Baltimore Sun

Why Kan. abortion vote matters and doesn’t

- By Jonathan Bernstein

Tuesday saw some of the last remaining major party primaries of 2022. But the headline event of the night was a ballot measure in Kansas, and it was a big victory for abortion rights.

Elections can be important because of their immediate effects, or because of how political actors will interpret them — or both.

This was both.

The immediate substantiv­e effect is straightfo­rward: Kansas voters refused to change the state constituti­on to say there is no right to an abortion, so the state will remain a haven for abortion rights.

And what about the vote’s effects on political actors? It’s likely that Democrats, already energized by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, will now be even more likely to make reproducti­ve rights a high-profile campaign theme this fall. It’s less clear whether Republican­s will back off some of their hard-line positions. Republican­s who oppose abortion under all circumstan­ces have had the upper hand within the party so far this year. It will be interestin­g to see whether those with more moderate anti-abortion positions go on the offensive.

It’s also hard to say whether the Kansas result predicts much about November. Democrats will point to the size of the victory — close to 20 percentage points — and the huge turnout, especially among Democrats, in a Republican state. What that means for candidate elections, however, is by no means obvious. It’s fair to say that the abortion issue is more likely to help than hurt Democrats this fall, but anything more than that is just guesswork.

Meanwhile, there were plenty of party primaries between candidates Tuesday.

Political scientist Jake Grumbach tweeted a reminder of why these are so important: “Pressure in primaries (not just voting but also $, endorsemen­ts, etc.), in large part, is the mechanism by which party position change happens. It’s part of the reason for recent party position change with respect to democracy itself.” Moreover, given the importance of political parties to governing, primary elections are where a lot of democracy actually happens.

Here are a few observatio­ns about those elections:

Trump’s influence over Republican politics is by now clear.

The former president’s power over the party’s voters is nothing extraordin­ary, but his sway over its candidates is strong. Tuesday’s wins and losses filled in some more details.

In general, some of Trump’s endorsed candidates in contested races win, especially when the conditions are good for

any high-profile endorsemen­t to matter — multicandi­date primaries with little to differenti­ate the candidates. (Trump also helps his win percentage by endorsing a lot of incumbents who don’t have significan­t challenger­s, and has also taken to last-minute endorsemen­ts for solid leaders in polls.) Yet candidates continue to beg for his endorsemen­t, and in practical terms, that means that a lot of Republican candidates are repeating Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. Some just refuse to admit that President Joe Biden was legitimate­ly elected, while others are basically campaignin­g against free and fair elections.

Among Republican­s, a vote for impeachmen­t remains controvers­ial.

Ten House Republican­s voted for Trump’s second impeachmen­t a year and a half ago, and three were on the ballot Tuesday.

Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan was defeated for renominati­on, while two in Washington state appear to be surviving, though the count is slow. Of the remaining seven, four have chosen to retire, one won, one lost and one — perhaps the most prominent, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — faces GOP voters this month.

Republican­s had a mixed record with some potentiall­y terrible candidates.

Most notably, disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens lost his bid to become the nominee for U.S. Senate in Missouri. State Attorney General Eric Schmitt defeated Greitens, who might have lost even in that solidly Republican state, which will now be considered safe for the party. The Trump-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, Blake Masters, did win, so incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly will have an edge in that toss-up state, even in what looks like a good Republican


Democrats continue not to be in disarray. Democrats haven’t been able to clear the field everywhere, but they have done so in many high-profile races, and they’re generally making pragmatic choices in highly contested seats. For governor in Arizona, they nominated Secretary of State Katie Hobbs by a more than 3-to-1 margin. There’s no guarantee any Democrat will win in Arizona this year, even if the GOP puts up a weak candidate. But Democrats are successful­ly avoiding intense nomination fights and emerging united, usually behind well-regarded candidates. That’s not always been the case, and it remains to be seen whether it makes any difference. But it is certainly a major theme of this cycle for the party.

 ?? THE KANSAS CITY STAR ?? Jae Gray of Kansans for Constituti­onal Freedom posts signs for an election results watch party Tuesday in Overland Park.
THE KANSAS CITY STAR Jae Gray of Kansans for Constituti­onal Freedom posts signs for an election results watch party Tuesday in Overland Park.

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