OLATHE, Kan. – A rare Democrat in a deeply Republican state, U.S. Representative Sharice Davids of Kansas is one of the most vulnerable incumbents up for re-election this year. In the final months of her campaign for Congress, she focused on Republicans’ staunch opposition to abortion rights.
An online ad she posted last week shows how Amanda Adkins, the Republican in favor of exiting Tuesday’s primary for a rematch with Davids in November, opposed abortion without exception. The announcement underscores Adkins’ support for an amendment to the Kansas Constitution in Tuesday’s ballot that would make it clear that there are no state abortion rights.
“There were a lot of people who wouldn’t have known I had an extreme opponent on this issue,” Davids, who beat Adkins in 2020, said in an interview. “It’s no longer hypothetical.”
It’s a sign of how the Supreme Court’s decision in June to repeal a woman’s federal constitutional right to an abortion has muddied the political dynamic ahead of the fall election, when control of Congress is at stake. Half a dozen of the House’s most vulnerable members — all women, all representing swaths of suburban voters — believe the issue could help them win in an otherwise difficult political climate.
In addition to Davids, those incumbents include Reps. Angie Craig of Minnesota, Cindy Axne of Iowa, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia, and Susan Wilds of Pennsylvania. They all face Republican opponents who support the High Court’s decision on abortion. Some are grappling with rivals who support efforts to ban abortion in all circumstances, including when the mother’s life is in danger.
It’s unclear whether a focus on abortion alone can be enough to mean re-election for many of these Democrats, who are running at a time of high inflation and frustration with President Joe Biden’s performance.
“In a tight, toss-up election, which I think all of this is, it can make a difference,” said national pollster Christine Matthews, a self-described moderate who has worked for Republicans. “It won’t be what gets everyone to make a vote choice, but it will make some people make a vote choice.”
Twenty-two percent of American adults cited abortion or women’s rights in an open-ended question as one of five issues they want the government to tackle next year, according to an Associated poll. Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. in June. This has more than doubled since December.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, as state governments moved to take action on abortion rights, an AP-NORC poll found that a majority of people in the United States said they wanted the Congress passes legislation guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.
Overwhelming majorities also believe that states should allow abortion in specific cases, including if the pregnant woman’s health is at risk or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Like respondents overall, a majority of commuters think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to an AP-NORC poll. Commuters were also slightly more likely than city dwellers and significantly more likely than people living in rural areas to say that abortion or women’s rights are among the top issues the government needs to tackle, according to the report. June AP-NORC poll.
That’s especially important in neighborhoods like Axne, Iowa, which includes the bustling suburb of Des Moines. Dallas County, west of Des Moines, has been one of the fastest growing counties in the nation since 2000, with cornfields from decades ago now covered in new homes, schools and commercial developments.
In an interview, Axne insisted that she would make abortion a central issue in her campaign. Axene’s GOP opponent is State Rep. Zach Nunn, who indicated during a primary debate that he opposes abortion without exception.
“I can’t even believe I have to say this. I have an opponent who would let a woman die to have a child,” Axne said. “That’s shit we don’t see in this country. That’s what we talk about in other countries and women don’t have rights.”
In Michigan, Representative Elissa Slotkin faces State Senator Tom Barrett, who only supports an exception to save a woman’s life.
“It’s more extreme than the 1931 law that’s on our books,” Slotkin said in an interview. “So I think that’s an important contrast to make.”
The Adkins, Barrett and Nunn campaigns did not respond to phone, email and text messages seeking comment on this story.
In Virginia, Yesli Vega, the Republican defying Spanberger in a district that spans the suburbs of Washington, DC, and Richmond, did not dismiss the debunked theory that pregnancy is unlikely in cases of rape. In an audio released by Axios late last month, Vega was asked at a campaign event in May if it was “more difficult for a woman to get pregnant if she’s been raped.”
Vega replied, Axios reported, “Maybe, because there’s so much going on in the body. I don’t know. I haven’t seen any studies. But if I process what you’re saying, it doesn’t wouldn’t surprise me, because it’s not something that happens organically. Is it? You force it.
The response was reminiscent of what Todd Akin, a congressman from Missouri who was the Republican Senate nominee in 2012, said during that campaign. Discussing her opposition to exceptions for rape victims, Akin asserted, “If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways of trying to stop it all.”
The comments were seen as a major contributor to his loss to vulnerable incumbent Democrat Clare McCaskill.
In Virginia, Spanberger ran a digital ad last week stating that “Vega’s opinions do not represent Virginia.”
Earlier, Spanberger said Vega’s comment was “extreme and ignorant” and “horrifying and disrespectful to the millions of American women who have become pregnant or will become pregnant as a result of sexual violence.”
One of Spanberger’s digital campaign messages used this headline: “Republican candidate for Congress fires a Todd Akin on abortion.”
Representatives for Vega did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Some Republicans warn that Democrats risk overplaying their hand.
In Minnesota, for example, Craig takes on Republican Tyler Kistner, whom she narrowly beat in 2020 in a district that spans the southeast suburbs of Minneapolis.
Craig began running digital ads attacking Kistner, who opposes abortion but would allow exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother.
“Tyler Kistner wants to take away our rights,” proclaims a female voice in an ad.
Kistner’s consultant, Billy Grant, said Craig was “trying to scare you” and noted the Republican’s team weighed an offensive counterweight that portrays him as “pro-life, but understands both sides. “.
“The rest of America is really not a voter on this and they’re concerned about the economy,” Grant said.
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