Say Aloha to the champion from Hawai’i

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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As our success on the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act demonstrates, you’ve got to elect the right people to pass good ocean bills.  The Toxic Algae bill simply wouldn’t have overcome its obstacles without such champions as Congressmen Bart Gordon, Brian Baird, Connie Mack IV, Vern Ehlers, and Frank Kratovil, and Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

These champions are part of an increasingly strong pro-ocean Congress that must be to protected and enhanced.  And, with a nod toward enhancement, I’m proud to announce that Ocean Champions has endorsed Ed Case in the special election for Hawaii’s first Congressional district seat!  Case represented Hawaii in the 108th and 109th Congresses, and in that time, he was a true ocean advocate:

  • He sponsored the Coral Reef Conservation and Protection Act which would have made it unlawful to take, import/export, possess, purchase or sell any covered coral reef species within U.S. waters
  • He sponsored the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act, which would have established aquatic invasive species prevention requirements for all vessels operating in U.S. waters
  • He helped establish the Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument, which is the largest marine monument in the world (nearly 140,000 square miles)

We’re confident that Ed Case will be a great champion for ocean health in Congress if he wins.  He’s ahead in the polls now, but the conditions of his election make it challenging, and Ed needs your help.  Here’s why:

  • The special election is open, with three candidates running (two Dems, including Case, and one Republican)
  • The winner doesn’t need a majority, only the most votes.  Since Case is one of two Democrats running, he needs to differentiate himself to avoid splitting votes with the other Dem and handing the race to the one Republican opponent.
  • People will vote exclusively through the mail, and will have from May 1st to the 22nd to do so.  This means our guy needs to peak at the beginning of May, then sustain it for three weeks!

Date Posted: March 30, 2010 @ 1:42 pm Comments Off

The Connection Between Elections and Ocean Policy

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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Last Friday, the House of Representatives stayed an extra day to pass H.R. 3650 The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act. This was a big victory and a critical step to getting the bill on President Obama’s desk to sign it into law.  We’re excited about this milestone, but as many of you saw, it wasn’t easy.

You may recall that H.R. 3650 was originally considered on Tuesday under “Unanimous Consent.”  This is a way for the House to efficiently move non-controversial bills, which to that point, H.R. 3650 appeared to be.  Unfortunately, for political purposes, the Republicans whipped against the bill, with 138 voting against it, and H.R. 3650 fell 7 votes short of the 2/3 majority it needed to pass under Unanimous Consent.

At this point, the bill could have been dead, but thanks to our champions in Congress, it lived to fight (and win) again.  Ocean Champions was on the Hill Wednesday morning to assess what went wrong and see if there was a way forward.  What we saw when we talked to our champions was intense resolve to get this strong ocean bill passed.  Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee promised us that they would get the bill back to the floor.  Subcommittee Chair Brian Baird (D-WA) was equally resolute.  Showing that the resolve was bi-partisan, Congressmen Vern Ehlers (R-MI) and Connie Mac (R-FL), passionate supporters of this legislation, were also motivated to get it done.  Committee staff told us that a strong showing of public support would help Leadership demonstrate the need to give the bill a second vote, and the Ocean Champions activists responded, sending 1200 letters in just a few hours.  In the end, the bill got back to the House Floor Friday morning, where it passed easily.

This never would have happened without committed ocean champions in Congress.  In addition to the four cited above, Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Congressman Frank Kratovil (D-MD) gave powerful Floor speeches supporting the bill.  And across all the Members we’ve endorsed and supported, there was not a single “no” vote on Tuesday or Friday.  This is why we work so hard to help elect people who are committed to healthy oceans and want to pass policies that will get us there.  This is also why Ocean Champions is bi-partisan.  Champions come from both sides of the aisle, and our Republican champions like Congressmen Mack and Ehlers, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen proved that again by standing up for this bill.

Now the companion HABs bill in the Senate must be passed.  S. 952 was introduced and led by two ocean champions – Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and has been supported by other champions such as Senators Mark Begich (R-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).  Getting it passed will require their leadership along with the leadership of other champions we’ve endorsed.  We believe our chances are excellent, because we believe in our champions.

In the 2010 elections, many of these champions are in tight races, and we’ll need to help defend them while finding new champions to continue building a pro-ocean Congress.  We hope you’ll be watching and will “vote the oceans” when the time comes.  With the right Members in Congress, who knows what we can get done for the oceans?

Date Posted: March 15, 2010 @ 8:42 am Comments Off

Time to Start Talkin’ Elections

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

At Ocean Champions, we fight hard every day to move good ocean legislation through Congress.  This is important work, and we’re proud of what we’ve achieved.  One of the reasons we’ve done well, however, is that we also work hard to help good ocean candidates win.  We’re the only ocean-focused group that does this, and we do it because it wouldn’t matter how good we were at advocacy if no one on Capitol Hill cared about the ocean.  Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of success with helping the right guys win – since 2004 we’ve got an 81% winning percentage!  This has helped to create a pro-ocean Congress, which helps all ocean issues on the Hill.  Now, with the 2010 elections approaching, it’s time to start talkin’ electoral politics!

Over the next few months, we’ll be rolling out our endorsements.  These are the people we’ll be supporting and fighting for.  To make these decisions, we dig into each candidate’s historical record on ocean issues.  We then interview every new potential champion and reassess our relationships with existing champions.  At the end of the day, we believe our endorsed champions represent the Members most motivated, able and well positioned to support a healthy oceans agenda.  If you care about the ocean, we hope you’ll factor our endorsement into your voting decision.

The 2010 election will be important for the oceans.  There are a number races that will impact major ocean conservation priorities, such as climate change, fisheries reform and harmful algal blooms, and we’ll have a role in their outcome.  We’ll provide lots of information about these races as our endorsements come out.

One fight we’ve already committed to is in California 11.  Former Congressman and Ocean Enemy #1 Richard Pombo has returned and is running in this race (not even his home district). As chairman of the Natural Resource Committee, Pombo pressed for offshore drilling and for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He tried to gut the endangered species act, proposed selling national parks, and showered dirty utilities with subsidies. Now he’s back, and he’s promised to “finish the job.”

If Pombo won and the Republicans took back a majority in the House, he would have his seniority restored and could be reestablished as Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. We WILL NOT let this happen. Ocean Champions played a significant role in defeating Pombo in 2006.  We’re now working once again with our colleagues in the environmental community, we can send him back to his ranch – this time for good!

While our electoral work begins with beating Pombo, it won’t end there.  Keep checking in for new endorsements and updates as the electoral season heats up!

Date Posted: March 6, 2010 @ 8:05 am Comments Off