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Politico: NARAL Diving Into State Legislative Campaigns in Battleground Regions

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September 23, 2016
By Kevin Robillard

NARAL Pro-Choice America is out with its first 2016 state legislative endorsements, and the group is aiming to have an impact up the ticket as well as down-ballot.

The pro-abortion rights group is making 33 state legislative endorsements across five states, aiming to create or retain hold of abortion rights-supporting majorities in 10 legislative chambers. NARAL is targeting the Colorado Senate, the Iowa House, the Minnesota House, both chambers in Nevada and the Washington Senate, and it is looking to protect the Colorado House, the Senate in both Iowa and Minnesota and the Washington state House.

But the group's aims in those states extend beyond the legislatures. The endorsements are concentrated in districts that could be key for House and Senate Democrats, and even the presidential race. In Nevada, for instance, NARAL endorsed Sen. Joyce Woodhouse’s reelection bid in a district inside the state's 3rd Congressional District, where Democrat Jacky Rosen is running against Republican Danny Tarkanian. The 3rd District, by extension, is a key swing area for statewide races. Hillary Clinton is running neck-and-neck with Donald Trump in Nevada right now, and former Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is trailing GOP Rep. Joe Heck in the Senate race.

“Voters in District 5 will vote for four swing races when they step into the ballot box or fill in a mail-in ballot,” said Joel Foster, NARAL’s national political director. “Voters there will be getting a full slate of touches for pro-choice candidates up and down the ballot.”

They call this approach “layering,” and are also deploying it in Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota. In Colorado, NARAL is endorsing Dan Kagan for state Senate. Kagan’s district is in Colorado’s 6th District, where Democrat Morgan Carroll is trying to unseat the perpetually vulnerable Rep. Mike Coffman.

“That’s the key to make sure we get to a pro-choice majority in the Colorado State Senate,” Foster said.

“We’ve got to make sure voters know if they want to keep abortion safe and legal, they’ve got to vote for Hillary Clinton and they’ve got to vote for Dan.”

NARAL will target voters in these districts with phone calls, mail pieces and canvassing, Foster said.

In Iowa, the endorsements overlap with the state’s competitive 2nd and 3rd Districts, and the same is true for Minnesota’s 2nd and 3rd Districts. While Washington state is short on competitive federal races, NARAL views victories there as key to controlling legislatures in a blue state. The group noted Republicans have successfully rolled back abortion rights in key states because of their dominance in state-level elections in recent years, even though the group’s polling says 70 percent of voters support abortion rights.

“I think it’s clear that the right-wing strategy for years has been to use the states to maximize national change,” NARAL spokesman James Owens said.

NARAL will roll out more state legislative endorsements in the coming weeks, and will keep trying to layer their endorsements. (View the full list of endorsements so far here.)

“This is part of a concerted effort to go on offense,” Owens said. “There’s a lot of way to expand reproductive rights.”

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