Trailing in the polls by double digits days before the election, Maryland’s Democratic candidate for governor Ben Jealous hit the campaign trail with leading environmentalist Bill McKibben
DHARNA NOOR: I’m Dharna Noor, reporting for The Real News Network in Silver Spring, Maryland.
It’s now just days before the general election, and Republican Governor Larry Hogan is up by a double-digit lead in the polls. But that hasn’t stopped his Democratic challenger Ben Jealous and his campaign and supporters from coming out to drum up support.
In a final push at the polls, Jealous hit the campaign trail with leading environmentalist Bill McKibben.
BILL MCKIBBEN: I’m here because this is one of these critical elections for climate policy around the country. And Ben Jealous is one of the most remarkable environmental advocates as well as civil rights advocates that we have.
DHARNA NOOR: McKibben is an award-winning activist and author. In 1989, he wrote one of the first books on climate change for a general audience, The End of Nature, and he’s a co-founder of international climate advocacy organization 350.org.
BILL MCKIBBEN: You saw the UN report 10 or 12 days ago about climate. The bottom line of it was we’re out of time. I mean, if we haven’t made a massive shift in our direction in the next 12 years, then we’re not going to be able to do it.
DHARNA NOOR: McKibben endorsed Jealous early on, before Maryland’s Democratic primary. Jealous has also won the endorsement of Friends of the Earth Action and local chapters of the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and Food and Water Action.
BILL MCKIBBEN: As a young newspaper reporter, he covered a lot of these environmental justice issues that I think really brought it home to him. And so when he took over the NAACP he really helped bring this question of environmental justice to the forefront, helped change it from environmentalism to environmental justice.
DHARNA NOOR: Popular incumbent Republican Governor Larry Hogan also touts his environmental record. Supporters note he backed environmental regulations like a statewide fracking ban and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act. But Jealous says that’s not the full story.
BEN JEALOUS: He took $250,000 from the corporate chicken lobby. And then, on his first day in office, made it possible for them to dump chicken feces straight into the Chesapeake Bay. So, on my first day in office, I will undo that executive order. I will also make sure that we get the governors in the region together to make sure that we have a strategy to keep the Bay cleanup going and accelerate it no matter what happens in Washington, DC.
Larry Hogan, as a popular Republican, had a responsibility to stand up against Scott Pruitt and his successor when they were appointed to lead the EPA, and he didn’t do it. He didn’t use his popularity to defend the Bay, even though Scott Pruitt had said, from landlocked Oklahoma, that he was dedicated to destroying the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Plan.
DHARNA NOOR: Hogan also says, as governor, he’s invested $4 billion in Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. And in June, scientists at the University of Maryland released a study saying the Bay is the cleanest it’s been in 33 years.
BILL MCKIBBEN: We’ve made some strides in cleaning up places like Chesapeake Bay. We’ve made a lot of strides in cleaning up a lot of places around the country, but all of that is now coming apart as the temperature warms. And as in the case of the oceans, not only is their temperature going up, but their pH is going down because of the carbon in the atmosphere. And these are now the really deep threats. There’s no way to make the Chesapeake Bay a healthy place save dealing with climate change. That’s going to be the bottom line for all marine ecosystems going forward.
DHARNA NOOR: Unlike Hogan, Jealous has said he would set a target date for moving to 100 percent renewable energy.
BEN JEALOUS: I will make moving to 100 percent reliance on cleaner renewable energy our moonshot. And in the process, we will start to build more and more turbines here, bring factory jobs back to places like Dundalk, and then shipping them right down the Bay for installation off the Eastern Shore, creating thousands of jobs in both places.
DHARNA NOOR: Scientists say the world needs to completely wean itself off fossil fuels, some say by 2030 at the latest. I asked Jealous for his response.
BEN JEALOUS: We have to go as quickly as humanly possible. We know that Germany’s already at 40 percent, and Governor Hogan vetoed us even getting to 25 percent several years from now.
DHARNA NOOR: Hogan says he vetoed the 25 percent renewables bill because it would have created additional expenses for ratepayers and taxpayers.
BEN JEALOUS: We can move much faster when I’m governor, we will. Quite frankly, there’s a lot of things happening in the marketplace right now that are already moving us in that direction. We just need to lean in and accelerate it. There are multiple things on the table, but the main thing for us is that 65 percent of the energy that we need can be produced through wind.
BILL MCKIBBEN: The price on carbon is one thing, but there’s also going to have to be a lot of support for renewables going forward. And there’s going to have to be a firm hand at telling the fossil fuel industry no more expansion. I mean, they managed to sneak through this last pipeline here in Maryland. That’s got to be it.
DHARNA NOOR: Jealous also distinguishes himself from Hogan in his plans for transportation. In a new video, Hogan confirmed his car-first approach. He plans to invest $845 million into major new highways and bridges. To the chagrin of many, Hogan canceled the Red Line, an East-West light rail subway in Baltimore City. If elected, Jealous says he’ll restore the Red Line.
BEN JEALOUS: We have to look for every opportunity, frankly, to reduce toxic smog that’s pushed out there by diesel buses, for instance. I’m absolutely committed to us shifting to electric buses and in the process, cleaning up our air in the cities. We have lots of kids who suffer from asthma.
DHARNA NOOR: McKibben knows Jealous is fighting an uphill battle.
BILL MCKIBBEN: One has to say, the polls have been wrong in this country before, as we found out in 2016. Let’s hope they’re wrong in a different way this time around.
DHARNA NOOR: But Jealous says he still plans to win.
BEN JEALOUS: At the end of the day, this is a contest between organized money. My opponent is funded by the pharmaceutical lobby, he’s funded by the Koch brothers and organized people. We will win this general the same way that we won the primary, and we lost every poll and then we won by 10 points. And how did we do that? We put together a massive ground game.
DHARNA NOOR: We reached out to Hogan for a response, but haven’t yet received one.
For The Real News, with Jaisal Noor and Taylor Hebden, this is Dharna Noor, Silver Spring.