Democrats emphasize abortion to mobilize voters. Will it work in Orange County?

(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Democrats emphasize abortion to mobilize voters. Will it work in Orange County?

Elections 2024, California politics

Hanna Frits

February 13, 2024

Every day, Summer Bailey saw the Congressional campaign signs in the lush greenery at the entrance to Balboa Island.

a nice neighborhood

in the heart of Newport Beach.



belonged to Max Ukropina, a Republican businessman. The other was a


sign for former GOP Assemblyman Scott Baugh. Both candidates are vying for Rep. Katie Porter’s seat in Congress, hoping to flip the Democratic-leaning district to Republicans as Porter runs for the U.S. Senate.

Last month, Bailey decided to add a third character to the mix, one focused on abortion.

The small white poster read: “Both are anti-choice” in blue letters, with red arrows pointing to the Ukropina and Baugh signs. When her


was removed, she posted another one



Bailey, 60, a nonpartisan voter, calls the issue of women’s bodily autonomy her “war cry.”

“I know many pro-choice Republicans, both men and women, who may not choose to vote for a candidate based on that issue,” she said. “But I want every Republican to know that if you vote for your party this year, you are voting against women and against the bodily autonomy of the majority of Americans.”

Still, Bailey worries that abortion could get lost among the many other issues voters are grappling with


even if


Democrats continue to raise the issue nationally ahead of the March 5 primaries.

Voter’s Guide to the 2024 California Primary Election Since the Supreme Court’s 2022 reversal of Roe vs. Overturned the Wade decision, the landmark decision that protected the right to abortion nationwide,

abortion policy and the

insist on a federal national policy

The ban on work in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has been at the forefront of Democratic campaigns. But how well the issue mobilizes voters in the four Orange County districts that are expected to be among the most competitive in the country this election remains a question.

not clear


The majority of Orange County voters, reflecting California as a whole, support the proposal

s abortion


to the method

. In 2022, approximately 57.2% of voters in the province


Proposition 1, which expands abortion rights





That shows support

for proposal 1

came even as the majority of OC voters cast their ballots in favor of Republicans running in statewide elections, including for Senator Brian Dahle for governor over incumbent Gavin Newsom.

In the 47th and 49th Congressional Districts, support for abortion was even higher, at 61%. Those districts run largely along the coast of Orange County, with the 49th District extending into San Diego.

Support for the measure in the 40th and 45th


The districts were slightly lower than the province as a whole


At about 55%, voter data shows. The 40th Congressional District includes the canyon communities of Orange County and extends into Riverside and San Bernardino counties, while the 45th District includes Little Saigon.

in Orange Province

and extends to part of Los Angeles County.

Beth Miller, a Republican strategist, is skeptical that the focus on abortion will lead to an increase in voter turnout, especially in swing districts like Orange County.

“Democrats want to keep it as an issue and that may be a good strategy in other parts of the country,” Miller said. “I just don’t think this issue will have the impact that it once gave the protections that exist in California.”

But Democrats are confident voters will rally around the issue even if it doesn’t appear on the ballot in California.

Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted reproductive rights during a visit to San Jose last month, warning that Republicans could enact a federal ban on abortion if they take control of Congress. She told Californians to remain “vigilant” and called reproductive freedom “one of the biggest issues in this election.”

Vice President brings abortion rights tour to California as Democrats fight for control of the House of Representatives

In the 47th District, where Bailey lives, the top two Democratic candidates are Joanna Weiss and Dave Min


highlights their positions in favor of abortion rights in campaign ads.

Ukropina has said he favors leaving abortion policy to the states. Baugh told The Times in an interview that he is pro-life, with the exception of rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother. He added that he would not advocate or vote for a federal abortion ban.

In late January, EMILY’s List, a liberal group that supports women, launched



who support abortion rights,

announced that its super PAC, Women Vote, was funding a $1 million ad buy in support of Weiss.

In the ad, a narrator warns that Republicans in Washington DC are making progress on a national scale



“That’s why we need Democrat Joanna Weiss in Congress, the only one we can trust to take her on,” the ad continues. “In Congress, she will always protect our reproductive rights and freedoms.”

The purchase marked the largest independent spending on California House races so far this cycle.

A spokesperson for EMILY’s List emphasized in a statement to The Times the importance of keeping the district blue if that’s what Democrats want.

take control

Influence and influence abortion policy at the federal level.

Extremist anti-choice politicians will not stop until they deny every woman in the country the right to make their own healthcare decisions,” said Danni Wang.

deputy director of campaign communications


Two Democrats are vying to keep Katie Porter’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in Orange County blue

Meredith Conroy, a political science professor at Cal State University San Bernardino, believes abortion will be a mobilizing force, especially among younger, more liberal voters

because of the national discussion surrounding the procedure


“I believe young voters are the least enthusiastic about a Trump-Biden rematch, but an issue like abortion could be enough to keep them engaged,” she said.

The conversation around abortion has also heated up in Orange County’s 45th District, where Republican Rep. Michelle Steel faces four Democratic challengers, all of whom have emphasized their commitment to reproductive rights.

Candidate Kim Nguyen-Penaloza, a Democrat and Garden Grove councilwoman, has criticized Steel for “flip-flopping” her position on abortion.

Steel’s camp fired back, saying Steel has not changed her position

abortions are only allowed in cases of pro-life, with exceptions for

rape, incest

or and

the health of the mother.

In 2021, a year before the Supreme Court ruled Roe vs. Wade Steel destroyed

along with 165 other Republicans,

co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, a bill that sought to recognize a fertilized egg as a person with equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Last January, Republicans in the House of Representatives introduced identical legislation, which Steel signed about a year later. Days after she pledged her support, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent an email criticizing her for “choosing to join the extreme MAGA efforts to ban abortion nationwide, no matter how unpopular or dangerous these ruthless attacks are.”

Steel’s campaign spokesman Lance Trover dismissed the attack, saying, “Washington Democrats spent four years lying about Michelle’s record, mocking her accent and making sexist attacks.”

He added that Southern California voters trust Steel on issues of critical importance in her district, including lowering the cost of living and tackling the Chinese Communist Party.

Miller said some moderate OC Republicans and swing voters could support abortion


process may not be their main issue when it comes to selecting someone to send to Congress.

Ultimately, voters have a lot to think about this cycle, given the state of the economy and inflation, concerns about crime and education, she said.

“The question is, are they willing to side with the candidate who speaks to them on these issues but may have a different view on abortion?”


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