October 26, 2018

Endorsements and Analysis for the November Elections – Key Races for Governor

Animal Wellness Action, a non-partisan entity that looks solely at the stances and voting, leadership, and cosponsorship records of candidates on animal issues, has announced approximately 200 endorsements of candidates for Congress and for governor’s races, forecasting that Democrats are likely to regain the majority in the House after 8 years in the minority and that strongly pro-animal Democrats are poised to win races for governor in a half dozen states. Action believes that the Senate will stay in the Republican hands, but there are some particularly important some key races in that chamber.

Governors typically have a controlling influence on animal protection issues. They sign or veto animal-related bills, appoint key commissioners and staff leaders to state wildlife and agriculture agencies, and influence a wide range of other political and regulatory outcomes for animals. Several state and federal legislators with outstanding records on animal issues are seeking election to governor’s seats in key states this fall and offer the prospect of a dramatic advance on our issues in the years ahead.

In New Mexico, Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1) is facing off against Representative Stevan Pearce (NM-2). A former cabinet member to former Governor Bill Richardson – who in his two terms turned into one of the most pro-animal governors in U.S. history – Lujan Grisham has a perfect score on the Congressional Accountability Tool. She’s also been a tireless leader against horse slaughter. Pearce, on the other hand, has landed on the opposite side of our issues time and again. Lujan Grisham gets our most enthusiastic endorsement given the sharp divergence of their records.

In Oklahoma, former four-term Democrat Attorney General Drew Edmondson is in a tough race against businessman Kevin Stitt. As attorney general, Edmondson expertly fought to protect the state’s voter-approved initiative against cockfighting. More recently, he led the successful fight to defeat a radical “Right to Farm” measure that sought to deregulate animal agriculture on a go-forward basis. We don’t know much about Stitt’s record on animal issues, but we do know that Edmondson would be an extraordinary voice for common sense, animal welfare, and family farming if he were to become the state’s chief executive.

In Colorado, Republican Walker Stapleton hasn’t had much of an opportunity to show his hand on animal welfare issues given the sorts of finance issues that occupied his time as state Treasurer. But Representative Jared Polis (CO-2) has been one of the brightest stars of animal protection in the U.S. House. He has a perfect record on animal issues and was particularly fierce in fighting against the repeal of the federal rules to protect predators on national wildlife refuges and national preserves in Alaska and in fighting for the defense of wild horses. A leader on animal issues, he could be a transformational figure on animal issues in the Colorado.

In Illinois, incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner lost any prospect of winning our endorsement when he signed a terribly controversial bill to allow the trophy hunting and trapping of bobcats. His challenger, J.B. Pritzker, who is far ahead in the polls in a battle of two self funders, gets the nod from Animal Wellness Action in the hope that he’ll be an ally to the wide range of animal issues, including wildlife protection. In Michigan, state senator Gretchen Whitmer led the fight against an effort by Republican state lawmakers to overturn a voter-approved ban on the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves. The voters of Michigan rejected trophy hunting of wolves in two separate referenda in 2014, and it was Whitmer who took to the floor to call out this contempt for the voters’ will. Her opponent, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, has not been active on animal issues, and Whitmer easily wins our endorsement for governor. She’ll be a champion of the cause (along with stalwart advocate Dana Nessel, a Democrat candidate seeking to fill Schuette’s office as attorney general).

In Pennsylvania, we also endorse Tom Wolf for re-election, since he’s demonstrated unambiguous concern for animal protection values, even taking out advertising to tout support for his high-profile signing of an upgrade of the state’s anti-cruelty law (Libre’s law, named for the dog who was a victim of terrible abuse). In California, Gavin Newsom is expected to win in a landslide. His father has been a tremendous advocate for animal and environmental causes throughout his lifetime, and Newsom will almost certainly continue that family tradition.

Democrat Congressman Tim Walz (MN-1) gets the nod in Minnesota after amassing a strong record on animal issues, as evidenced by his performance on the Congressional Accountability Tool in his current term in the House. Former U.S. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska – who was a strong animal welfare advocate during his six-year term in Washington – now has a chance to ascend to the governor’s office now that incumbent Independent Governor Bill Walter has dropped out of the race and he faces off against Republican Mike Dunleavy in a two-man race. Kate Brown gets the nod in Oregon, although we’ve been concerned about her timid stance on critical wolf and mountain lion protection policies in the state; we sincerely hope she stands up for wildlife if she wins a second term.

We are excited to endorse incumbent Republican Henry McMaster for Governor of South Carolina, the first elected official in the U.S. to endorse Donald Trump for President. McMaster has been a strong pro-animal governor and state attorney general and he most certainly gets our nod. Other Republican governors, including Doug Ducey of Arizona, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, have strong records on animal protection, and they are win our support for stepping up on animal welfare. Like Oregon’s Kate Brown though, each one of them can do better on wildlife protection issues.

So many crucial issues for animal protection are decided by the states, and there’s no more important influencer of policy and regulations than the governors. Animal advocates can play a pivotal role in helping elect or re-elect a raft of pro-animal candidates for governor, and they should pay special attention to these races on their ballots.

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