It’s been eight months since Trump’s unprecedented offshore drilling expansion made national headlines and it’s still an issue in House campaigns from coast to coast — plus the Senate race in Florida, where Ryan Zinke’s abrupt (and unbinding) reversal was likely a political favor to Rick Scott, a longtime offshore drilling supporter trying to hypnotize voters into forgetting his past.
As The Atlantic reports this week, vulnerable House Republicans like Rep. Scott Taylor (VA-02) have attempted to walk back their support for offshore drilling since Trump announced his deeply unpopular expansion:
Following these policy changes, offshore-drilling opposition has only grown in the Southeast, and it’s front and center in some congressional campaigns this year. Candidates who’d previously expressed support for drilling now find themselves on the defensive—and have, in some cases, switched their positions.
One example can be found in Virginia’s Second Congressional District, where the Navy veteran and Democrat Elaine Luria is running to unseat the Republican incumbent, Scott Taylor. Her campaign has significantly featured her resistance to offshore drilling.
During Taylor’s first run for Congress, in 2010, he supported drilling, before reversing that stance earlier this year.
Taylor’s 6 percent lifetime LCV score and his recent vote against an amendment to prohibit funding from being used to implement Trump’s drilling expansion suggest voters have reason to doubt his change of heart — but Taylor’s campaign appearing to admit that supporting offshore drilling is a political liability shows just how salient the issue has become.
Even the far-right candidate who defeated Rep. Mark Sanford (SC-01) in the Republican primary switched her position on offshore drilling a week after she became the nominee. After Katie Arrington’s post-primary reversal, Sanford called her out for lying. (We’re glad to see she’s recovering and back on the campaign trail.)
And in Florida, Reps. Vern Buchanan (FL-16), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) and Ron DeSantis (FL-06) say they oppose new offshore drilling despite voting to expand drilling in 2013. Diaz-Balart even joined Taylor in opposing an effort to block Trump’s extreme drilling plan, as did Rep. Jaime Herrerra-Beutler (WA-03) despite asking for the plan to exclude Washington.
Elsewhere on the Pacific Coast, vulnerable House members in Southern California have been far less eager to break from their party on the issue — even with polling showing support for offshore drilling at a record low, with 69 percent of California voters opposed.
The Orange County Register looked at where several stand and — unsurprisingly — found that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48) is the most supportive, arguing bizarrely that opening up offshore drilling will decrease oil spills. Rep. Steve Knight (CA-25) was the second strongest offshore drilling supporter, raising questions about how exactly the Climate Solutions Caucus member plans to fight climate change by turning our beaches into oil fields.
Then there’s Rep. Mimi Walters (CA-45), whose campaign consultant told the Register that she opposed offshore drilling… despite Walters joining Rohrabacher in sending a letter to the Trump administration asking them to expand offshore oil leasing earlier this year.
“Opposition to offshore drilling appears to be a new fad for coastal Republicans in swing districts, but their votes don’t always match their rhetoric,” said Pete Maysmith, LCV Victory Fund Senior Vice President for Campaigns. “Trump’s offshore drilling expansion is backfiring on his own party, leaving many vulnerable Republicans attempting to run from their records. But from Orange County to Virginia Beach, voters will be able to tell the difference between those who’ve changed their tune on drilling for political convenience and the candidates who will actually fight to protect our coasts.”
Paid for by LCV Victory Fund, www.lcvvictoryfund.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.