Jun 6, 2022 - Politics

WA Democrats plan to hit GOP candidates hard on abortion

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Abortion rights are most likely safe in Washington state, but Democrats here still plan to focus heavily on the issue in this year's midterm elections.

Why it matters: Democrats have been preparing to lose seats this fall in both Congress and the state Legislature.

What they're saying: State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, who chairs the state House Democratic Campaign Committee, told Axios, "I think the 2022 election is going to be a referendum on reproductive freedom."

  • He said that's particularly true in the 10th and 42nd legislative districts, swing districts in northwest Washington.

Meanwhile, in the state's most competitive congressional race, Democrats plan to emphasize the divide between U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Sammamish) and her Republican opponents when it comes to abortion rights.

The latest: Tina Podlodowski, who chairs the Washington State Democrats, said last month's release of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting abortion rights will be rolled back "swings the race very clearly in Schrier's direction."

  • "You've got these four Republican men — who are never in the position to have to make this decision — saying, 'We are going to make the decision for women in the district,'" Podlodowski told Axios.
  • "I don't think women are going to stand for it in that district," Podlodowski added.

What's happening: Five Republicans are trying to unseat Schrier in Washington's 8th Congressional District, four of whom have taken public stances against abortion.

  • One challenger, King County Council member Reagan Dunn, voted this month against a motion proclaiming the County Council's support for Roe v. Wade.
  • That appears to be a shift from Dunn's past positions, when he presented himself as supportive of abortion rights, saying he didn't think the government should get involved in such decisions, The Seattle Times reported.
  • Other Republican candidates include Jesse Jensen, a technology manager and combat veteran who also ran against Schrier in 2020; Matt Larkin, who ran for attorney general the same year; and Scott Stephenson, an Amazon program manager.
  • All three have said they oppose abortion or Roe v. Wade.
  • The two candidates who get the most votes in the August primary election will advance to the general election in November.

The other side: Peter Graves, a Republican political consultant based in the state, told Axios that no matter how hard Democrats try, "they can't will abortion to being a top issue this year."

  • "Voters are far too angry that it costs so much to put food on their table and gas in their tank thanks to Democratic policies," Graves wrote in a text message to Axios.

State of play: Washington voters added strong abortion protections into state law by approving Initiative 120 in 1991.

  • That means that, even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion rights in Washington state will remain protected.
  • Our state's liberal lean makes it unlikely that a conservative majority will gain control and reverse those protections.

The bottom line: Whether or not abortion rights are truly at risk here, expect the issue to be a major flashpoint in local elections this year.


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