Washington Climate Champ Handily Wins First-Round Race Against Gas-Backed Challenger

by | Aug 3, 2022 | Politics

Over the past month, the gas industry and its unions flooded a local race in Washington state with money to defeat a progressive incumbent who had championed policies to shift the Evergreen State away from gas appliances. But voters in the district covering the San Juan Islands and neighboring coastal communities overwhelmingly favored incumbent Rep. Alex Ramel in the first round of voting on Tuesday night. The progressive netted nearly 75% of the roughly 23,000 votes cast in the primary. Trevor Smith, the union leader who cast Ramel’s push for electrified buildings as dangerous and out-of-touch, won about 22%. Write-ins made up the other 3%.Advertisement“This result is humbling,” Ramel wrote in a tweet late Tuesday night.In an email to HuffPost, he said “there was clearly a backlash from the community learning about that much money was being spent by oil and gas companies and their friends.” Smith did not immediately respond to an interview request sent early Wednesday morning. Both Democrats will now advance to November’s general election. State Rep. Alex Ramel, who is facing a heated challenge from another Democrat in this election, speaks on the floor of the House at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.via Associated PressThe race caught national attention as political action committees started running ads backing Smith and speciously tying Ramel’s proposals to reform the state’s natural gas system to national gasoline prices, a completely different and unrelated fuel. In June, gas companies, construction trade groups, and unions representing their workers started donating more than $300,000 to the Jackson Legacy Fund, a PAC that supports business-friendly Democrats. Later that month, the fund transferred $150,000 to another PAC called Citizens For Legislative Accountability. Since the start of July, the latter PAC has spent over $82,000 on advertisements for Smith’s campaign. AdvertisementThe Washington Observer, a local newsletter, first reported the surge in political spending in the race. The spending warped the dynamics of the election overnight, bringing this race about halfway to rivaling the Washington statehouse record for the most money spent to defeat an incumbent candidate. Smith’s campaign, which cannot legally coordinate with the PACs, had raised just $24,000, compared to Ramel’s $86,000 war chest. People sitting in a park above the ferry dock in Orcas Village on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands in Washington. The archipelago is the heart of the state’s 40th legislative district. Wolfg …

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