Major green groups back Dem in Illinois Senate race

Greg Nash

Three major environmental groups are backing Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) in her bid to unseat Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkSenate rivals gear up for debates The Trail 2016: Trump seizes on Charlotte violence Iran president hints at future prisoner swaps, cash settlements with US MORE (R).

The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund and the Sierra Club on Monday said they trust Duckworth most to push legislation to fight climate change and maintain strong air and water pollution standards.

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With the endorsement, the groups are turning their backs on Kirk, a centrist member of the GOP and one of three Senate Republicans to vote to uphold the Obama administration’s landmark climate change rule for power plants.

“The people of Illinois deserve two senators who will consistently support climate action and defend public health, and we are thrilled to endorse Rep. Tammy Duckworth to join Senator Durbin as the next senator from Illinois to do just that,” Alex Taurel, deputy legislative director for the League, said in a joint statement from the three groups.

“Building the ranks of pro-environment senators is an important goal for the NRDC Action Fund this year, which is why we're proud to endorse Rep. Tammy Duckworth,” said Henry Henderson, a senior adviser at NRDC Action Fund.

Kady McFadden, Illinois political director for the Sierra Club, said Duckworth “will continue to champion the policies we need to combat the climate crisis and seize the clean energy future.”

In accepting the endorsement, Duckworth said that as a new parent, she feels “a particular responsibility to act in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus about global climate change, and you have my commitment that in the Senate I will continue to work with these groups and everyone else who accepts scientific reality and is committed to solving this existential threat.”

Kirk joined Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteSenate rivals gear up for debates WATCH LIVE: Warren campaigns for Clinton in NH Green group endorses in key Senate races MORE (N.H.) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSwing-state Republicans play up efforts for gun control laws Reid knocks GOP on gun 'terror loophole' after attacks GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (Maine) last year as the only Senate Republicans to back the administration’s Clean Power Plan.

He was once a top green ally and has long led the party on environmental policies, including being a lead sponsor in the House for cap-and-trade legislation for carbon dioxide emissions.

But some of his actions on climate have troubled environmentalists, including a committee vote against the climate rule last year before he came out in support, and once saying that Greenland’s name disproves human-induced climate change. He later clarified that be believes that humans contributed to climate change.

Duckworth has polled far ahead of other candidates in the Democratic primary race.