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Silicon Valley CCLers host 10-candidate climate forum

Two older white women stand together in front of a tree. One has her arm around the other, and they are both smiling at the camera.

Madalyn Friedman and Jenn Bulka co-chaired this impressive and exciting effort for their CCL chapter.

Silicon Valley CCLers host 10-candidate climate forum

By Flannery Winchester

In an election year, CCL chapters can play a critical role in showing candidates that local voters want climate action. Recently, we saw this in action in California’s 16th congressional district. Climate champion Rep. Anna Eshoo, who is a longtime member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and an original cosponsor of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, is retiring from Congress. Ten candidates jumped in the race, and the local CCL chapters knew exactly what to do — host a climate-focused candidate forum!

“The team saw a golden opportunity to engage community leaders in supporting CCL’s policy agenda,” says volunteer Jenn Bulka, one of the co-chairs of the effort. Plus, she adds, a forum creates “an opportunity to nail down the candidates on their commitments to climate policy with the constituents as eye-witnesses.”

So, together with CCL’s Silicon Valley North and South chapters, CCL San Mateo took on the mission of organizing and putting on the event in just five weeks. “To the average eye this may have looked like an impossible task, but the team was fearless and confident,” Jenn says.

Jenn and Madalyn Friedman co-chaired this effort for the chapter, and they quickly recruited all 10 congressional candidates to participate in the forum. Under Jenn and Madalyn’s leadership, a dozen CCLers then planned, advertised, and hosted two virtual forums, attracting over 300 Zoom registrants.

It was a resounding success. “Candidates and constituents praised the forums for being informative, well organized and thoughtful with regard to the content,” Madalyn shares. An event of this scale pushes climate change higher on the priority list of every candidate. 

This screenshot shows CCL volunteers and several of the paticipating candidates.

Plan your own candidate event

Does your chapter want to follow their lead and host your own candidate event? Jenn and Madalyn shared their key takeaways in a new slide deck that illustrates the steps they took to pull off such a successful event. Check out “Putting on a Candidate Panel – a How-To Guide for Jenn and Madalyn’s step-by-step advice. 

“It is chock-full of information,” Jenn says, “from staging the choreography, to messaging strategies, what’s crucial to advertise, developing rules and questions for the panel, to project management tools and prerequisites for your host, moderator and tech person, plus other key information.”

Jenn adds, “We’re happy to help inspire other chapters to develop their own forums for congressional seats, state legislators, and even local elections.” If you’re heading to D.C. for CCL’s summer conference, you can reach out to Jenn ( or send a text to 650-678-9769) and plan to chat with her and Madalyn in person at that event.

Even if your chapter doesn’t host your own candidate forum or town hall, you should plan to attend events your congressional candidates are holding. Check out CCL’s national guidance on “Attending Town Halls To Connect Climate Impacts” for tips from staff on how to engage productively in those events.