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Why Democrats are preparing to run on abortion rights in Texas’ 2024 Senate race

By 37ci3 Feb29,2024

Democrats running against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas are in a tough fight over abortion rights ahead of Tuesday’s primary. But this is not the narrow message they gave to the liberal primary electorate.

Abortion from dozens of states with competitive Senate races this year The most limited in Texas, Where an almost total ban on the procedure went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. And Democrats plan to focus on the issue as they fight Cruz, whom they see as uniquely vulnerable after his re-election. Just 3 percentage points in 2018.

“This is an issue that affects almost every race we’re going to have in Texas,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told NBC News by phone.

Running and winning on the abortion issue would be a major turnaround in Texas, which has elected and re-elected anti-abortion Republicans at the state level for years. Republicans believe the state still broadly opposes abortion rights and argue that voters view Democrats as too hard on the issue.

But Democrats argue that post-Roe changes to state law have fueled real fears among Texas women and Texans more broadly — and Republicans will pay the price in November.

Before making their case against Cruz, Democrats must first pick a candidate.

Nine Democrats are running in Tuesday’s primary. Rep. Colin Allred is a leader in both fundraising and public opinion polling.

Allred mentioned abortion in each of the three television commercials his first place As the three-term congressman said, “I’m running for Senate because the freedoms we believe in as Texans, the freedom to vote, the freedom to have an abortion, and the health care and freedom you need, go forward if you work hard and play by the rules.”

Allred, who began her political career in 2018 by flipping a longtime Republican House district in the Dallas area, has also targeted Cruz in her ads, hinting that abortion policy will be a focus beyond Tuesday’s primary if she runs. Allred recently revealed that His guest at the State of the Union will be an OB-GYN who has to leave Texas to perform an abortion.

Although Allred is considered the Democratic front-runner, she may be forced into a primary runoff in May, thanks in part to a crowded field and a strong challenge from state Sen. Roland Gutierrez. An ardent progressive, Gutierrez represents the city of Uvalde, whose residents suffered in 2022 after a tragic mass shooting at an elementary school.

Gutierrez said in a telephone interview with NBC News that the issue is “at the heart of our message,” adding that he has often talked about abortion on the campaign trail.

“We talk about what matters most to people at home,” he said. “Republicans’ gun laws are killing our children. Assaulting women’s reproductive freedom is absolutely killing women. We also have high infant mortality rates because of what happened in this place in Texas.”

Both Democrats protect abortion rights and Roe v. While they have called for a federal law codifying the protections that existed under Wade, there is some disagreement over how they plan to achieve that goal.

Gutierrez said Democrats “need to defeat the filibuster,” citing the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation. He also called for more justices to be added to the Supreme Court.

“What’s the point of passing a law when it has a Supreme Court to oversee it?” [former President Donald] Trump appointed those who never left – will this legislation never see the light of day? Gutierrez said.

Allred said during recent AFL-CIO debate he said he would “reform” the filibuster, but he stopped short of saying he would support expanding the high court to codify abortion rights.

Former state Sen. Wendy Davis, who endorsed Allred and is chief counsel for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, told NBC News that Gutierrez’s proposals are “great ideas” but suggested they are unrealistic.

“We will be very lucky if we keep the majority in the US Senate. And we certainly don’t have enough members who want to get rid of the filibuster right now [and] expand the court,” he said.

The road to victory?

And the Republicans are preparing to paint the Democratic Party as the more extreme party on the issue of abortion.

“Texas is pro-life and Sen. Cruz is pro-life. Colin Allred and the Democrats’ record on abortion is extreme and unpopular,” Cruz campaign spokeswoman Macarena Martinez said.

“Rep. Allred has voted with the most radical sides of her party, including voting to eliminate protections for children born alive after botched abortions and voting to overturn the Supreme Court’s constitutional decision to return the issue to the states,” Martinez added, citing Allred’s support for abortion. Susan B. Anthony of the anti-rights group pointed to an “F” rating from Pro-Life America. “Allred’s extreme views do not align with the views of Texans.”

“In this race, both Democrats are trying to outdo each other on who can advocate more strongly for taxpayer-funded abortions up until the moment of birth,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Philip Letsow said in a statement. (Less than 1% of abortions occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Asked how Democrats should respond to the GOP’s potential attacks, Davis said, “It’s an issue about freedom — about personal freedom to make decisions about our own bodies.”

The fight for abortion rights is not new to Texas Democrats, especially Davis. It’s been more than a decade since Davis gained national attention by donning his running shoes overturning the 20-week abortion ban in the state Senate, finally passed.

Still, Davis and other Democrats said the post-Roe environment has fueled new fears among women in Texas.

“I think there’s a growing consensus of fear that this law is coming for you, no matter who you are, no matter what you thought your perspectives on abortion were before,” Davis said. “And I think that’s going to be an increasingly clarion call for a response.”

A majority of Texas voters voting in the 2022 gubernatorial race — 54% — said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to an NBC News exit poll. And 51% said they were dissatisfied or angry with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe Wade.

More than a quarter of Texas voters — 27% — said abortion was their top issue in 2022, second only to inflation, which was the top issue for 28% of voters.

Still, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who narrowly defeated Cruz in 2018, lost his race against GOP Gov. Greg Abbott by 11 percentage points.

However, Democrats say the issue could make a difference this year, especially as abortion cases in Texas have grabbed national headlines. A recent case involved a woman Kate CoxShe attempted an abortion in Texas after her fetus was diagnosed as fatal, but her health deteriorated and she ended up leaving the state for the procedure.

“Every time we have a story like Kate Cox … people think about it in really personal ways and see how extreme the realities are of the new status quo,” said Nancy Zdunkiewicz, who conducted the Gutierrez survey. Vote for Planned Parenthood Texas Voices.

That’s why Democrats believe abortion will be an important issue in November, even in a state with many socially conservative voters, including the Hispanic community.

But Democrats aren’t worried that focusing on abortion could alienate those voters.

“Conservative Spanish families do not support abortion. But they also understand that this is a family decision, no one should tell people what to do. The government shouldn’t be stepping in to tell them what to do,” said Hinojosa, the state party chair, who noted that her own mother opposed abortion but consistently supported Democrats.

Texas Democratic consultant Sonia Van Meter also noted that the abortion issue could bring new voters to the polls.

“Let me be clear, I’m less concerned about alienating social conservatives who aren’t going to vote for us anyway, and more concerned about making sure the message gets across,” Van Meter said.

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