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Democrats Lost Statehouses. Then They Lost the Abortion War.

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15.09.2021

When Democrats flipped a GOP-held state legislative seat in New Hampshire last week, not only did it barely make news nationally; it barely made the news in New Hampshire.

A sleepy special election to win one of the Granite State’s 400 state House seats—more than a year removed from the 2022 midterm elections—does not carry obvious political import.

But in the eyes of some Democrats, this election in a tiny slice of a small state might have huge consequences because of how they won it: on a closing message that relentlessly hammered the GOP candidate over abortion.

In the final week of the election, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a harsh new abortion law in Texas to stand, effectively banning the practice in that state and putting abortion access nationwide in its most tenuous position in decades.

The Republican candidate in the New Hampshire race, Linda Camarota, voted in favor of anti-abortion bills when she served in the legislature. So naturally, after the high court’s decision on Sept. 1, Democrats rushed to connect Camarota with the Texas law.

They sent a mailer to voters in the district and argued that Camarota’s record “shows she’d stand with legislators who just banned late-term abortion without exceptions for fatal fetal anomalies, rape, or incest.” And in other mailers, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee—the party’s official national arm for state legislature races—talked up the Democratic candidate, Catherine Rombeau, by claiming she’d “protect our access to reproductive health care.”

Ultimately, Rombeau won by 37 votes. And many Democrats are coming around to the idea that if they’re going to really counter abortion bills like the one in Texas, their best remaining option is to replicate Rombeau’s win in hundreds of legislative districts around the country come November 2022.

That will require a major strategic shift for the Democratic Party: It would actually have to invest in campaigns to win state legislatures.

Over the last decade, Democratic donors and grassroots supporters have poured their firepower into winning federal races with a fair bit of success. But they’ve habitually neglected fights for state capitols, and the results speak for themselves: today, the GOP controls 30 of 50 state legislatures, and over 55 percent of all state legislative seats nationwide.

Now, Democrats might control the White House and own majorities in Congress, but the court’s decision makes clear they are essentially powerless to push back from Washington on GOP state-level........

© The Daily Beast


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