Enviro groups intensify presence in Arizona Senate race, other campaigns

Navin Nayak, LCV's senior vice president for campaigns, said the group is supporting Carmona (D), a former surgeon general, in that race. 

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Nayak said Carmona has “done an impressive job of giving us a chance to have a pro-environment vote.”

Nayak said LCV is not done spending for the 2012 cycle. He said the group also could jump into Senate races in Nevada, Wisconsin and Maine in the coming weeks.

The LCV ad released Monday criticizes Flake for his time as a uranium industry lobbyist and for taking $181,000 in campaign contributions from that industry.

The spot also slams Flake for introducing a rider to the fiscal 2012 Interior Department appropriations bill that would have permitted uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.

Flake pushed the measure in response to a 2011 Interior-ordered six-month extension to a mining ban for more than 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon.

Andrew Wilder, spokesman for the Flake campaign, said that while the LCV ad mentions Flake supported mining near the Grand Canyon, it is "trying to piggyback" off a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spot that said Flake wanted to mine in Grand Canyon National Park. 

“[I]t’s no surprise that liberal, out-of-state allies of Richard Carmona would seek to distort his record. The League of Conservation Voters supports cap-and-trade, opposes building the Keystone Pipeline and is to the left of even President Obama on many issues, and so Arizonans are right to ask why they clearly see a future ally for that agenda in Richard Carmona,” Wilder told The Hill in an email.

LCV, which has spent aggressively in 2012, also plans to increase its profile in the New York House race between Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) and former Rep. Dan Maffei (D).

The group spent $200,000 on a TV ad that will air in the Syracuse market beginning Tuesday. That ad attacks Buerkle for calling global warming a myth, and for her opposition to Environmental Protection Agency pollution rules.

David Ray, spokesman for the Buerkle campaign, slammed LCV's general policy positions in response to the ad.

"This organization is a front group for left-wing policies like Cap-and-Trade, which Dan Maffei voted for and would kill thousands of good-paying New York jobs. If Upstate New Yorkers don't want to pay higher utility rates and continue experiencing pain at the pump, then they should reject Dan Maffei's radical policies," Ray said in an email to The Hill.

The Sierra Club, meanwhile, is amplifying its own presence in the Arizona Senate and New York House races, the environmental group noted Monday.

The group sent 56 of its members to 47 House and Senate campaigns Monday, where they will canvass and make phone calls with campaign staffs.

Many of the Sierra Club volunteers will work in their hometown districts, Sean Sarah, a spokesman with the Sierra Club Victory Corps, told The Hill. Sarah said he was unsure how much the Sierra Club would spend on the initiative.

“We know a lot of money is going to be spent, but we think real people on the ground talking to people in their hometown is going to help,” Sarah said.

A recent New York Times story found fossil fuel industry groups are outspending environmentalists by a four-to-one ratio, with much of that money financing advertisements that support energy positions held by Republicans.

In calls with reporters, environmental groups have emphasized the spending gap this campaign cycle between them and oil-and-gas interests. Though environmental groups have also upped spending — LCV has so far spent $8 million, compared with $5 million total in 2010 — they have maintained their efforts pale in comparison to fossil fuel industry groups.

Sarah said Sierra Club’s initial wave of volunteers — more are in the offing — is widespread, but that the group is focused on a handful of key contests.

Those races include: the New Mexico Senate race, where the Sierra Club is backing Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) over former Rep. Heather Wilson (R); the Connecticut Senate race, with the Sierra Club stumping for Rep. Chris Murphy (D) rather than Lisa McMahon (R); Rep. Betty Sutton’s (D-Ohio) reelection bid in a new district that pits her against Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio); and Hawaii’s Senate race, where the group supports Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) over former Gov. Linda Lingle (R).

LCV has devoted cash and resources to many of those same races, with the Heinrich and Murphy campaigns commanding considerable attention from the group.

Heinrich has distanced himself from Wilson in a race that started close and drew national interest from environmental groups, which have strongly backed Heinrich. Nayak attributed that lead to environmental groups’ ad blitz from mid-June through August, with groups spending $1.3 million on the race.

“We all came into this thinking if [we were] smart and focused with our resources we could have a big impact,” Nayak said, adding he hoped LCV’s spending would tip between four and six Senate contests.

— This story was updated at 7:55 p.m. with spending figures by all environmental groups in the New Mexico Senate race. A previous version misstated that amount.

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