5 Senate races to watch amid Roe fallout
A leaked Supreme Court draft opinion signaling that the high court could overturn Roe v. Wade has shaken up the 2022 midterm elections, mobilizing Democrats and Republicans alike.
Democrats are using the leaked document as an opportunity to fundraise millions of dollars and rally their bases in opposition to the move. On the Republican side, grassroots activists are similarly energized ahead of what they see as a historic opportunity to overturn a law they have long opposed.
The issue has the opportunity to shake up several Senate races in particular, as Republicans look to flip the upper chamber after Democrats clinched the narrowest of majorities following two special Senate elections in Georgia in 2021.
Though it is not clear exactly how the abortion issue will play out in individual Senate races, it’s clear it has the potential to roil some of the most closely watched contests in November.
Here are five Senate races to watch amid the growing fallout from the leaked Supreme Court draft.
One Republican senator that could see the Supreme Court’s decision affect their race is Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
Murkowski, who is known as a moderate in the Senate, has been vocal about her opposition to overturning Roe v. Wade, putting her at odds with many in her party.
She went as far to say if the court overturns the landmark case it would “rock my confidence in the court.” The senator supported the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch, two of the conservative justices purportedly backing the Roe opinion.
Murkowski, who has described herself as in favor of abortion rights, is facing primary challenger Kelly Tshibaka, an ex-Alaska administration commissioner endorsed by former President Trump.
Tshibaka has previously described herself as “pro-life,” drawing a stark distinction between the two candidates before the upcoming primary.
Complicating matters is the political nature of Alaska, a state known for its fierce independence. Murkowski is likely depending on many of the more moderate voters who will be angered if the abortion law is overturned.
Alaska is one of the few states in the country that has the protection of abortion rights enshrined in its state constitution.
In a swing state where current Sen. Mark Kelly (D) only won his special election for office by 2 percentage points, abortion could be an issue that has a significant impact on election results.
Kelly has labeled himself as pro-abortion rights and decried the leaked SCOTUS decision.
He is facing opposition from anti-abortion groups in the state, including Susan B. Anthony List, which spent $1 million for two 30-second ads that aimed to convince voters Kelly is an extremist on the issue.
Among the top contenders in the Republican primary are Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Arizona businessman and veteran Jim Lamon and venture capitalist Blake Masters.
Brnovich and Lamon both described themselves as “pro-life” on their Senate campaign websites. Masters has been critical of abortion in the past.
In Arizona, Republicans control both state legislatures and the governor’s office while having two Democratic senators who are pro-abortion rights.
Gov. Doug Ducey (R) recently signed a law that bans abortions in the state at 15 weeks. The bill has no exemptions for rape or incest.
The Nevada Senate race, where incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) will be fighting to retain her spot, is being closely watched by Republicans as one of their best bets to flip a Senate seat.
The Nevada Democrat has previously made her stance on abortion clear, saying she has supported making sure access is available for those services.
In light of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, Cortez Masto said in a statement she believed if it became the final ruling, it would be “a dangerous attack on women across the country.”
Nevada already allows people to seek an abortion up to 24 weeks after the start of pregnancy, meaning that the topic itself could be an issue Republicans may try to steer away from given the state’s established laws on it.
One Senate Republican candidate nodded to that fact in a statement he released following the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, making it clear that he was anti-abortion while acknowledging it was settled law in the state.
“If the leaked draft reflects the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision, it would constitute an historic victory for the sanctity of life and the principles of self-determination. The Supreme Court has never had the expertise nor the authority to unilaterally legislate on abortion,” Republican candidate Adam Laxalt said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The people of Nevada have already voted to make abortion rights legal in our state, and so no matter the Court’s ultimate decision on Roe, it is currently settled law in our state,” he added.
In the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), whose Senate race is also being closely watched, called the draft ruling “devastating” and urged for Congress to codify the Roe v. Wade decision into law.
“And I will continue to fight for the full inclusion of women in our society, and that starts with them being able to make their own health care decisions and decide if and when to have a family,” she said in a tweet earlier this week.
Last year, a budget provision signed by New Hampshire’s governor banned abortion following 24 weeks of gestation, according to The Associated Press. Democrats had little luck trying to put protections in place this week in light of the draft ruling.
It is not clear if that provision would be further changed should the draft ruling become the high court’s final decision on the matter. Several Republican candidates said they agreed with Alito’s opinion to hand those decisions back to the states, pointing to their own state as an example.
“It’s a disgrace that a Supreme Court decision of this magnitude was leaked to the media in an attempt to shift the national political conversation,” Don Bolduc (R), a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and Republican Senate candidate, said in a statement.
“We must understand that this opinion does not outlaw abortion. It returns the decision to the individual states to make the decision they think is best for their citizens,” he added.
Chuck Morse, New Hampshire state Senate president and another Republican candidate, suggested in his own statement that the ruling would not make a difference in New Hampshire.
“I’m proud of my pro-life record in the New Hampshire State Senate. Last year we settled the law in New Hampshire that permits abortions in the first six months while banning late term and partial birth abortions in the last 12 weeks of a pregnancy – a policy that the vast majority of Granite Staters support. This potential decision will have no impact on New Hampshire,” he said.
“We will wait to see what the Supreme Court ultimately decides, but I strongly believe that the states should have the right to govern policy in their respective states as this draft opinion would ensure.”
Pennsylvania’s Senate seat is considered a “toss up” seat for Republican-held seats ahead of the November midterms, according to The Cook Political Report’s latest Senate race ratings.
Democratic Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Rep. Conor Lamb, both seen as front-runners within their party for the Senate seat, have both said they support access to abortion services.
Lamb, a Catholic, has signaled he is opposed personally to abortion, though he has voiced that he supports the choice of women to get them.
Meanwhile, one of the most high-profile Republican Senate candidates in the race, Trump-endorsed Mehmet Oz, has been on the defensive for his stance on abortion.
During a 2019 interview with “The Breakfast Club,” Oz was asked about his thoughts on anti-abortion legislation being passed in Alabama.
“I’m really worried about it,” he responded at the time. “I tell ya, I’ve taken care of a lot of women who’ve had issues around childbirth. The problem with the law as it stands now — I think they’ll really only pass to generate a Supreme Court challenge, but most women don’t know they’re pregnant.”
“Just putting my doctor hat on, it’s big-time concern ’cause I went to medical school in Philadelphia, and I saw women who’d had coat-hanger events, I mean really traumatic events that happened when they were younger before Roe versus Wade, and many of them were harmed for life,” he said, after one of the co-hosts noted that the anti-abortion moves would only discourage safe abortions.
Oz said at the time that “at a personal level” he did not want someone in his family to get an abortion, but added “I don’t want to interfere with everyone else’s stuff.”
Following the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, Oz said on Tuesday that the 1973 landmark decision had been “wrongly decided,” adding, “Abortion laws should be left up to the American people and their elected representatives.”
During a Republican Senate primary debate held earlier this week, former hedge fund executive David McCormick (R) and Army veteran Kathy Barnette (R) criticized Oz’s previous remarks on the matter.
“You’ve got a track record that’s completely opposite of the idea,” McCormick told the heart surgeon during the debate, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “and it’s another example of you being completely phony.”
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