GOP energy moderates lose big as Democrats retake House
A number of moderate Republicans who voiced support for clean energy policies lost their Congressional seats Tuesday as the House of Representatives swung from GOP to Democratic control.
Thirteen of 45 GOP members of the bipartisan climate caucus in the House lost their seats, as of Thursday morning, while five other retiring Republican members were replaced by Democrats. Two races were still too close to call.
Power sector veterans saw mixed results in House elections, with three former energy industry executives winning seats in Michigan, Illinois and California, and one losing a close race in North Carolina.
Democrats won the majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm elections Tuesday night, gaining 225 of the 218 seats needed as of Wednesday morning, with results still being reported in several districts.
The switch in party leadership will mean more oversight of the Trump administration’s energy policy, with Democratic committee leaders able to subpoena records from the administration and hold public hearings with cabinet officials.
The Democrats’ energy agenda will become clearer after elections for leadership positions in the caucus, Capitol Hill watchers told Utility Dive before the elections, but the shift in House control could make bipartisan energy work less likely.
Democrats won control of the House by flipping a number of districts held by more moderate GOP members, including many in the climate caucus. That, combined with primary victories for conservative Republicans, will likely mean a more hardline GOP caucus less likely to address clean energy issues.
"Certainly many of the moderate Republican voices on climate stewardship and conservation will be gone,” Sarah Hunt, a GOP clean energy strategist, told Utility Dive before the election.
One of the districts that Democrats flipped was the Illinois 6th, where former energy consultant and power generation executive Sean Casten beat incumbent Peter Roskam, earning nearly 53% of the vote.
In another Democratic gain, energy and environmental lawyer Mike Levin defeated Republican Diane Harkin, gaining 53.5% of the vote for a California seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Darrell Issa. Levin worked as an energy and environmental lawyer for 10 years and served on the board for Sustainable Energy in San Diego.
"I believe that some representatives have an excellent grasp of the issues [surrounding energy policy], but others are uninformed," Levin told Utility Dive before the election. "I will be a champion in Washington on issues of sustainability and climate change and their impact on our economy, health, and security."
Another race involving a power sector veteran was finally called Wednesday evening. In the North Carolina 9th district, solar company founder Dan McCready conceded in a tight battle with Republican Mark Harris for a region that President Donald Trump won by 12 points.
In Michigan, the election of another industry official is assured. Energy financier Andy Levin won the 9th district with nearly 60% of the vote, filling the seat vacated by his father, former Rep. Sandy Levin.
"If we want the federal government to lead in our transition to sustainable energy, we need people with relevant industry experience," Levin told Utility Dive via email. "The question is whether Americans will be using clean energy technologies developed and manufactured in Asia and Europe, or whether our federal government will spur clean energy innovation to help America lead in this rapidly-growing industry."
|Percent of vote||District|
Sean Casten, D-Ill
|52.8%||Illinois District 6|
|Mike Levin, D-Calif.||52.4%||California District 49|
|Dan McCready, D-N.C.||48.8%||North Carolina District 9|
|Andy Levin, D-Mich.||59.6%||Michigan District 9|