Moms who care about clean air and climate change had a big impact in the 2018 elections. In Part 1 of this series, we highlighted two women who worked on important environmental ballot initiatives, and one who helped re-elect her U.S. Senator and elect a new pro-environment candidate to the House.
In Part 2 of our series, meet two women who ran for office and won!
Though Cara Fleischer has worked full-time to protect the environment for a while, it wasn’t until this year that she decided to run for Leon Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor in Tallahassee, Florida. That job might not sound as high falutin’ as “Member of Congress,” but WFSU, the local public media station, said that, “In some ways, being a district supervisor is the purest form of public service. There is no salary for the position; whoever is elected will work on a volunteer basis.”
So what’s the appeal to holding a job with no pay and probably a big time commitment? “A Soil and Water Conservation elected leader’s principle role is to inform,” reports WFSU. And informing is what Fleischer thinks is so important. “Ever since my baby daughter got asthma, I’ve been a mom on a mission to raise awareness about air quality, water quality, and protecting natural habitats,” she told the station.
Fleischer says she was also motivated because “Florida has been suffering from toxic algae and red tide, massive hurricane destruction, loss of habitat, degradation of our waterways, and sea level rise.” She feels the federal and state government” dismantles and reverses protections and ignores the need to preserve our beautiful state.” Running for office was Fleischer’s way to “stand up for our environment…and have some power to make a difference.”
One way Fleischer’s campaign stood out was through her environmental commitment. A second was by the campaign itself, which she vowed to run “waste-free.”“It went against my sustainable values to create campaign clutter that would end up in the landfill,” she declared. Instead of printing up flyers and other materials, she secured articles in key publications, appeared on TV, and had an active Facebook presence. She also spoke at forums and civic groups and networked with community leaders, family and friends. “My kids helped me by making signs,” she notes, “and I wore a name tag everywhere I went for months in order to talk to people in our community about their environmental concerns.”
Her strategy worked! “We won big–by over 15,000 votes in a 100,000 vote race,” she reports, potentially setting the stage for another run in 2022 when her current term expires.
“I’ve learned that we all have a personal responsibility to get involved in how our local government functions,” she observes, “and to run for office if you want to make things better. I’m more patriotic now than I have ever been in my life because I understand how we are truly governed by the people. I am grateful that I decided to run for office and was elected to serve.”
In West Virginia…
Danielle Walker began her activist career in the social justice movement, “after the horrendous acts in Charlottesville, Virginia.”
“I went full speed ahead in every grassroots organization that would invite and welcome me with open arms,” she recounts. Those groups included the NAACP, Mountaineers for Progress, Moms Demand Action, the League of Women Voters, and of course, Moms Clean Air Force.
Walker had voted in the past, and also worked for candidates previously, but “this election was about hope for everyday people facing everyday obstacles.” The single African-American mom of two sons aged 17 and 21, ran for West Virginia State Delegate. She knew she faced an uphill battle. “I was a first-time candidate…a transplant to West Virginia…from a lower to middle class family.” And oh yeah, “my year round tan,” she says, referring to her skin color.
But her family researched and prayed and got community support, and she threw her hat in the ring.
Among her primary environmental concerns are water and air pollution in West Virginia. She feels that the oil and gas industry cause problems because regulations governing them are too lenient.
“My sons and mother have asthma and other diagnoses,” she notes. “Clean air and clean water should be the least of our fights in 2018.”
She describes her experience as a candidate as “inspiring, empowering, and motivating,” even though she and her family were harassed. “My home was egged, I was run off the road, damage to my vehicle, unwanted derogatory comments as I walked to my vehicle…” and yet, she says, “We are still standing.”
Holding oil and gas companies accountable for disregarding regulations will be one of Walker’s top three priorities when she assumes her office in January, 2019.