California Democrats Snub Obama's Climate Change Push

Monday, 18 Aug 2014 09:25 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Democrats in California who face close races in November have balked at backing President Barack Obama’s climate change message despite the state’s worst drought in history, The Hill reported.

Although Obama says global warming is the cause of wildfires and droughts in the Golden State, Democrats bidding to defeat Republicans in the water-restricted Central Valley agricultural region are careful to avoid pushing the president’s pet issue.

The drought, now in its third year and costing the state $2.2 billion in 2014, is a major talking point in three close House races in California. But Democrats are unwilling to make a connection between the water shortages and global warming, which the Obama administration blames on greenhouse gas emissions.

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"The way folks talk about the drought out here is, 'We have a problem, let’s fix the problem,'" Amanda Renteria, a Democrat challenging Republican Rep. David Valadao, told The Hill. "Climate change doesn't really belong in the question, or answer."

Her campaign has instead targeted state officials for not being prepared for the drought in Central Valley, saying they should have leaned on Congress to create water storage facilities for farmers.

"The fact that we need an answer, and needed an answer for years — this has been coming, we knew it was coming — adds to questions about who our leaders are, and what is going on in Congress," she said.

Democrat Rep. Ami Bera, who faces a competitive election against Republican Doug Ose, is focused on the state’s water crisis during her campaign, even though in the past she’s been an advocate for climate change.

"California's historic drought is impacting Sacramento County families, small businesses, and farmers and we are continuing to do everything we can to both help those being hurt in the short term, and to fight for comprehensive, long-term solutions to secure water access and storage," Bera wrote in an email to The Hill.

Democrat Michael Eggman, who’s challenging Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in the 10th district, has distanced himself from the Obama administration’s climate policies, even though he’s a firm believer that global warming creates severe weather conditions like wildfires and drought.

"Voters are concerned with the immediate impact on our agricultural economy," Eggman said in reply to a question about Obama’s policies to help prevent global warming. "Most folks affected by the drought need immediate relief, which means new water storage, reclamation programs and water infrastructure."

Republicans, on the other hand, are dismissive of suggestions connecting climate change to the scarcity of water, while saying that Obama’s environmental regulations are making the situation worse.

Valadao’s spokesman Tal Eslick told The Hill that every day he hears about "people suffering" due to excessive environmental rules and not global warming.

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Dave Gilliard, a campaign consultant for Denham, told The Hill, "Voters are concerned about whether there is going to be water coming out when they turn the faucet on. These big scientific debates are not relevant to a farmer who can't irrigate his crop at this point in time."

Ose says that the drought is a natural "recurring part of the meteorological reality," and accused Bera of ignoring the issue, The Hill added.

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