Mississippi Race Too Close To Call: What State Primary Results Mean For Reproductive Rights
Primaries are usually known for drawing less attention than 2014-era Myspace profiles, but this year seemed to be an exception. Tuesday night's primary election races in Mississippi, Iowa, Alabama, and South Dakota marked the end-result of campaigns mired in allegations of everything from snapping creepshots of a candidate's ailing wife, to an official endorsement from the Duggar family, and even a reference or two to hog castration. But what is serious? Many of the hotly-contested Republican races were won by staunch opponents of abortion and reproductive rights fighting bitter battles against incumbents within their own party.
All spectacle aside, this year's elections will certainly help determine the future of the country's path on abortion, reproductive rights, and women's health: the Senate's Democratic majority is in jeopardy, and many upstart candidates in this year's primaries have strong opinions on Roe v. Wade, the Hobby Lobby case, and the Affordable Care Act.
Pro-life candidates swept Republican primaries in hotly-contested battleground races, paving the way for restrictions against reproductive rights which could now pass both the House and the Senate if the Democratic majority erodes. Here's what you need to know about what happened Tuesday night.
The Winner: Still undecided, as current polling does not put Cochran or McDaniel at over 50 percent of the vote.
In what has to be the biggest race of the primary season, incumbent senator Thad Cochran (R) is in a fight for his political life against Tea Party-affiliated state senator Chris McDaniel (R). More than $8 million has been spent on the primary race alone, and a final result might not come until the next vote on June 24.
Cochran, a noted conservative who has a longstanding record of voting against reproductive rights and teen contraceptive funding, has held his seat since 1978 and faced little competition until McDaniel strong-armed his way into a divisive primary battle. Emboldened by anti-incumbent sympathies and a strongly-conservative record, McDaniel and Cochran waged bitter campaigns — one of which even included a Tea Party activist getting arrested for sneaking into Cochran's wife's nursing home where she is being treated for progressive dementia.
Why you should care: Even if McDaniel wins this race and allows Democratic nominee Travis Childers to siphon away moderate voters, Childers is against abortion and has indicated his support for cutting abortion funding from the Affordable Care Act. Coming from a state with only one abortion clinic left, it's no surprise that prospects look dim on reproductive rights in this race.
The Winner: Joni Ernst (R)
It's not every day that a prospective senator talks about chopping off testicles as a testament to her political savvy. The tragicomedy that was Joni Ernst's campaign ads gave way to a successful campaign last night that has boosted her political platform beyond the Colbert Report and onto the national stage. Ernst held a commanding lead throughout the evening, gaining over 50 percent of the night's vote.
Why you should care: Unfortunately for pro-choice advocates, the would-be senator's track record on contraception begins and ends with hog balls — Ernst is a strident pro-life advocate and provided crucial backing of an Iowa state initiative to ban abortion.
The Winner: Still undecided, with a runoff election slated for July 15.
Ernst was not the only candidate to take aim at important issues, as Alabama's sixth congressional district race provided firepower of its own. Will Brooke Republican candidate and would-be murderer of printer paper, fought against Paul DeMarco (R), Gary Palmer (R), and others for the Republican nomination. Only DeMarco and Palmer emerged as serious contenders in a virtual tie, paving the way for a runoff election between the two candidates.
Why you should care: In what is essentially an unassailable Republican congressional seat, there's little change of progressive action on reproduction rights: Gary Palmer is the former CEO of the Alabama Policy Institute, which backed the passage of the state's Women's Health and Safety Act, only permitting doctors to perform abortions and mandates physical examinations before dispensing emergency contraception. Palmer has also received endorsements from conception mavens Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting. DeMarco, despite not having high-wattage celebrity backing, has a similarly pro-life track record.
The Winner: Mike Rounds (R)
Not content with trying to ban abortion in South Dakota as governor, Mike Rounds sailed to an easy primary victory last night against a field of five candidates with 55.5 percent of the vote. Rounds enjoyed popularity and high approval ratings throughout most of his tenure as governor, creating an easy path toward party nomination for the Senate in November.
Why you should care: Rounds will pose a significant hurdle for reproduction rights advocates, as South Dakota is a solidly conservative state, increasing his chances of victory come November. As Rounds has fought to repeal Roe v. Wade and opposes abortion in all cases — including rape, incest, and to preserve the life of the mother — don't expect much progress from the Mount Rushmore State.
It's too early to tell if these candidates will sway the future of reproductive rights, but one thing is clear: Their wins, paired with a gloomy forecast for Democratic control of the Senate, give pro-choice advocates and proponents of reproductive rights plenty to worry about — and plenty of reasons to vote.