By Gary Lasky
The Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter is organizing its member volunteers to support two San Joaquin Valley Congressional candidates in 2020: TJ Cox and Brynne Kennedy. Cox is a freshman in Congress representing rural Fresno, Kings and Kern counties in the 21st Congressional District.
The seat was one of seven House races in California in 2018 in which a Republican incumbent lost a seat in that Blue Wave election, and it was one of the last House races decided that year in the United States. Cox is in a rematch with farmer David Valadao.
Brynne Kennedy is running in Congressional District 4, a sprawling Sierra foothill district that extends from Fresno County all the way to the Sacramento suburbs. It is represented in Congress by Tom McClintock (R–Elk Grove), who has reportedly never lived in the district. Kennedy retired early from the tech industry after founding and managing a successful online business, Topia.
Both Kennedy and Cox are advocates for the environment, and Cox has received a 97% rating from the League of Conservation Voters for his voting record. Each calls for the best available science to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as forest health and climate change. Cox supports a ban on fracking and told our Sierra Club interviewers, “I am not afraid of the oil industry.”
McClintock, on the other hand, is skeptical of the pandemic, a climate change denier and the only California member of Congress to vote against the Great America Outdoors Act, which was signed into law this year.
Also, the Sierra Club has endorsed Joe Biden for President in 2020. In an unprecedented effort, the club’s more than 700,000 dues-paying members and two million supporters are being recruited for this effort to defeat President Trump’s reelection effort.
The Sierra Club is strategically focusing its efforts in four battleground states: Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida. A quarter-million club members in California are being recruited to focus on Arizona, where their efforts will likely flip a U.S. Senate seat, too.
Due to Covid-19, club volunteers are not being recruited to travel to canvass in battleground states but instead are bolstering the Biden-Harris ticket by phoning and texting voters using state-of-the-art virtual campaign tools and by writing thousands of old-school letters to request that voters cast their ballot for Biden.
Sierra Club involvement in electoral work dates back to at least 2006, when it partnered with Defenders of Wildlife and the Humane Society in a $2 million independent expenditure campaign to defeat Rep. Richard Pombo in a district stretching from Pleasanton to Stockton. At that time, it was the only one of California’s 53 Congressional seats to have flipped in a decade.
In 2020, the Sierra Club’s grassroots campaign effort is unprecedented. As of August, 3,500 volunteers have already participated. The club has also expanded its longstanding Victory Corps effort this year, training and assigning club staff to be field organizers inside candidate campaigns during October, using PAC funds.
Gary Lasky is the chair of the Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter.