Checking In On Senate Races to Watch

Emily Douglas

Checking in on hot Senate races with lots at stake for sexual and reproductive health.

A few weeks ago, I
checked in on the House races
in which pro-choice politicians had a chance to oust
elected officials who oppose access to reproductive health care — or in which RH advocates were defending their seats against anti-choice opponents.

Today it’s time to do the same for the Senate. For more background on these Senate races, check out our Election 2008 page.


Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich is challenging long-serving Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
has spent $1 million airing ads targeting the corruption scandal surrounding
Stevens, but despite the DSCC’s heavy spending
and Stevens’s relative silence, polls show the rivals
as neck-and-neck
. Begich is pro-choice and recently attended a summit hosted by the National Institute for Reproductive Health on initiatives taken by local leaders promoting reproductive health care and access. Ted Stevens calls himself pro-choice, and he has a 75% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America but has also voted to ban certain abortion procedures,
supports parental notification and opposes comprehensive sex ed.

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Current U.S. Rep. Mark Udall and former Rep. Bob Schaffer are facing off in Colorado for retiring Senator
Wayne Allard’s seat. Rep. Mark Udall has
received a 100% ranking from NARAL Pro-Choice America, while former Rep. Bob
Schaffer is opposed to not
only legal abortion but contraception and sex education as well
. Udall has a sizable
, and on Friday, Marc
Ambinder reported
that the National Republican Senatorial Committee plans
to pull out of Colorado,
acknowledging that its funds would be better spent on other races. Udall was recently endorsed by the Denver Post, whose
editors said Udall was the candidate more likely to govern from the center.


Mixed-choice Mary Landreiu (she voted to deny indigenous
women on reservations coverage for abortion access through Indian Health
Services except in cases of rape or incest or to save the woman’s life) is a
two-term Senator defending her seat against anti-choice State Treasurer John N.
Kennedy. Polling
for this Louisiana Senate race shows Mary Landreiu with a significant advantage
over John N. Kennedy, though she
was long considered a vulnerable incumbent
Recent hurricanes offered Landreiu an opportunity to showcase
effective leadership for her state.


While both Maine Senator Susan Collins and challenger Rep.
Tom Allen are pro-choice, Allen recently tried to highlight differences between
himself and the incumbent on the kind of judges they would support, and making the connection to the threat judges can pose to Roe. He told Maine’s News 8, "I
want judges who are wise, not just judges who have done well in school, and I
think that’s the big difference between Susan and me. She’s voted for all but
two of George Bush’s 200 judicial appointees, and I think some people are now
on the Circuit Courts of Appeal who, frankly, are not qualified and are not the
right people to be there. If John McCain is elected and Susan Collins is
re-elected, then Roe v. Wade is gone, and I think it needs to be protected.
What Roe v. Wade did was provide for women in very difficult moral and
emotional situation the ability to make their own decisions, not to have a
decision imposed by any government."

Susan Collins was strong in her support for Roe, but also
suggested that she thought it wasn’t under threat: "I support Roe v. Wade.
I do not believe it will be overturned. It is part of the bedrock law of this
country at this point. It would be an overwhelming act for the Supreme Court to
overturn a decision that has been precedent for as many years as Roe v. Wade
has been. In deciding how to vote on Supreme Court justices, I do not apply a
litmus test because you really have no idea how someone will end up ruling on a
particular case. The record is replete with presidents appointing judges such
as President Bush, the first President Bush appointing Justice Souter, who
turned out to be far more liberal than he’d expected. President Eisenhower
appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren, who wound up being far more liberal than
he expected. So, you really can’t predict."

polls show
Collins with a significant lead over Allen.


on the Family mailers
are telling Minnesota
voters that first-term anti-choice Senator Norm Coleman has a "stellar pro-life
and generally pro-family" track record. But October
polls show
Al Franken in the lead. Coleman has received a 0% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. In 2006,
Coleman voted
with the interests of the National Right to Life Committee
100% of the
time. While Franken does not mention his stance on reproductive and sexual health and
rights on his web site and there is not much of a paper trail about where he
stands on these issues, he does have the endorsements
of Minnesota
NOW, DFL Feminist Caucus and the Stonewall DFL Caucus.

New Hampshire

Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire has a significant cash-on-hand
advantage, but Jeaneen Shaheen, a former governor, nonetheless has consistently
led in the polls
. Just six years
ago, Sununu easily beat Shaheen, but New Hampshire has turned steadily more purple since then. Sununu is anti-choice and an ally of President Bush along
reproductive rights lines. He has received a 0% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice
America and, over the years, has voted with
the interests
of the National Right to Life Committee almost 100% of the
time. Sununu voted for a bill that would bar Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) grants to organizations that provide abortions. Shaheen is an advocate for
reproductive and sexual health and rights
. While Shaheen was governor of New Hampshire, the state became only the 10th
in the nation to include sexual orientation in its laws prohibiting
discrimination in housing and employment. Shaheen also repealed laws
that made abortion a felony in her state.

New Mexico

Rep. Tom Udall has a strong
in his race against Rep. Steve Pearce for an open Senate seat in New Mexico (Sen. Pete
Domenici is retiring). Udall and Pearce
are far apart on the economy (Pearce – rebuild the tax base; Udall – fiscal
programs to stimulate the economy), energy (Pearce – offshore drilling; Udall –
alternative energy) and the Iraq
war (Pearce – "whatever it takes" for US victory; Udall – advocates a timeline). They’re also far apart on reproductive health
– Udall, who supports embryonic stem cell research, family planning funding for
organizations abroad, and voted against the Federal Abortion Ban in 2003, has a
100% ranking from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Pearce, who has been endorsed by
the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List, has a 0% rating.

North Carolina

Kay Hagan has been climbing steadily in the polls, where
support for Elizabeth Dole is faltering.
links Dole to President Bush at every turn
, and the accusation seems to be
sticking. Dole voted
to cut off all funding for Planned Parenthood
and was the only female
senator of either party to vote against a resolution affirming Roe v. Wade as
the law of the land. Dole also voted
the Equal Pay Bill. Hagan voted to expand health insurance to cover
more North Carolina
children, supports increased penalties for hate crimes, affordable health
insurance for all and will work to expand the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act.


Running for Senate in Virginia,
popular former governor Mark Warner, a Democrat, can’t get below 55% in the
polls, reports Huffington
, while his opponent, another former governor, Jim Gilmore, can’t get
above 35%. As governor, Warner opposed a 24-hour
waiting period for women requesting abortions and said he would fight efforts
to chip away at Roe. When he was governor, Gilmore helped pass the 24-hour waiting period for women
requesting an abortion and a parental notification bill. Gilmore also created
the Virginia Abstinence Initiative and ushered through the non-medically termed
"Partial Birth Abortion" ban in his state.

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