Democrat who ran for reproductive rights is flipping his Alabama House seat

Democrat who ran for reproductive rights is flipping his Alabama House seat



March 28, 2024

Marilyn Lands, who campaigned for abortion rights in deeply conservative Alabama, won a special election to the Alabama Legislature in a victory that Democrats say illustrates voters’ backlash against extreme reproductive restrictions imposed by Republicans.

Lands, a Democrat, decisively defeated Republican Teddy Powell on Tuesday to win the open House of Representatives seat in a suburban district that, while increasingly politically moderate, had long been held by the Republican Party. Her victory was celebrated by Democrats, who said it underlines the importance of reproductive rights as an issue across the country ahead of the 2024 election.

Voters want something different, and I think they’re tired of women’s freedoms and reproductive health care not being addressed, Lands told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

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Alabama bans abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape. Lands’ victory comes just weeks after in vitro fertilization services in the state were temporarily halted following the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that equated frozen embryos with children.

Lands, a certified mental health counselor, had also campaigned on education and economic development but took aim squarely at the state’s abortion ban, at times invoking deeply personal issues. She shared her story about obtaining an abortion 20 years ago, after genetic testing determined the baby had trisomy 13, a genetic condition, and could not survive.

Lands said she made the decision to tell her own story after speaking to a woman who had to leave Alabama to have an abortion after receiving a similar fetal diagnosis.

I saw the parallels in our story. And of course I shared my story with her. The story is in stark contrast to the fact that 20 years later we have gone backwards and women have fewer freedoms, Lands said.

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As she knocked on doors across the district, Lands said she was struck by how many women volunteered to tell their own stories. Some looked like hers. Others suffered miscarriages or fertility issues.

I feel like so many of these women’s health issues and family health issues can be very isolating for people. And I hope that maybe part of what’s happening here is that we’re opening up a dialogue where people realize how common these kinds of things are, Lands said.

The victory was a victory for Democrats in the Deep South, where Republicans hold all statewide offices and have a lopsided majority in the Legislature.



Biden’s 2024 campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said the results in Alabama should serve as a major warning sign to Trump that voters will not accept his attacks on reproductive health care.

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John Wahl, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, disputed that the outcome of the race is an indicator of consequences beyond that district. He said it was a low-turnout election in a purple district, where Democrats always had a chance.

Pretending that this election has an impact on the entire state of Alabama is dishonest and shows a lack of understanding of the political landscape or an attempt to mislead voters, Wahl said.

Land’s victory came in a suburban district that is considered more politically moderate than other districts held by the Republican Party. Madison County includes parts of Madison and Huntsville, home to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. While former president


Trump won 62% of the vote across Alabama in 2020, and in Madison County he won just under 53% of the vote.

Just under 6,000 votes were cast in Tuesday’s special election, compared to more than 14,000 in 2022, when Lands lost to Republican David Cole. The legislative seat became vacant after Cole resigned and pleaded guilty to a voter fraud charge in which he rented a closet-sized space to fraudulently run for office in a district where he did not live.

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Former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, the last Democrat to hold statewide office in Alabama, said Land’s victory was fueled in part by frustration with the extremist policies of the state Republican party.

They go too far. You talk about an activist government. This is an Alabama government that wants to infringe on every aspect of people’s lives, Jones said.

He said Land’s victory could be a positive sign for Democrats in future races in Alabama, but he cautioned against going too far with what it represents. Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in a 2017 special election, but lost to current U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville in 2020.

I mean, people saw my election in 2017 as, Oh my God, we turned Alabama blue. Well, that’s not the case. And in fact, I’m not one to advocate for flipping the entire state one way or another, Jones said. He added that a one-party government, regardless of party, has not been good for the state.

We need competition, and Marilyn has provided that, Jones said.

Chandler writes for the Associated Press.


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