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Ocean Champions: Political Champions for Ocean Conservation

Dear Friend,

We set a goal of electing 50 or more champions in our continuing effort to build a pro-ocean Congress. With your support and help Ocean Champions endorsed 59 candidates—the most ever in a single election—and we achieved our goal!

With 55 of 59 races called, 51 of our endorsed champions have won, including 40 in the House and 11 in the Senate.  In addition, our endorsed candidates are leading 2 of 4 races that haven’t yet been called (4 a.m. EST).  And we defeated “Ocean Enemy #1” Congressman Steve Southerland!

Ocean Champions committed to upping our electoral game in this election with more endorsements of deserving Democrats and Republicans, more contributions to candidates, and more impact with independent expenditure campaigns, especially in Florida’s 2nd district, in our push to defeat “Ocean Enemy #1.  Thanks to you, we achieved it all, which is a wonderful victory in its own right.

There’s been a lot of talk about money in this election cycle—mostly about the outsize influence of massive spending from corporate special interests and billionaires. While such cash infusions clearly moved the needle in some races, Ocean Champions showed that modest spending deployed with strategic, surgical precision can be just as impactful and decisive.

In this cycle, Ocean Champions spent more money than ever before to help our champions succeed, but more importantly we punched above our weight to achieve victories on a scale disproportionate to our size. And because a rising tide lifts all boats, these wins will pay dividends for ocean conservation in the new Congress and benefit all who care about oceans.

Election outcomes are about more than just numbers and dollars.  The real story lies in the overall strength of this group of champions elected and the commitment we have seen and expect from the individuals.  This group of 51 champions (and possibly a couple more by the time you read this) includes the following:

  • Ocean Champion Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who we supported with an independent campaign, won a hard-fought victory over Scott Brown, and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) who had to survive a hotly contested primary just 3 months ago to be in position to win his general election.
  • Dedicated champions in the House, including Congressmen Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), and John Garamendi (D-CA), and Congresswomen Ann Kuster (D-NH) and Lois Capps (D-CA), prevailed in challenging races.
  • Newly minted Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) arrives from the House with stellar environmental credentials, as well as Gwen Graham (D-FL) who defeated an incumbent and will be replacing “Ocean Enemy #1”.
  • First-time champions including Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Congresswomen Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Congressmen Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Steve Israel (D-NY).
  • Fourteen Senators, who were not up for re-election this year, including Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) who earned a rare non-election year designation as an ocean champion for his exemplary work on passing the Harmful Algal Bloom bill, return to Congress to continue their work.

And did we mention an incumbent lost?  YES, we did it…together, with persistence, hard work, and a unique strategy; we defeated “Ocean Enemy #1” -- Congressman Steve Southerland. In fact we hit the trifecta…

  • "Ocean Enemy #1” is NOT returning to Congress.  We targeted him because of his terrible record on ocean issues, and sent a message to all in Congress – neglect & abuse the oceans and their wildlife at your own political peril.
  • Ocean Champions played an outsized role in the race by running a sophisticated, smart campaign, which was amplified by spending more money to defeat Southerland than any other outside group not affiliated with the Democratic Party. 
  • Gwen Graham is headed to Washington, DC as a newly minted ocean champion, after running an excellent campaign and achieved a tremendous victory (the only Democratic challenger to beat an incumbent so far in this election!)

We wish we had space and time to share all the exciting details of our campaign—hitting and weakening Southerland where he was strongest geographically, attacking early with an aggressive multi-week TV campaign and having the airwaves to ourselves, partnering with fishermen and running a powerful TV ad with local fisherman Billy Archer, shifting our focus to voter turnout after Labor Day, and so much more—but they will have to wait for another day.... 

We do want to take this opportunity to give special shout outs to the many donors who generously financially supported our campaign, the group of commercial fishermen down in Florida and the Gulf region who care about fish AND conservation and back it up with their actions and dollars, and Environmental Defense Action Fund who worked with us against Southerland and helped make this victory possible. Thank you all!

As we all know, in politics there are winners and losers.  While every loss is not a failure, they all hurt.  Unfortunately, there were some painful losses last night and the new Congress will be missing champions Congresswoman Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO).  We are proud to have endorsed and supported their re-election campaigns and are grateful for their good work on behalf of oceans. Similarly, a couple of challengers that we had high hopes for, including Aimee Belgard in New Jersey, will have to look to future elections.

It also looks like we have lost ocean champion Senator Mark Begich (D-AK).  While the race hasn’t yet been called (4 a.m. EST), the current Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard is trailing in his bid for reelection.  We are grateful for his past leadership and will miss him in the Senate.

We experienced a wave election yesterday, and the next Congress will be very different than the current one.  We recognize the new leadership will almost certainly try to weaken important policies that protect our oceans and their wildlife. However, there should still be opportunities to advance ocean legislation in the next Congress. With the Republicans now controlling both the House and the Senate, we will see new Committee Chairs and new priorities.  Let’s, however, not forget that is has NOT been easy passing legislation in any recent Congress, yet we have made important progress on a number of ocean policy initiatives over the past couple years.  There is much work to do, so we will immediately be in contact with our champions in Congress.  The presence of so many ocean champions, regardless of party affiliation, keep the door open for good ocean policy to be created in the 114th Congress. We are up for the challenge and uniquely positioned to defend hard earned past ocean-policy victories against attack, AND to take advantage of new opportunities in the name of healthy oceans.

Our vision of a pro-ocean majority in Congress is ambitious. Yet, a pro-ocean Congress is exactly what is required to achieve the needed policy changes to ensure healthy and thriving oceans.  We have work to do, but can say with confidence that Ocean Champions—and by extension our broader ocean conservation community—elevated ocean issues to new political heights in this election.

For The Oceans,

The Ocean Champions Team

P.S. We’ll publish a more robust analysis as the structure and leadership of the 114th Congress takes shape.  In addition, we expect to convene an invitation-only discussion with Hill insiders and ocean community leaders before year-end.



U.S. House of Representatives

House Wins

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-3)

Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam)

Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA-24)

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL-14)

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA-5)

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC-6)

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY-14)

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7)

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4)

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1)

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4)

Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA-20)

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA-2)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2)

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA-3)

Gwen Graham (D-FL-2)

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3)

Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA-10)

Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA-3)

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5)

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA-2)

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY-3)

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6)

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH-2)

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7)

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-2)

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47)

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-17)

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9)

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18)

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA-32)

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1)

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27)

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD-3)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-28)

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15)

Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA-41)

Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA-3)

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8)

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-20)

House TBD waiting on final results

Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA-26)

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA-17)

Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA-52)

House Losses

Aimee Belgard (D-NJ-3)

Michael Eggman (D-CA-10)

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1)

U.S. Senate

Senate Wins

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA)

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Gary Peters (D-MI)

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)

Senate TBD Waiting on Final Results

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK)

Senate Losses

Senator Mark Udall (D-CO)

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