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Half-victory for climate billionaire

Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer can claim victory in half of the elections in which his political action committee spent money.

In the remaining races, Republicans can thank assistance from outside spending from the right for their victories, largely led by billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch.

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Steyer’s NextGen Climate group spent $65 million in congressional and state races, largely battling the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity in an attempt to push the environment to the forefront of federal and state policy agendas. 

Early on in the 2014 election season, Steyer’s plans for spending as much as $100 million, along with his public challenges to the Koch brothers, invited comparisons to the conservative billionaires who have become heavy hitters in election finance in recent years.

But Steyer hit back at the comparisons, saying that his group’s incentive would be principles, not financial interests. 

What Steyer got in return for his efforts was a bit of a mixed bag. New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) won reelection against Republican Scott Brown, and Rep. Gary Peters (D) earned a promotion to the Senate over Republican Terri Lynn Land.

But Iowa’s Bruce Braley and Colorado’s Mark Udall, both Democrats, lost in high-profile races that were watched nationally as opportunities for the Republican Party to gain seats. Both races contributed to the GOP taking a majority of the Senate.

NextGen celebrated each of its wins.

“Today, voters in New Hampshire proved that climate change has become a defining issue in our political dialogue and that they are ready to hold our candidates and elected leaders accountable for their actions,” Pete Kavanaugh, New Hampshire state director of NextGen, said of Shaheen’s win.

Without mentioning the Kochs by name, NextGen called out “out-of-state oil tycoons” for supporting Brown.

“Michigan voters had a clear choice today, and they chose to send a senator to Washington who will protect our environment and seek real and immediate solutions to combat climate change,” Stephanie Chang, NextGen’s Michigan director, said in her own statement.

“Voters in Michigan clearly agreed with Senator-elect Peters that climate change is an issue that can no longer be ignored,” she said.

Americans for Prosperity took some credit for the Senate flipping.

“Americans for Prosperity has spent years building a permanent infrastructure across the nation with staff and activists that engage and win on economic freedom issues at the state, local, and federal levels,” President Tim Phillips said in a statement.

“Tonight’s results are a clear rebuke of ObamaCare and the government overreach that have come to define the Obama-Reid agenda, and a class of senators who chose to rubber stamp bad policy rather than fight for the people they represent.”

Steyer saw similar results in the state gubernatorial races where it spent money: Pennsylvania, Florida and Maine.

Democrat Tom Wolf won in Pennsylvania, but Republican Rick Scott edged out Democrat Charlie Crist in Florida.

In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage (R) defeated Rep. Mike Michaud (D) early Wednesday.