Election Season Media Kit for CCL Volunteers
Use this media kit to put your CCL skills to work during elections in the media with important opportunities to elevate the issue of climate change and push candidates of every party toward more robust, committed climate platforms.
For more guidance on engaging with the midterms, check out the Campaign Season Activities page on CCL Community.
As a Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteer, you have lots of tools for engaging with elected officials who hold power in Congress. But what can you do during the election season, when candidates are campaigning to win that power? You can engage with your local newspapers, TV stations and radio stations, given they will be following every twist and turn of the races.
A note about nonpartisanship
One of CCL’s core values is nonpartisanship. For CCLers, speaking up about climate during election season does not mean endorsing or electing members of one party or another. In fact, because of district boundaries and population trends, the vast majority of congressional districts are “safe” seats for the party that currently holds them.
That means we need candidates, and ultimately members of Congress, from both major parties to support meaningful climate action. We believe strongly that Democrats, Republicans, and even third party candidates can and should have thorough, ambitious climate stances — no matter the political makeup of the area they’re running in.
As a CCL volunteer, you can help make that happen. Your media work during election season can push candidates from every party to understand the importance of the climate issue and feel pressure to come to the table with solutions that square with their values and match the needs of their constituency.
- In a deeply red district, that could look like the shoo-in Republican candidate expressing support for new, clean technology because it reduces pollution and helps the economy.
- In a purple district, that could look like both Republican and Democratic candidates debating about which of them has the most ambitious climate plans.
- In a safe blue district, that could look like the presumptive Democratic winner committing to introduce new, specific pieces of climate legislation.
As always, our election-season activities will demonstrate the respect, appreciation, and optimism that are central to our work.
Now, let’s take a look at the ways you can use media to push the climate conversation during this midterm election:
Letters to the Editor (LTEs)
Letters to the editor in your local newspaper are a great way to influence the public conversation in your community and show candidates what is on the minds of their potential voters. CCL staff offers suggested LTE topics throughout the year, but election season presents some unique LTE opportunities.
Watch your newspaper for stories about:
- Election-related events, such as a town hall discussion with a candidate, a debate, etc.
- The incumbent’s record in Congress or the other candidates’ credentials or experience.
- Voters’ opinions on the race or the candidates.
- Polling on the state of the race.
When you see those types of stories, choose a relevant angle from the list below, and write a letter:
- Thanks for what you said about climate. Please say more! For a letter on this theme, you can express appreciation for climate comments the candidate(s) make (at events, in debates, in their platform on their website, etc.). Then, urge them to talk about the issue more and make an even stronger commitment to climate action as they continue the race and especially if they win the office they’re seeking.
- Note: In some areas, specifically mentioning “climate change” may not sway your audience very effectively. You’re welcome to put more of an emphasis on things like “clean air and water,” “reducing pollution,” and so on, to better match local politics.
- Thanks for what you’ve done on climate so far. What else will you do? For a letter on this theme, you can respond supportively to climate-related work the candidate(s) have done so far, whether that’s an incumbent who has taken some good steps in Congress, or a candidate who has climate-related experience outside of Congress. Use your letter to ask them what else they plan to do on climate to best serve your district or state and to address the climate impacts your district or state is already feeling.
- You can’t afford to ignore this issue. For a letter on this theme, you can point out when the candidate(s) do not mention climate (at events, in debates, in their platform on their website, etc.) or do not seem to have done anything on the issue so far. Use your letter to highlight how climate change is affecting your district or state and say that the candidate(s) cannot afford to ignore this issue because it is on the minds of local voters. You can pull local opinion data from the Yale Climate Opinion Maps to support your letter.
- Others in Congress are already taking climate very seriously. You should too. For a letter on this theme, you can reference examples of like-minded legislators taking steps on climate and urge the candidate to commit to similar steps. For example, if you are writing in a safe red district or state, you could mention Rep. John Curtis and the Conservative Climate Caucus, or the Republican Senators who sit on the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. If you are writing in a safe blue district or state, you could mention the Democrats’ efforts to make climate policy central to the budget reconciliation push in the last two years. If you are writing in a politically mixed district or state, you could mention all of those examples to show that action is happening on both sides of the aisle, and the candidates in your race should all be moving forward on climate, too.
- Identify yourself as a voter, and share that climate change is a top priority issue for you. Make clear in your letter that as you evaluate Candidates A, B, and/or C, you are looking to see which candidate understands the threat climate change poses to your district or state and has the best climate solutions as part of their platform. You could share a personal story about climate impacts you’ve seen or dealt with locally, which shows why climate is a high priority for you.
- Address the newspaper directly and ask for coverage of candidates’ climate positions. If you’re not seeing climate come up in your local coverage of races, that in itself could become an LTE opportunity. Write to the editor and express your desire to read about the candidates’ climate positions and ask if the newspaper could cover that aspect of the ongoing races. CCL volunteers Eric, Samantha, and Isabella in the Dallas Fort-Worth chapter have already seen success with this approach to letters.
- For timely election-related LTE topics, check out our LTE Topics resource on CCL Community.
No matter which LTE angle you choose, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Be firm and clear in your message, but stay respectful. Avoid name calling, rudeness or profanity.
- Stay nonpartisan. Keep it focused on the candidates’ climate stances and comments, or your own priority on the climate issue, rather than the candidates’ party affiliations or your own.
- Mention the candidates by name to increase the likelihood that they will see your letter.
- Here’s our LTE training if you’re just getting started or would like more guidance.
CCL’s Communications staff have provided an election season op-ed template that will help you:
- identify yourself as a voter for whom climate is a priority issue
- detail how climate change has already impacted your district or state
- encourage candidates of any party to strengthen their climate platforms in order to earn the support of voters like you
The template is available on our Op-Ed Templates page. You can add local details and submit it as a double byline piece, with a local volunteer’s name alongside CCL Executive Director Madeleine Para's.
Reporters for newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations will be eagerly following the midterm elections. This gives you a chance to reach out to reporters even beyond your typical climate, environment or energy reporters. Political reporters may be open to these pitches as well.
Here are some pitch ideas you could send to local reporters to prompt helpful stories that center the climate issue in people’s awareness of the midterm races:
- Local advocates are pushing candidates for climate commitments. For this pitch, you can send reporters some introductory information about how climate change is already impacting your community, and you can specifically highlight what your chapter has done or is planning to do during election season to push candidates forward on the issue. You can provide reporters with a short list of folks in your CCL chapter who have been active in those efforts and who are available for interviews.
- Climate is impacting our district/state. What will the candidates do about it? For this pitch, you can send reporters some introductory information about how climate change is already impacting local communities, and you can express your interest in reading a story that addresses the candidates’ climate stances. You can let the reporter know that you or others in your CCL chapter are happy to speak with them on the record for the story. (This is a slightly softer pitch than the version above).
- Local advocates plan a candidate forum [or other election-related event] focused on climate. A few CCL chapters have had great success this year planning candidate forums about climate change. If you are planning an election-related event that brings attention to climate, definitely make sure to alert local media so they can cover the event.
Newspaper editorial boards often endorse a candidate in political races, which is why their perspective throughout the years is so important and valued by members of Congress. You can reach out to your local editorial board, or at least the opinion page editor, and ask them to prominently consider the climate issue as they choose who to support in the race.
Here is a template email you can complete and send to the editor(s) of your local newspaper during election season:
Hi, [NAME OF OPINION EDITOR],
This is [YOUR NAME] from the [YOUR CITY] chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby. As our name implies, we're focused on generating the political will to enact effective solutions to climate change. Here in [CITY OR STATE] we’ve experienced the impact of a changing climate with [PICK ONE: EXTREME HEAT; RISING SEAS; SEVERE DROUGHT; DAMAGING FLOODS; CATASTROPHIC STORMS; HUGE WILDFIRES]. To limit the consequences of climate change, our members of Congress must do more than pay lip service to the issue; they must make it a priority and back up their words with action.
We appreciate the coverage and commentary the [NAME OF NEWSPAPER] has devoted to climate change. This being an election year, you have an opportunity to make a difference with moving national climate policies forward. Members of Congress and other candidates seeking House and Senate seats are likely to visit you this year to ask for the paper's endorsement. When they do, we have some suggested questions to evaluate whether or not these candidates will be champions for solving climate change:
- How much of a priority should be given to addressing climate change?
- Do you support the U.S. commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030?
- For incumbents: What current legislation are you sponsoring or have voted for to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
- What policies would you support to speed the transition to clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
After evaluating the responses from candidates and determining which ones have the strongest commitment to solving climate change, we hope that evaluation will weigh heavily in deciding who to endorse.
Will the newspaper be asking candidates about their positions on climate change? Thanks for your consideration, and we hope these suggested questions are helpful.