Access to abortion finds a place, even in down-ballot campaigns

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut Democrat Dita Bhargava appears bare-shouldered in a TV ad, looking straight into the camera, promising, if elected, to “lead the crusade” for abortion rights.

Photos of other women flash on the screen, even without clothes. “These are the ones who have been deprived of freedom over their own bodies,” Bhargava says in the commercial, referring to the… Recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling abolition of the constitutional right to abortion. “This is the one that left the Supreme Court completely vulnerable.”

It would be logical to think that Bhargava is a candidate for governor, state legislature or congress – positions that could play a direct role in future abortion laws. She’s not. She is a candidate for state treasurer.

Bhargava, a contender in the Aug. 9 primary in Connecticut, is one of the Democratic candidates in downward ballot races, such as treasurer, accountant, or secretary of state, who have seized on the abortion issue even when the office they seek has no clear connection to abortion access. .

“Others might say it’s irrelevant. 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 influence corporate behavior through decisions on pension investment.

“If I’m state treasurer, the state won’t invest in companies that aren’t doing the right thing through their employees,” she said. “And part of doing that right is supporting a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion.”

In Wisconsin, treasurer candidate Gillian Battino, a Democrat and physician, has solicited donors to help her “fight to codify Roe.” The Wisconsin treasurer does not set an abortion policy or even oversee investments. state and chairing a council that handles payments from land held in trust.

The Supreme Court’s decision to return the issue of abortion to the states turned attention to: the governor’s races, where winners will play an inordinate role in the fate of future restrictions. But candidates for lower state positions are also trying to take advantage of a ruling not popular with a majority of Americans to boost campaign contributions and inspire voter turnout.

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

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1989 decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, which gave states more leeway to restrict abortions, Democratic challengers framed Republican governors in Virginia and Florida, and exit polls showed Democrat Ann Richards 60% of women’s votes, including 25% of 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 this well and pass this on well, I think it will help them across the board.”

Down-ticket Republican candidates have largely avoided the abortion issue, often focusing on the core functions of their sought-after offices. The exception is the Attorney General races, in which some GOP candidates have pledged to defend state laws under the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, help local prosecutors prosecute abortion crimes and defend new restrictions in court. .

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

Taylor Sappington, the Democratic nominee for Ohio state auditor, said voters are sometimes questioning his focus on the abortion ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, as the office he seeks does not appear to affect women’s health care. .

He said he reminds them that Ohio’s accountant sits on the state’s political map committee, which draws districts for entities that do play a role.

“The truth is that voters have empowered the reclassification committee, and put the accountant on that committee, to sign cards for the legislature and for Congress,” he said. “All the issues those agencies deal with — including abortion, but also education, health care and civil liberties for LGBTQ people like me, such as same-sex marriage — are affected by those maps.”

Current accountant, Republican Keith Faber, has promoted his endorsement by Ohio Right to Life, the Republican state’s oldest and largest anti-abortion group, but otherwise he has steered clear of social issues. Instead, under President Joe Biden, he campaigns against high inflation.

Races for state election oversight offices have also joined the debate on abortion.

State Representative Bee Nguyen, the Democratic Secretary of State nominee for Georgia, said the Supreme Court ruling was “part of a broader attack on our fundamental rights,” and tried to link that back to elections.

“We need to fight back at the ballot box and use our most powerful tool: our sacred, most fundamental right to vote,” she said in a fundraiser that appears to have worked. She is currently ridiculing the Republican incumbent.

Democratic Secretaries of State Jocelyn Benson, of Michigan, and Jena Griswold, of Colorado, are also campaigning on the issue. Griswold, who is president of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, told prospective donors that if she were re-elected, she would not affix the state seal to the extradition papers of an out-of-state patient seeking an abortion or reproductive health care in Colorado.

Abortion resonates even further down in the mood.

In New Hampshire, the problem has arisen in campaigns for elected members of an obscure but powerful state body that approves state contracts, judicial appointments and agency heads. Majority Republicans in the state’s Executive Council have repeatedly rejected funding for family planning clinics over unfounded concerns that government funds are being used for abortions.

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

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Carr Smyth reported from Columbus, Ohio. Contributing to this report were 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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