November 4, 2019

Gilmore: Process, not partisanship, determines endorsements for Clean Virginia

By Brennan Gilmore, Clean Virginia Executive Director

The Roanoke Times in a recent editorial (“Three Loose Ends” Oct. 26) and Jordan Labiosa in a letter to the editor (“Suetterlein is not only Republican Clean Virginia doesn’t want” Oct. 27) accused Clean Virginia of partisanship, claiming that the only reason we did not endorse Sen. David Suetterlein for Senate District 19 is because he is a Republican. This is untrue. Clean Virginia pursues the twin goals of clean government and clean energy in Virginia, and will support any candidate regardless of party who shares a similar vision, completes our endorsement process, and requests our funding and/or our endorsement. In this case, Sen. Suetterlein and his staff simply did not complete the process.

Clean Virginia funded the Senator’s opponent Flo Ketner, not because she is a Democrat, but because she has a principled stance against accepting campaign contributions from utility monopolies, Clean Virginia’s signature issue. We then endorsed Ketner because we aligned with her policy positions on clean energy, consumer protection, and a fair, representative government. We determined this through a completed questionnaire, which we were not able to do for Sen. Suetterlein who neither responded to our questionnaire nor engaged with our organization before publicly stating his opposition to our process. It may seem from the outside that questionnaires are trivial, but they are used by the vast majority of advocacy organizations for a reason. Questionnaires allow for a predictable and transparent system of campaign financing that confirms a candidate’s principles and leadership vision. There are certainly other ways to determine these, but with more than 200 candidates in Virginia this cycle, questionnaires allow for an empirical and fair method — but only if we do not make exceptions.

There is no dispute that Sen. Suetterlein has been a leading voice on energy and ratepayer protection in the General Assembly. We hope that more legislators and candidates follow his lead since he is one of only four Republican legislators who have a demonstrated history of not accepting campaign contributions from regulated utility monopolies Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power. Of the other three Republican candidates, one received funding from Clean Virginia after we received her completed questionnaire, one ultimately declined to receive funding after completing his, and one never returned a questionnaire and was similarly not funded.

The Republican candidate Clean Virginia funded is, unlike Sen. Suetterlein, in a highly competitive district targeted by the Democratic Party — which belies the Roanoke Times and Mr. Labiosa’s allegation of partisanship. Simply put, our allegiance is not to party but to a vision for a Virginia whose energy sector puts the interests of average Virginians above those of utility monopolies. Our door is always open to Virginians of all political tendencies who want to fight a broken and corrupt system. We take pride in reaching across traditional divides on this issue — divides which are often cynically and effectively exploited by the giant utility monopolies whose abuses we are collectively trying to end.