ABORTION: Key Issue In Elections
Friday's San Francisco Chronicle analyzed the importance of abortion issues in the outcomes of California's two biggest races -- Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D) defeat of Matt Fong (R) and Gov.-elect Gray Davis' (D) defeat of Dan Lungren (R). The paper asked, "Can an anti- abortion candidate still be elected to a top job in California?" The Chronicle noted that the winners "actively focused on the issue of choice," while both Republican candidates tried to avoid confronting the abortion issue head-on. Lungren, who is pro-life, downplayed his overall opposition to abortion, instead focusing "on related matters on which even pro-choice voters can disagree," such as parental consent and taxpayer financing. Fong took a similar position, supporting legalized abortions in the first trimester only, and supporting the same restrictions as Lungren. The Chronicle reports that "[n]either Lungren's back-door effort or Fong's carefully structured approach worked. Davis gleefully battered Lungren for his anti-abortion votes in Congress, while Boxer seized on Fong's public opposition to the Roe v. Wade decision and charged that he would eliminate abortion rights." At a post- election news conference, Boxer said, "When (Fong) said that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, I knew I had to win the (Senate) race."
Yes And No
Tanya Zumach, head of the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said, "I don't believe its possible to elect an anti-choice candidate as governor or senator anymore. Two-thirds of the people in California believe in Roe v. Wade ... and don't want to turn back the clock." Sacramento GOP strategist Jeff Merksamer said "Democrats used the abortion issue to energize their (political) base and appeared to exploit it for partisan gain." However, Randy Thomasson, assistant director of the Capitol Resource Institute, a conservative policy group, blamed the Republicans' defeats on "poor campaigns," rather than their abortion stances. Brian Johnson, executive director of the California Pro-Life Council, added, "Yes, Dan Lungren is pro-life, but no, it didn't hurt his campaign. Politics involves a lot of other issues, and if you look at what happened Tuesday, you'll see it wasn't an abortion-related vote." Thomasson said pro-life candidates must "educate the voters to get elected." He said, "I think people are more pro-life than they know. If you talk to them, they say they want abortion in the case of rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother, but they're totally against abortion on demand" (Wildermuth, 11/6).