats.
The youth-led Sunrise Movement, which has organized protests at congressional offices in recent weeks to encourage House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats to support a Green New Deal, celebrated the new polling results in a tweet:
— Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt) January 3, 2019
The movement has called on Pelosi to pursue bold climate action that aligns with the latest science, or to step aside so more ambitious lawmakers can take the lead. Pelosi, for her part, has pushed for a pay-go rule for the House that opponents say will hinder Medicare for All and a Green New Deal as well as a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis that critics denounce as a "toothless" stand-in for a committee dedicated to crafting such a deal.
Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), meanwhile, has unsuccessfully fought to replace Pelosi with someone more conservative and has not publicly backed mounting calls for the Democratically-controlled House to work on a Green New Deal. The new polling, conducted Dec. 17 to Dec. 27, suggests such positions could have major consequences come 2020.
In Rice's Long Island district, 300 likely Democratic primary voters were told that Rice "does not currently support a Green New Deal," and asked about how a candidate's position on a plan "to invest trillions of dollars into the development and distribution of green energy, creating millions of new high-wage jobs while preventing catastrophic climate change" would impact their decisions in the ballot box during the next primary.
Although Rice has a high approval rating in New York's 4th District and she told HuffPost that she supports "robust federal investment in energy-efficient infrastructure projects and training for green energy jobs," a plurality of respondents, 47 percent, indicated that they would back a candidate who supports a Green New Deal.
"The strongest margin of support are older suburban women," noted Evan Roth Smith of Slingshot Strategies, which conducted the survey for Data for Progress. "That is the constituency for a Green New Deal in her district."
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However, polling from Massachusetts' 6th District, currently represented by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), shows that Democrats who have backed the Green New Deal but are more centrist and opposed Pelosi's bid for speaker—even if they ultimately voted for her—could also face progressive challengers in 2020. Moulton had a 61 percent favorable rating among 300 likely Democratic primary voters, according to The Daily Beast. "But when pitted against other prospective Democratic challengers, only 49 percent said that they would back him. Of those surveyed, 29 percent said they were not sure."
What could likely converge in 20 are Democrats in safer districts facing primaries + those who mounted the Pelosi rebellion facing the same threats. https://t.co/tKvIRaZyQn
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) January 3, 2019
As Smith put it: "Seth Moulton is in real political trouble over his hesitancy to vote for Pelosi... Moulton will be forced to defend his political decision making, and is clearly vulnerable to potential primary challengers who are already registering double-digit support."
Though he has endorsed a Green New Deal, "Moulton faces a real risk from his opposition to Medicare for All," Data for Progress co-founder Sean McElwee told The Daily Beast. "The base is ready. When a primary challenger emerges, I'd bet on them."
Meanwhile, on Long Island, a potential challenger to Rice—who took tens of thousands of campaign dollars from Donald Trump before he was elected president—already has emerged. Nassau County activist Siela Bynoe reportedly is considering a bid to challenge the incumbent in the 2020 primary.
Rice took $53,000 from Trump and during her tenure as prosecutor used illegal tactics to incarcerate people for crimes they were not guilty of. She opposes Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.https://t.co/QHbWOf5PhPhttps://t.co/6mnawLHhVs https://t.co/05bub4zNPf
— we're going to pass AVR (@SeanMcElwee) January 3, 2019
Perhaps the most well known recent instance of a progressive beating out a more conservative Democrat is Ocasio-Cortez's stunning primary upset against longtime Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley last June. Looking forward, McElwee told HuffPost, "People like Ocasio-Cortez are more than willing to primary a Democrat for not supporting a Green New Deal."
This post has been amended to reflect the fact that Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) has endorsed a Green New Deal.