By Ken Stone
“Roll down your window,” they said loudly but politely. “Roll down your window.”
A dozen Greenpeace activists, assuming Kamala Harris was exiting a gated SDSU parking lot in a black Chevy Tahoe, wanted a word Tuesday night with the state attorney general and U.S. Senate front-runner.
The window stayed up.
Leaving the last televised debate before the June 7 primary, Harris (if she was in the SUV) made no effort to engage yet another challenge.
“We’re asking her to take a pledge,” Kimball Banwell of Ocean Beach said before the window cry. “We’re going to thank her for already taking some action on stopping climate change … but we’ll ask her to take the pledge to not take any more money” from the fossil fuel industry.
In fact, said Tiffany Garrett of San Jose, a Greenpeace campaign coordinator, Harris should return $10,000 she said the Democrat received from lobbyists for that industry.
“Our goal is to ask everyone to do it,” she said, noting Harris’ fundraising from that sector is “relatively small.”
Garrett, who also goes by Tifancy Sotomayor, was joined by a group of college-age San Diegans who displayed a banner reading “Kamala Harris, take the pledge / Reject fossil fuel money #FIX DEMOCRACY” and signs saying “Democracy not for $ale.”
Greenpeace San Diego had made the same request of Hillary Clinton in a February demonstration. And April 25, they carried the message to the Senate debate at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
— Greenpeace San Diego (@GreenpeaceSD) April 26, 2016
Harris had promised last month to meet with the group, Greenpeace members said. But she wasn’t reachable Tuesday night — even with some activists deployed to other exits at the KPBS Copley Telecommunications Center where the debate was held.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Harris has launched an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil Corp. lied to the public and its shareholders about the risk to its business from climate change “and whether such actions could amount to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws.”
The paper reported in January that Harris’ office began the probe after published reports suggesting that Exxon in the 1980s and 1990s “used climate research as part of its planning and other business practices but simultaneously argued publicly that climate-change science was not clear cut.”
At Tuesday night’s hour-long debate, Republican Ron Unz staked out a position as a climate-change skeptic.
Afterward, the Harvard-trained physicist argued over the fact that 95 percent of climate scientists think human activity is fueling global climate change.
“Ninety-five percent of all the people in Congress, and in DC, believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” he told Times of San Diego. “I’m not somebody who goes with the herd. It’s easy for Congressmen, it’s easy for elected officials, to go with the herd, and it causes the trampling of the United States.”
Unz said 30 years ago the scientific consensus was “that we were faced with the problem of global cooling. All the media said the threat to human life was global cooling.”
Calling himself a scientist, he said: “I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know. I simply don’t know the science of global warming. And I’m not persuaded we have to restructure our entire world economy for something that may not really be grave.”
- KPBS video: California Counts: U.S. Senate Debate at San Diego State
- Related: Kamala Harris is focus of California’s final U.S. Senate debate before primary (L.A. Times)
- Related: Candidates field quick-fire questions on climate change, immigration, education in hour-long debate (L.A. Times)
Besides Harris and Unz, three others vying to succeed retiring Barbara Boxer in the Senate were at the debate witnessed live by 90 people. They were Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Garden and former Republican state chairmen Tom Del Beccaro (endorsed by San Diego’s Carl DeMaio) and George “Duf” Sundheim.
As of March 31, Harris had $5 million in her campaign war chest, more than twice Sanchez’s $2.3 million. Harris, endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, would face a November runoff with the No. 2 finisher in June. A recent Field Poll showed 48 percent of California voters, who trend Democratic, are undecided or favor someone other than the top five.
At least two dozen others are in the race as well, but host KPBS with public radio partners KPCC in Pasadena, KQED in San Francisco and Capital Public Radio in Sacramento chose to feature the five as part of its California Counts series.
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