Monday, August 19, 2019




       A little-noticed special election in a “purple” Los Angeles city council district that suffered enormous utility-linked environmental damage over the last few years carries a major negative portent for the “Green New Deal” pushed avidly by some significant Democratic presidential candidates. Parts of the same proposed package are also embraced by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and much of the Democratic-dominated state Legislature.

       This was just about the only point of outside interest in a mid-August vote within an area of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley that has long elected Republicans to the city council, but to no other major office.

       The district includes most areas severely impacted by the 2015 methane leak from the Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage farm set in hills just uphill from the large Porter Ranch development on the north edge of Los Angeles. This disaster, largest natural gas leak in American history, continued for months into 2016 before it was staunched. It produced headaches, illness, thousands of evacuations, lower property values and a spate of lawsuits and fines – so far. Many individuals report they are still affected by lingering effects of the gas plume.

       So if any part of Los Angeles should have been enthusiastic about Mayor Eric Garcetti’s version of the Green New Deal environmental program, it should have been this district, so recently a victim of environmental depredation.

       What’s more, Democratic voter registration has increased in the area, just as in most of California, making this longtime Republican red stronghold into a “purple” area where either party has about an equal chance for electoral victory. “Blue” registration in the district now tops “red” by about 20 percent.

       The council seat became vacant earlier this year, when GOP incumbent Mitchell Englander went to work for a major sports and entertainment promotion firm. Into the race stepped Englander’s chief of staff John Lee and environmental activist/astrophysicist Loraine Lundquist, a professor at nearby Cal State Northridge. Lundquist has been an activist in efforts to close Aliso Canyon and hold Southern California Gas financially responsible for damages caused by its gas leak.

       While the local version of the green new deal was not the only major issue in this race, it was a significant one. The not-yet-adopted Los Angeles plan would completely eliminate single-use waste items like plastic straws, Styrofoam cups and take-out containers, with no trash at all going to landfills by 2050. It would also recycle all of the city’s waste water by 2035, seeks to put one-fourth of the city’s motorists into electric or other zero-emissions cars by 2025 and 80 percent by 2035, and wants to make the Port of Los Angeles (America’s busiest seaport) carbon-emission free within a decade. This is intended as a model for other cities.

       Good luck!, the voters seemed to say the other day, electing Republican Lee by a 4 percent margin in a nominally non-partisan election. Of course, Republicans have a long record of turning out in higher percentages than Democrats in special elections – and only 32,000 total voters participated. Plus, there’s a longstanding Los Angeles tradition where chiefs of staff often succeed departing incumbents on the strength of the contacts they’ve built up by working within the same districts.

Which gives Lundquist a decent chance to reverse the special election outcome when the seat comes up again in a city election set to coincide with the presidential primary next spring, sure to bring a much higher turnout.

       Nevertheless, if the green new deal is not a winning issue in a district that suffered greatly from the Aliso Canyon debacle, there’s some question it can be a winning issue in other swing areas around the nation.

       That’s something for ultra-liberal Democratic politicians like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to think about as they continue claiming an even wider-ranging green new deal should be imposed across America.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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