Steyer’s super PAC, NextGen Climate, is only backing seven Democrats—four Senate and three gubernatorial candidates—and has publicly shunned pro-energy Democrats like Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu, Arkansas’s Sen. Mark Pryor and Alaska’s Sen. Mark Begich.
Steyer consultant Chris Lehane told CNN that NextGen would only support “pro-climate action” candidates, while Steyer said in a Thursday blog post that he founded NextGen “to elect candidates willing to take bold action on climate change.”
Republicans promptly blasted Steyer, a former hedge-fund manager, who has pledged to spend $50 million and raise another $50 million in 2014 to promote his candidates.
Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who is running against Udall, issued a press release calling Udall “far out of step with Colorado” on environmental and energy issues.
“Make no mistake about it, Senator Udall and Tom Steyer support an energy agenda that would not only do great harm to Colorado’s economy, but would wreak havoc on family’s pocketbooks,” said campaign spokesman Alex Siciliano. “Senator Udall has refused to stand up for Colorado jobs, and is now being rewarded heavily for it.”
The Gardner campaign also raised a potentially explosive issue by noting that Steyer-founded hedge-fund Farallon Capital Management was part of a controversial effort in the late 1990s to divert water from the San Luis Valley to Denver.
“Coloradans need no introduction to Tom Steyer,” Siciliano said. “As one of his biggest supporters, Senator Udall must immediately condemn Steyer’s past water-grabbing efforts in this state.”
Steyer’s decision to back Udall wasn’t particularly surprising. The Democrat attended a February fundraiser at Steyer’s home in San Francisco and then participated in a Senate Democratic all-night talkfest in March on climate change. Another Steyer fundraiser in San Francisco featuring Vice President Joseph Biden is scheduled for May 28.
Meanwhile, the Udall campaign has criticized the Koch brothers for running anti-Udall attack television ads in Colorado.
“Coloradans are tired of outside spending and extreme television ads,” said Udall in one post.
Udall has attempted to straddle the energy issue by coming out in support of natural gas development, but has also refused to take a public position on building the Keystone XL pipeline or the proposed statewide anti-fracking initiatives aimed at the November ballot.
The League of Conservation Voters, which has given Udall a lifetime 97 percent score for his votes on environmental issues, announced plans last month to spend $1 million in negative television ads targeting Gardner for supporting “big oil.”
Several national news outlets pointed out that Steyer hasn’t ruled out supporting Democratic Rep. Jared Polis’s anti-fracking measures, which could place Udall in an uncomfortable position by forcing him to take a position on the issue.
“[T]he strategy could force Democratic Sen. Mark Udall to take a definitive stand on a divisive state issue that pits the business community against environmentalists, an important slice of the Democratic base,” said CNN.
Republican strategist Dick Wadhams said Udall is already feeling the squeeze on the anti-fracking issue.
If Steyer does back the Polis initiatives, “it would complicate an already complicated case with Sen. Udall. He’s already trying to hide from this issue. This would further complicate his intents to hide,” said Wadhams.