Where Things Stand: Another Datapoint On The Energizing Power Of Abortion

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PETERSBURG, VA - MAY 18: Former Virginia Del. Lashrecse Aird, left, talks withwith Petersburg resident Jean Lewis on May 18, 2023 as she campaigns in the Democratic primary for a newly drawn state Senate district aga... PETERSBURG, VA - MAY 18: Former Virginia Del. Lashrecse Aird, left, talks withwith Petersburg resident Jean Lewis on May 18, 2023 as she campaigns in the Democratic primary for a newly drawn state Senate district against Sen. Joe Morrissey. (Photo by Gregory S. Schneider/The Washington Post via Getty Images0 MORE LESS
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The midterm red wave that wasn’t was one thing. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race was another. 2024 Republicans’ ongoing, awkward, obvious flailing on abortion has confirmed the severity of the dilemma for the party. And the primary elections in Virginia this week bring us the latest datapoint on how potent and energizing the unpopularity of the Dobbs ruling and the passage of increasingly restrictives bans on abortion has been and will be for 2024 voters.

Democrats have been using abortion access, justifiably, as an electoral carrot since the midterms, campaigning on promises to restore and protect it as Republicans continue to throw up restrictions on the procedure in states across the country.

That’s the platform that led a vocal, abortion-supporting Democrat to defeat the anti-abortion incumbent in a Virginia state Senate primary race this week.

Democrat Lashrecse Aird, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, beat Democratic incumbent state Sen. Joe Morrissey in the primaries Tuesday night for Virginia’s 13th Senate District. She will face a Republican named Eric Ditri in the November general election.

Morrissey is the only anti-abortion Democrat in the state Senate and Aird focused much of her campaign on her support for abortion access and criticizing Morrissey for his anti-abortion voting record. As an anti-abortion Democrat, Morrissey has repeatedly voted against abortion rights during his tenure. Just last year he co-sponsored a 20-week abortion ban that didn’t pass the state Senate. He’s also previously expressed support for a 15-week abortion ban.

This coupled with the fact that the six Dem women in the state Senate endorsed Aird over their colleague gave Aird plenty of material to run on.

(It also should be mentioned that Morrissey, a former member of the House of Delegates, resigned from that office after he was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, in 2014, only to win his seat in a special election months later — which he campaigned for while serving a jail sentence. The person who he was in a relationship with became his wife, then his ex wife. All of this, however, had not stopped Morrissey from winning elections in recent years, including his Senate seat in 2020.)

While it nods at the impact abortion positioning will continue to have on coming elections as Democratic and independent voters remain energized around the issue, the election will also be crucial for abortion rights in the state, one of the last states left in the Southeast that doesn’t have bans on the books.

Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has tried to push a 15-week abortion ban in the state, but Senate Democrats blocked the bill earlier this year. Democrats currently have a small majority in the state Senate, 22-18, while Republicans hold the House of Delegates and the governors’ mansion, making Aird’s primary victory and potential election in November crucial for upholding abortion protections for Virginians and those in neighboring states.

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