Republican Candidates Ambivalent About Prop 23

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Carly Fiorina looks on during a debate with U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on September 1. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The e-mail from the Fiorina campaign Friday didn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement:

“Proposition 23 is a Band-Aid fix and an imperfect solution to addressing our nation’s climate and energy challenges. The real solution to these challenges lies not with a single state taking action on its own, but rather with global action. That’s why we need a comprehensive, national energy solution that funds energy R&D and takes advantage of every source of domestic energy we have – including nuclear, wind and solar – in an environmentally responsible way. That said, AB 32 is undoubtedly a job killer, and it should be suspended.”

Political reporters are reading that as a “Yes” on Proposition 23, the state ballot measure intended to freeze the state’s greenhouse gas regulations under AB 32.  But you could be forgiven for thinking she’s not really hot for the prop. Coming out against the state’s 2006 climate law isn’t necessarily an endorsement of Prop 23, since the former can be suspended — at least temporarily — without a referendum. Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has vowed to suspend AB 32 by executive order, if she’s elected governor. Whitman has said she is leaning toward voting against Proposition 23 but has not taken an official position (Democratic candidates in both the senate and gubernatorial races oppose the measure).

The problem for a Republican candidate — as the Los Angeles Times puts it — is the split between some party loyalists who like the idea of suspending AB 32, and the hordes of independent voters in this state who support environmental measures. For instance, the Public Policy Institute of California found that two-thirds of Californians polled in July favored AB 32.

Conservative talk-radio hosts John and Ken of KFI 640 in Southern California are putting a lot of public pressure on Fiorina and Whitman for hemming and hawing on climate change. Think of all those voters, cooking in traffic, while listening to this:

That’s John and Ken.

Then there’s David and Charles, brothers, oil magnates, and “Tea Party” backers recently profiled by the New Yorker. They’ve donated $1 million to support Proposition 23. So far, the campaign has raised more than $8 million. 97% of that comes from oil interests; 89% from out of state.

The Economist notes that, in 2008, Carly Fiorina was a supporter of cap-and-trade limits on greenhouse-gas emissions (as were/are a number of Republicans.) The magazine adds:

“It is impossible, in 2010, to retain the votes of much of the Republican base while admitting that humans are causing the world to get warmer by burning fossil fuels.”

The thing is, there are Republicans, notably California’s outgoing governor, who self-identify as environmentalists. Who decided for the California GOP that a candidate’s position on Prop 23 should be a litmus test?