Sunrise Movement Is Planning a 2020 Reckoning for Democrats Over the Green New Deal

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Young climate activists with the Sunrise Movement broke into the national spotlight last year by occupying members of Congress’ offices demanding a Green New Deal. Now, they’re rolling out their strategy to change who’s in the House in the first place.

Sunrise announced four Congressional primary endorsements on Thursday. All the candidates they’ve endorsed have committed to not take donations over $200 from fossil fuel companies, lobbyists, or PACs. They’ve also pledged to develop and support policy that falls under the Green New Deal framework, including reaching net-zero greenhouse gases by 2030, creating millions of well-paying jobs, and realizing “economic prosperity for all.” Though it’s not a strict requirement for Sunrise’s endorsement, all four candidates also committed to not take money from any corporate PACs.

“We believe that these early March primaries are critical opportunity for us to really create some momentum around candidates who are fully championing the Green New Deal,” Evan Weber, Sunrise’s political director, told Earther. “It’ll be the first time that voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots for those kinds of candidates since the Green New Deal since it launched into the national spotlight in November of 2018.”


Two are in the Chicago Area. One is 27-year old community organizer Robert Emmons Jr, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Bobby Rush. Rush is number two on the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee and has criticized Sunrise’s efforts to create a House Committee focused on a Green New Deal.

Marie Newman, who also hopes to represent Chicago, is trying to unseat Democrat Dan Lipinski for the second time. Lipinski refused to co-sponsor Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Congressional resolution on a Green New Deal, and instead backed a bipartisan carbon tax bill that investigative outlet Sludge found mirrors a plan proposed by the Climate Leadership Council. That group’s founding members include ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. Since Newman announced her run earlier this year, Lipinski has seen a surge in fossil fuel donations.

Sunrise is also endorsing Morgan Harper, who was formerly a lawyer with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is challenging Democratic Representative Joyce Beatty to represent the Columbus area of Ohio. Beatty has said she supports renewable energy, but that some aspects of the Green New Deal such as new energy standards for housing are “not really realistic.”

Just one of Sunrise’s new endorsees is attempting to unseat a Republican: Civil rights lawyer and former public school teacher Mike Siegal is running against incumbent Michael McCaul, who has taken tens of thousand of dollars from the fossil fuel industry. The two also faced off in last year’s midterms, when Siegal came within 5 percentage points of winning despite having far less funding.


Sunrise previously endorsed two other Congressional hopefuls: Jessica Cisneros, who’s running against Democratic incumbent Henry Cuellar (who she used to intern for) in Texas, and Audrey Denney, who’s running against Republican incumbent Doug LaMalfa in California for the second time. They’ve also backed potential Senate candidate Charles Booker of Kentucky, Andrew Romanoff’s primary run against former Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper (who has been derided as “Frackenlooper” because he supported natural gas expansion), and incumbent Senator Ed Markey in Massachusetts.

Weber said that each of these candidates is localizing the Green New Deal with policies specific to their districts. “Part of the strength of the Green New Deal is that it’s so expansive, so candidates really have the opportunity to work on what it means for their district,” said Weber. “So for instance, in Illinois, Marie Newman has talked a lot about her public transportation agenda where it’s really needed... and in Texas, Mike Siegal is talking about the impact of fracking on rural communities, and on the need to create good union jobs away from the oil industry and on supporting sustainable agriculture.


“In 2020 we’re looking to create a political mandate for the Green New Deal. We’re going to show that it’s not just popular in the public, but it can help win elections, and that it’s the future of the Democratic Party.”