Access to abortion finds a place even in negative electoral campaigns

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Bare-shouldered in a television ad, Connecticut Democrat Dita Bhargava looks directly into the camera and vows, if elected, to “lead the crusade” for abortion rights. .

Photos of other women appear on the screen, also without showing clothes. “These are the ones who have had their freedom over their own bodies taken away,” says Bhargava in the commercial, referring to the The recent US Supreme Court ruling. annulling the constitutional right to abortion. “This is who the Supreme Court left completely vulnerable.”

It would make sense to think that Bhargava is running for governor, state legislature or Congress, positions that could play a direct role in future abortion laws. She is not. She is running for state treasurer.

Bhargava, a contender in Connecticut’s Aug. 9 primary, is among Democratic candidates in negative electoral races, such as treasurer, auditor or secretary of state, who have seized on the abortion issue, even when the office they seek does not have an obvious connection with access to abortion.

“Others might say it’s not relevant. It is absolutely relevant to the treasurer’s office,” Bhargava, chief operating officer of a private investment fund, said in an interview, explaining that the state has the power to affect corporate behavior through its pension investment decisions.

“When I am state treasurer, the state will not invest in companies that don’t do the right thing for their employees,” she said. “And part of doing the right thing is supporting a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. .”

In Wisconsin, Treasurer candidate Gillian Battino, a Democrat and physician, has asked donors to help her “fight to codify Roe.” state and chair a board that handles payments from the trust lands.

The Supreme Court’s decision to return the abortion issue to the states drew attention to governor races, where the winners will play an important role in the fate of future constraints. But candidates for lower state offices are also looking to cash in on a ruling. unpopular with most Americans to increase campaign contributions and inspire voter turnout.

Sandy Theis, a Democratic consultant in Ohio, said threats on abortion access have a history of mobilizing Democratic voters.

Following the US Supreme Court decision in 1989 in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, which gave states more wiggle room to restrict abortions, Democratic hopefuls unseated Republican governors in Virginia and Florida, and exit polls showed Democrat Ann Richards getting 60% of the vote. vote of women, including 25% Republican women, to become governor of Texas.

“The Republican Party doesn’t understand the selling power of something like taking away women’s reproductive freedom,” Theis said. “If the Democrats play it right and get this message right, I think it will help them all the way down the ticket.”

Low-cost Republican candidates have largely avoided the abortion issue, often concentrating on the core features of the offices they seek. The exception is attorney general races, in which some Republican candidates have pledged to uphold state laws under the Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization ruling. Jackson, help local prosecutors prosecute abortion crimes and defend new restrictions in court.

Democratic candidates for attorney general in Arizona, California, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio present themselves as the last line of defense for abortion rights.

Taylor Sappington, the Democratic candidate for state auditor in Ohio, said voters sometimes question his approach to the abortion ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, since the position he is seeking would appear to have nothing to do with women’s health care.

He said he reminds them that the Ohio auditor sits on the state’s political mapping commission, which draws districts for entities that do have a role.

“The truth is that the voters authorized the redistricting commission and put the auditor on that commission to draw maps for the Legislature and Congress,” he said. “All the issues that those agencies handle, including abortion, but also education, health care, and civil liberties for LGBTQ people like me, like gay marriage, are affected by those maps.”

The current auditor, Republican Keith Faber, has promoted his endorsement of Ohio Right to Life, the oldest and largest anti-abortion group in the GOP-leaning state, but has otherwise stayed aloof from social issues. Instead, he is campaigning against high inflation under President Joe Biden.

Contests for state election oversight positions have also added to the abortion discussion.

State Representative Bee Nguyen, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state in Georgia, called the Supreme Court ruling “part of a broader assault on our fundamental rights” and sought to link it to the election.

“We must fight back at the polls and use our most powerful tool: our sacred and most fundamental right to vote,” he said in a fundraising solicitation that appears to have worked. He is currently outpacing the Republican incumbent.

Democratic Secretaries of State Jocelyn Benson of Michigan and Jena Griswold of Colorado are also campaigning on the issue. Griswold, who chairs the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, told potential donors that, if re-elected, she would not apply the state seal to extradition proceedings for any out-of-state patient seeking abortion or reproductive health care in Colorado.

Abortion is resonating even lower on the ballot.

In New Hampshire, the issue has surfaced in campaigns for elected members of an obscure but powerful state body that approves state contracts, judicial nominations and agency heads. A majority of Republicans on the state Executive Council have repeatedly rejected funding for family planning clinics over unfounded concerns that public money is being used for abortions.

The political action fund for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England got involved on the other side, citing the council’s “outsized role when it comes to reproductive health in this state.”

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Carr Smyth reported from Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press writers Jeff Amy in Atlanta; Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire; Jim Anderson in Denver; Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan; Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis; and Gabe Stern in Carson City, Nevada.

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