Merav Ben-David isn’t a typical Wyoming name. She was born in Israel, grew up on a farm, served in the Israeli Air Force, and earned a PhD in Wildlife Management in Alaska. Today’s she’s probably best known for two things. It was her research on the effects of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Prince William Sound that was used to force Exxon pay up in the 90s and then used to force British Petroleum to pay up in a decade later. The other reason people may recognize her name is because, this professor of Zoology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming specializing in the study of global change on ecosystems and wildlife, is the editor-in-chief of Wildlife Monographs. And now… she’s running for an open U.S. Senate seat in the reddest state in America– Wyoming.
Her opponent is former Congressman Cynthia Lummis, a crackpot. I’m being respectful by referring to her as “Congressman” instead of “Congresswoman” because she insists on that appellation. Like I said, crackpot. Lummis has supported privatizing Social Security and raising the retirement age, while benefitting for an enormous inheritance which made her one of Congress’ wealthiest members. She’s raised a little over $1.8 million dollars for this campaign, a third of which came out of her own pocket, although she’s also raked in enormous sums from Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Akteris Capital, Club for Growth and other bad players.
On August 18, Merav won her 6-person primary in a landslide, almost double the number of votes of her 2 closest opponents.
And although Lummis has been running radio and TV ads for over a year, a recent poll shows that she can’t break 49% support. Her legislative record from her time in Congress is abysmal, with only one law passed but many opportunities missed. She told voters to hold their noses while they voted for Trump in 2016, and now she “stands shoulder to shoulder” with him. Lummis says she cares about oil and coal workers, but she’s voted against their interests time and again. Against worker protections, against laws and regulations that would assist them and their families. She’s asking seniors for their vote, but she wants to cut Social Security and raise the retirement age. She wraps herself in our flag, but she won’t help veterans get the health care they need. She says she cares about public lands, but what she really cares about is selling them off to the highest bidder.
When people dismiss Merav’s chances, it’s because they don’t realize that she only needs to convince 57,000 Independents and moderate Republicans to get to her win number of 125,000. That is far fewer people than most other battleground states currently in play.
The senator from Wyoming can cast exactly as many votes as the senator from Kentucky, and she can win Wyoming with a fraction of the budget spent on Kentucky, Arizona, and other swing states. Wyoming is an interesting investment in her effort to flip the Senate.
I asked her to introduce herself to Blue America with a guest post. If you like what you read below and on her website, please consider clicking on the 2020 Blue America thermometer on the right. Believe me, she isn’t another Chuck Schumer corporate conservative, like all his Senate candidates this cycle. Merav Ben David is a Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren kind of Democrat running on a populist platform geared towards Wyoming’s working families.
Rescue, Reimagine, Rebuild
-by Merav Ben David
In late fall of 2009, I was being interviewed by National Geographic on the bow of a Coast Guard Icebreaker in the Arctic Ocean, on which I was the chief scientist. According to NASA’s predictions, we were supposed to be breaking solid ice. Instead, we were motoring at full speed. At a time the sea was supposed to be frozen solid, there was no ice to be seen. The models predicting the progression of climate change had clearly been too optimistic.
When I returned from that expedition, Wyoming’s forests were being decimated by the worst bark beetle infestation in Rocky Mountain history. Climate change had left our winters warmer than ever, causing the devastating eruption. In some parts of our state, fully 90 percent of the forest died.
But I also realized that climate change poses another, more immediate, threat to Wyoming. Our economy relies heavily on fossil fuels, and the world is transitioning to alternative energy sources at a rapid pace. The free markets are pushing a transition to renewable energy not just in Scotland or Sweden but even here at home: our (sole) electricity provider is planning to close all its coal-fired power plants by 2029, there were no new oil rigs in the state this summer (a first since the 1970s), and many coal, oil, and gas companies declared bankruptcies and have fired their workers (while paying their CEOs millions of dollars in bonuses). Wyoming lost so much of its revenue that our governor declared a $250 million cut to– wait for it– our healthcare services and higher education.
Wyoming has majestic wide open spaces, accessible public lands, and clean air and water; it’s an amazing place to live. And yet, for years I have watched our brilliant, qualified, dedicated students forced to leave the state for lack of opportunities. We have failed to invest in modern infrastructure, healthcare (Wyoming is one of the last holdouts against Medicaid expansion), and in new economic initiatives. Even though they want to stay, our young people have no future here.
So what should we do?
It’s time to Rescue, Reimagine, and Rebuild. Rescue Wyomingites from the current health and economic crises by offering high-paying jobs in reclaiming mines, plugging abandoned oil wells, building wildlife overpasses, and installing rural broadband. Reimagine our economy and realizing we are not just an energy producing state– we can be so much more. And rebuild our state together: as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “There are many ways of going forward but only one way of standing still.” We in Wyoming have been standing still for more than 4 decades. Wyoming’s current leadership has kept us in a rut and driven us into a ditch. We need new leadership that will put us on a new track for the future, leadership with a holistic vision that will allow us to move forward, yet keep our identity. Or as we like to say here “keep Wyoming Wyoming.”
And if you’re asking: why Merav? A woman, academic, immigrant, climate scientist. Why would Wyomingites vote for me? Because I have lived here in the same house in Laramie for over 20 years. I have trained thousands of young Wyomingites and helped them find their dream jobs. I share those values that bond Wyomingites together: the love for the outdoors, a passion for our wildlife and natural resources, and the dedication to help each other no matter our beliefs. And finally because I am a scientist. I am trained to collect data, not dismiss them. To listen to opposing viewpoints, not disdain them. And to solve problems, not ignore them.