A New Class of Climate Champions in Virginia
CCAN Action Fund focused on the House… and won!
Here’s the short story: we won.
Now, the long story:
In 2022, CCAN Action Fund dipped our toes into the electoral waters by endorsing and working with now-Senator Aaron Rouse. We ran a nimble grassroots and digital campaign to get Rouse over the finish line with just a couple hundred votes to spare and ultimately flipped a seat in Virginia Beach, creating a strong pro-climate majority in the state senate.
With that victory, we saw the power of a strong climate message and a grassroots campaign. With 140 seats up for grabs and everything on the line in 2023, we knew we had to bring our strength to the fight.
Our mission was simple: restore a climate majority to the House of Delegates. That meant running tight campaigns to support just a small handful of climate-focused candidates. We chose the hardest races in the legislature to work on, because they were the most important places to make a difference.
But through an electoral campaign, we knew we could do more. We could elevate the voices of Virginians who had been silenced by years of racist gerrymandering and intentional disenfranchisement, bring more young and low-income people into the climate movement, put people in power who truly represent their communities, and elevate the profile of clean energy as a winning electoral message.
That is why we ultimately settled on four competitive House races that allowed us to accomplish all of those missions: Michael Feggans for House District 97 in Virginia Beach, Phil Hernandez for House District 94 in Norfolk, Kimberly Pope Adams for House District 82 in Petersburg, and Susanna Gibson for House District 57 in Henrico. We also endorsed and supported our new friend, Senator Aaron Rouse in Senate District 22, which overlapped with both House District 97 and 94.
All five of these candidates stood proudly behind climate action and environmental justice throughout their campaigns, and we were grateful to work alongside them.
On the political side, we went all in by knocking on thousands and thousands of doors, phonebanking people we couldn’t reach at the doors, putting up social media ads in key precincts, sending thousands of texts to voters we’d spoken with at the doors to make sure they got to the polls, and spending our limited budget to support our candidates through material and direct support.
We also ran a civic engagement campaign centered on community colleges in Hampton Roads, working on the ground on campus to secure pledges to vote – many of them from first-time voters. Finally, we partnered with the Southeast Wind Energy Coalition to host an Offshore Wind Reception for lawmakers to raise the profile of clean energy amongst elected officials.
All in all, here’s what we did:
- Spent over $170,000
- Knocked on over 8000 doors in House Districts 97 and 94
- Made over 1000 calls to voters in HD97 and HD94
- Spoke with over 12,000 voters by text in all four House races
- Reached over 200,000 people through social media support of Kim Pope Adams in HD82 in Petersburg
- Secured over 935 pledges to vote from community college students, and reached over 70,000 on campus through social media.
In the end, all four House-seat elections were unbelievably close: Phil Hernandez won his race in Norfolk by 1600 votes, Michael Feggans won his Virginia Beach district with just north of 2000 votes, Susanna Gibson narrowly lost by less than 1000 votes, and Kimberly Pope Adams’ race in Petersburg, where she currently trails by just over 200 votes, is still too close to call as of today. On Tuesday night, Aaron Rouse became the 21st seat for a climate majority in the Senate, and Michael Feggans became the 51st in the House.
While we would love to pad the House ranks with two more climate champions in Petersburg and Henrico, we know that the campaigns we ran to get people out to the polls and produce such narrow margins is a success in its own right. It was about putting an end to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s extreme, anti-climate legislative agenda (check), but it was also about empowering communities who are most impacted by climate change and whose voices are not always heard. And… It was about setting ourselves up for the big fight to put a climate champion in the Governor’s mansion in 2025.