Contact: Ed Potosnak

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Gov. Murphy must now dream big about the environment | Opinion

Gov. Phil Murphy beat both historical trends and the prevailing national sentiment when he secured re-election earlier this month.

His successful campaign marks the first time in more than 40 years that a Democratic New Jersey governor has won a second term, and it came amid a red wave that overtook his Democratic counterpart in Virginia – and, closer to home, felled longtime state Senate President Steve Sweeney.

While the pundits and pollsters were predicting massive margins for the governor, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, or LCV, aware of the national political mood, was always envisioning a close election and doubled down on this year’s election.And our work helped secure the governor’s historic re-election and together with our allies made the difference between a win and a loss.

LCV is proud to be the largest non-union ideological spenders in elections, investing more than a quarter of a million dollars to power environmental champions at all levels of government — from Governor Murphy to mayors Steven Fulop of Jersey City and Ravi Bhalla of Hoboken — to victory. It marked our broadest set of endorsements ever and, in a testament to the environmental movement’s commitment to diversity, including a record number of women and people of color.

Our investments powered nearly 2.3 million voter contacts in all corners of the state, sending more than 75,000 pieces of mail and texting nearly 117,000 voters. New Jersey LCV’s digital ads were also viewed more than 2 million times.

At the same time, our campaign staff had an immensely positive story to tell on behalf of Governor Murphy and our legislative champions.

The governor, in his first term, was among the nation’s strongest environmental champions, making him America’s greenest governor in my opinion. He moved aggressively on expanding clean energy, doubled his commitment to offshore wind creating a nation-leading program, signed a landmark environmental justice bill and worked to remove lead water pipes from our state’s urban centers.

This pro-conservation track record was essential to motivate environmental voters and bring them to the polls in an off-year election amid a conservative backlash against President Biden.

In addition to voters re-electing the governor because of his strong pro-environment record and record commitments, we saw environmental champions be elected up and down the ballot, including in a critical state Senate election where Andrew Zwicker won a heated race to replace retiring Republican Senator Christopher Bateman, a long-time environmental advocate.

By contrast, many of those who lost in this month’s election, including Senate President Sweeney, took their eye off the ball, focusing more on political intrigue in Trenton than campaigning on an agenda that motivated democrats in his district base and including aggressive action on climate change leaving voters uninspired.

So what do the lessons of the 2021 elections mean going forward?

First, these election results were a clarion call for swift passage of President Biden’s landmark Build Back Better Act.

This nearly $2 trillion proposal would deliver on the promises the president made with the largest investment in addressing climate change, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, cutting child poverty and jumpstarting a 21st-century clean energy economy that creates millions of jobs.

New Jersey’s congressional delegation has played a critical role in shaping the Build Back Better Act. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Monmouth), for instance, has been a steadfast champion of clean energy as chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. Representative Andy Kim has been an outspoken champion for bold climate action to protect our kids’ future and to ensure that New Jerseyans can benefit from good-paying jobs as our economy grows greener.

Representative Tom Malinowski, a friend of the environmental movement who helped end the threat posed by the PennEast pipeline, has also been a leader in bringing the Build Back Better Act home by demonstrating to his colleagues and to the public how a “majority-making” representative of a moderate district can champion bold climate action.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Bergen) brokered a critical deal to bring Democratic moderates on board in the important recent vote. It is essential that the Senate follows through to ensure President Biden secures this victory and we can tackle the climate crisis.

Altogether, the progress on Build Back Better combined with the election results should embolden Governor Murphy and legislative leaders to dream big.

For the environment, this means moving our state’s clean energy goals in line with the president’s vision, investing in NJ Transit and addressing hazards like poor indoor air quality and water pollution.

We are at a historic moment in our state and nation’s history. Now is the time to build on the governor’s first term and pro-conservation vision to deliver real results for our environment and the people of New Jersey.