Every day, Summer Bailey saw Congressional campaign signs nailed into the succulent greenery near the entrance to Balboa Island in downtown Newport Beach.
One of them belonged to Republican businessman Max Ukropina. The other was signed by former Republican Rep. Scott Baugh. Both candidates are vying for U.S. Rep. Katie Porter's seat, hoping that Porter's run for the U.S. Senate will flip the Democratic-leaning district toward Republicans.
Last month, Bailey decided to add a third billboard focused on abortion.
A small white poster says in blue letters, “Both are anti-choice,” and a red arrow points to the Ukropina and Bo signs. Once hers was removed, she installed another of hers.
Bailey, 60, an independent voter, calls the issue of women's bodily autonomy a “war cry.”
“I know many Republicans, both men and women, who might not vote for a candidate because of that issue,” she said. “But Republicans have to remind us that voting for their party this year means voting against women and voting against the bodily autonomy of the vast majority of Americans. I want everyone to know.”
Still, Bailey is among the many other issues voters are grappling with this election, even as Democrats continue to push the issue nationally in the lead-up to the March 5 primary. I'm worried that abortion will be buried.
Since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 2022, abortion policy and the push for a federal ban on abortion procedures in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have been at the forefront of Democratic campaigns. ing. But it remains unclear how much the issue will mobilize voters in four Orange County-based districts, which are expected to be the most competitive in the nation in this election.
A majority of Orange County voters support access to abortion, mirroring the state of California as a whole. In 2022, approximately 57.2% of voters in the county supported Proposition 1, which would enshrine the right to abortion in the California Constitution.
This show of support came despite a majority of OC voters voting in favor of Republicans running in statewide races, including gubernatorial candidate Sen. Brian Dahle, over incumbent Gavin Newsom.
In the 47th and 49th Congressional Districts, support for abortion was even higher at 61%. These districts are primarily located along the coast of Orange County, with District 49 extending all the way to San Diego.
Support for the measure in the 40th and 45th precincts was slightly lower than the countywide rate of about 55%, according to voter data. The 40th Congressional District includes the valley communities of Orange County and extends into Riverside County and San Bernardino County. Meanwhile, the 45th Congressional District includes Little Saigon and extends into parts of Los Angeles County.
Republican strategist Beth Miller is skeptical that focusing on abortion will increase turnout, especially in battleground districts like Orange County.
“Democrats want to keep this issue on the table, and that might be a good strategy in other parts of the country,” Miller said. “I don't think this issue will have the same impact it once had on the protections in place in California.”
But Democrats are confident voters will rally behind the issue, even though it's not on the California ballot.
Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized 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 called on Californians to remain “vigilant” and said reproductive freedom is “one of the biggest issues of this election,” she said.
In Bailey's 47th Congressional District, the top two Democratic candidates, Joanna Weiss and Dave Ming, have emphasized their abortion rights stance in campaign ads.
Ukraine's president has said he is in favor of leaving abortion policy to each state. Baugh said in an interview with the Times that he is “pro-life” except for rape and incest, and for protecting his girlfriend's mother's life. He added that he would not support or vote for a federal abortion ban.
In late January, Emily's List, a liberal group that supports women candidates who support abortion rights, announced that its super PAC, Women Vote, would fund a $1 million ad buy to support Weiss. announced that it had been provided.
In the ad, a narrator warns that Republicans in Washington, D.C., are pushing for a nationwide ban.
“That's why we need Democrat Joanna Weiss in Congress, the only reliable person to take on them,” the ad continues. “In Congress, she will always protect our reproductive rights and freedoms.”
The purchase was the largest independent spending in a California House race so far this cycle.
In a statement to the Times, an Emily's List spokesperson stressed the importance of keeping districts blue if Democrats want to take control of the House 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 her own health care decisions,” said Danny Wang.
Meredith Conroy, a political science professor at California State University, San Bernardino, believes abortion can help mobilize voters, especially younger and more liberal voters.
“I think younger voters are less enthusiastic about a Trump-Biden rematch, but issues like abortion may be enough to keep them interested,” she says.
The debate over abortion is also heating up in Orange County's 45th Congressional District. In the same race, Republican Rep. Michelle Steele is facing four Democratic challengers, all of whom have emphasized their commitment to reproductive rights.
Kim Nguyen Penaloza, a Democratic candidate for Garden Grove City Council, criticized Steele for “turning the tables” on her position on abortion.
Mr. Steele's campaign countered that he had not changed his position of allowing abortion only in cases of rape, incest or the mother's health.
In 2021, a year before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Steele passed the Lifetime Conception Act, which aims to recognize fertilized eggs as equally protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. jointly proposed.
Last January, House Republicans introduced a similar bill, and Steele signed it about a year later. Days after she announced her support, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a statement saying, “We will cooperate with extreme MAGA efforts to ban abortion nationwide, no matter how unpopular and dangerous these persistent attacks may be.” He sent a large number of e-mails criticizing her for “choosing to do so.''
Lance Trover, a spokesman for Steele's campaign, dismissed the attack, saying, “For four years, Washington Democrats have lied about Michelle's background, mocked her accent, and made sexist attacks on her.”
He added that Southern California voters trust Steele on issues important to the district, such as lowering the cost of living and confronting the Chinese Communist Party.
Miller said that while some moderate OC Republicans and swing voters may support abortion rights, the process may not be top of mind when choosing people to send to Congress. He said no.
After all, he said, voters have a lot to think about this term, given the state of the economy, inflation, and concerns about crime and education.
“The question is: Are they willing to support a candidate who speaks to them on those issues, but who may have a different opinion on abortion?”