$8 Million in Va. Gov's Race Puts Environment in Spotlight

Monday, 11 Nov 2013 03:38 PM

By Andrea Billups

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A big investment by a green billionaire in the Virginia governor's race made a huge impact on a shadow campaign that contributed to Republican Ken Cuccinelli's defeat.

While other, more crucial issues such as education and transportation were expected to be big-ticket draws in the race, the environmental campaign waged by California billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $8 million trying to discredit Cuccinelli's position on climate change, is viewed as making a difference in the race's outcome, Politico reported Monday.

Steyer's investment mirrored the contributions of the Republican National Committee in the race, which was won by Democrat Terry McAuliffe by two-and-a-half percentage points.

Steyer used his Nextgen Climate Action PAC to produce ads for McAuliffe — $3.1 million in total TV time — that went after Cuccinelli's efforts to investigate a University of Virginia climate scientist. He also spent $1.2 million on digital ads, 12 campaign mailers, and a massive get-out-the-vote field program that went after 62,000 Virginia households, making climate change an issue with legs, Politico said.

Steyer told Politico he did not feel he overspent, even though some compared him to the deep-pocketed Republican Koch brothers and to Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who have used their fortunes to support candidates on the right. Some see Steyer's efforts in Virginia as a test case and model for pushing climate change as a political issue moving forward, HotAir.com reported.

"One of my friends who is a Democratic governor and knew what we spent said, 'I think you overspent on this campaign.' But it turned out we didn’t," Steyer told Politico. "We kept going with what we originally thought we needed to do for the turnout, which was our whole goal."

Steyer also used his fortune to help engineer a win for Democrat Ed Markey, a climate change activist, in a recent Massachusetts special election for the U.S. Senate.

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