Opinion: Climate Voter Guide to Help You Choose Climate Champions in 2022 Election

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Frustrated at the lack of climate action from Orange County elected officials, activists have created OC Climate Voter Guides for every OC city council election, including Irvine, at OCClimateVoterGuide.org

The Irvine Climate Voter Guide includes climate voting records, endorsements, and responses from 8 of 11 Irvine candidates.  Every Democratic Irvine candidate except incumbent Mayor Farrah Khan participated in the guide.

The guide includes incumbent voting records for Khan and Anthony Kuo, noting their track records of suppressing public discussion of the All American Asphalt plant and Khan’s vote to appoint an unqualified CEO of the OC Power Authority.  Branda Lin and Kathleen Treseder’s endorsements by the youth climate group Sunrise Movement OC are also noted on the guide.  The only Republican to participate was Tom Chomyn.  

City council candidates were invited to answer yes, no, maybe, or no response to questions including: 

  • Do you believe that climate change is a critical issue that requires urgent action by the city council?
  • Do you support the following critical climate policies?
    • Create and implement a city Climate Action Plan that is sufficiently funded, equitable, and legally-binding

According to the United Nations, cities are the cause of and solution to climate change.  More than 70% of climate pollution comes from cities, and voters across the political spectrum want climate action from their local elected officials. 

To bridge this voter information gap, in August and September, volunteers sent surveys to hundreds of candidates for every local OC election with questions to gauge their support for key climate policies available to them if elected.  So far 56 city council candidates, 20 school board candidates, and four water board candidates have completed the surveys (water board surveys were just sent out last week). 

The volunteers say that if even a small number of people voted based on climate, it would have a big impact because OC city candidates who oppose climate action often win by very slim margins.  For example, in 2020, Lake Forest city council member Doug Cirbo won his election by 30 votes.  Before voting against a key clean energy program in Feb. 2021 over the objections of dozens of climate activists, Cirbo said that climate action from the city was not necessary because of emissions from China.  

In local elections across the United States, fewer than 15 percent of eligible citizens turn out to vote for mayors and city councilors, according to the Who Votes for Mayor? a research project by Portland State University.  Orange County was not included in the study, but the research shows that 18% of people in Long Beach, 19% of people in Los Angeles, and 32% of people in San Diego voted for mayor in the most recent election.  The research also found that voters in local elections tend to be older and more affluent than the population at large and less likely to be people of color.

“City policy is climate policy, and the margins in some of these races are smaller than the average class size at any Irvine high school,” said Tomas Castro, an Irvine resident leading the voter guide’s creation.  “If we can get just a small number of people in each city to vote in their city council election based on climate, we can get big climate policy wins.”

City council candidate answers and climate voting records are now available at OCClimateVoterGuide.org, along with the surveys sent to candidates and info about big-scale local solutions to the climate crisis. School board and water board voter guides will be added to the website by the time ballots arrive. 

Though the volunteers have attempted to contact all candidates, many have proven difficult to reach.  Candidates who want to participate should contact OCClimateVoterGuide@gmail.com for a survey link.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Irvine Watchdog or any of its volunteers.