Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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Shattering Expectations: Democrat Marilyn Lands 25-Point Victory in Alabama Special Election Stuns GOP

Alabama Voters Reject GOP, Elect Democrat Lands Who Centered Campaign on Abortion Rights.

Marilyn Lands

In a stunning upset victory, Democrat Marilyn Lands won a special election for Alabama House District 10 by a resounding 25 percentage points, flipping a long-held Republican seat in a politically moderate section of northern Alabama. Lands, a licensed mental health counselor, centered her campaign on promoting access to abortion and in vitro fertilization (IVF). This strategy proved to be extremely successful in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022 and the Alabama Supreme Court’s move to ban IVF.

Lands’s victory is the latest in a string of Democratic wins focused on reproductive rights, as Democrats have found success in battleground elections and ballot referendums by highlighting the issue. The race tested election-year strategies that Democrats hope to deploy beyond the district and the state.

Lands seized anger from voters in the suburban district over Alabama’s strict abortion ban and the state Supreme Court’s ruling that frozen embryos created through IVF were people, which affected many families planning to use IVF to have a baby.

By flipping the seat, Lands will join a small minority of Democrats in the Alabama House focusing on repealing the abortion ban and ensuring access to IVF. Unfortunately, the former faces near impossible odds in the Republican-dominated legislature.

Lands shared her personal story in a television ad, revealing that she had an abortion 20 years ago due to a nonviable pregnancy, and noted that women facing similar situations in Alabama today must leave the state to have the procedure. “It’s shameful that today women have fewer freedoms than I had two decades ago,” Lands said in the ad.

Lands’s Republican opponent, Teddy Powell, a Madison City Council member and retired Pentagon budget analyst, tried to avoid the topics of abortion and IVF, accusing Lands of turning the contest into a national one while he focused on local issues. “It’s certainly an issue that needs to be dealt with, but not our top issue,” Powell said of reproductive rights. “I don’t think that this is the issue that wins or loses the race.”

Obviously, Powell was laughably wrong, and Lands has no regrets about her decision to spotlight reproductive rights. “I felt like whether I won or lost, this was too important of an issue not to stand up for,” she said. “I really have been at peace with that decision. I have not regretted it.”

National Democrats, including President Biden’s campaign, weighed in on the outcome, stating that Lands’s win demonstrates how their candidates can win tough races by emphasizing abortion as a focal point. The Biden campaign called the victory a “clear message” to Donald Trump and “extreme MAGA Republicans,” claiming Alabama voters know “exactly who’s to blame for restricting their ability to decide how and when to build their families, and they’re ready to fight back.”

Lands’s victory comes as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday over restricting access to mifepristone, a key medication used in abortions, and as Biden’s campaign has stepped up its attacks on Trump on the issue of abortion.

Looking to the future, Lands hopes her win will be the start of Democrats gaining more seats in the Alabama legislature and breaking the Republican super majority. She plans to continue pushing to repeal the abortion ban while championing issues like Medicaid expansion, investing in mental health, and supporting public schools.

“I feel like this [race] has been a real victory for women [and] families,” Lands said. “We have sent a message that the people are ready for change. And I am ready to get down to Montgomery and be the start of some positive change for this state.”

Lands’s supporters have formed a state political action committee focused on electing more Democratic women to the Alabama state legislature, and she wants to encourage other women to run for office in the South.

The special election in Alabama House District 10 may have been a state-level race, but its implications are far-reaching. As Heather Williams, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, declared, “Tonight’s victory is a political earthquake in Alabama. Republicans across the country have been put on notice that there are consequences to attacks on IVF.”

Lands’s win demonstrates the power of emphasizing reproductive rights in political campaigns, and the growing momentum behind the issue in the post-Roe era. As she begins her term in the Alabama House, Lands will undoubtedly face challenges in advancing her agenda in a Republican-dominated legislature. However, her victory sends a clear message that voters are ready for change and that the fight for reproductive rights is far from over.