The next battleground for abortion rights
Ohio is shaping up to be the next big battleground in the state-by-state fight over abortion rights.
Last week, the Ohio Ballot Board certified the petition language submitted by Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom and Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, which proposes enshrining abortion rights in the state’s constitution. That step allows organizers to start collecting signatures for their effort to get on the ballot this November. More than 400,000 signatures have to be submitted by July, but organizers are aiming to gather more than 700,000. They plan to host a statewide kickoff next week.
There are lessons to be learned from other states that underwent similar efforts last year. That includes Kansas and Kentucky, in which voters turned down proposed amendments that would have explicitly stated there are no protections for abortion rights in the states’ constitutions. Ohio’s effort is most similar to Michigan, which passed a ballot initiative in November to proactively codify abortion rights in the constitution there.
Lauren Beene, the executive director of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights, said her organization has already been communicating with activists in states that had ballot initiatives in 2022. She added that she hoped Ohio could be a stepping stone for similar measures next year. “We know that a number of states are likely going to do this in 2024, so we’re hoping that we can just continue to build this experience that other people can then take to the 2024 ballot,” she told Score.
Organizers for the proposed constitutional amendment say they are optimistic, even though there will not be a top-of-ballot contest to boost turnout, should it qualify for November. They point to Kansas, where the abortion measure was on the August primary ballot. That had high turnout despite there being no competitive top-of-the-ticket statewide primaries in the state.
“A lot of our organizations really buy into relational organizing, so we have relationships with our member base, whether it’s an off-year or not,” said Jordyn Close of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom, where she serves as co-chair of the organizing committee. “We as an entire state are riding the momentum of the other states we’ve seen across the nation have really successful reproductive freedom campaign initiatives.”
The pro-abortion rights effort in Ohio will see some veterans of other recent ballot initiative fights pitch in — namely Mission Control Inc., which worked on the campaigns against the anti-abortion ballot proposals in Kansas and Kentucky last year. Liftoff Campaigns, a recently launched Democratic digital ad firm, is also involved.
If past campaigns are any indication, Ohio’s initiative is sure to come with a high cost. Last year, the pro-abortion rights initiative in Michigan raised more than $45 million, compared to the anti-abortion side bringing in over $20 million.
Beene said the initial fundraising goal to get the language to the attorney general’s office was $350,000, and about $380,000 was raised in eight weeks. For signature collection, they have a goal of $6 million, and later campaigning and advertising has a goal upwards of $30 million.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, acknowledged that the counter-effort is likely to get outraised and outspent. But in meeting with other anti-abortion groups in states that had ballot initiatives last year, he said the biggest lesson is to start early and frame the debate.
Already, Protect Women Ohio, a coalition of anti-abortion groups in the state that includes Ohio Right to Life, came out of the gate with a $5 million advertising campaign against the initiative.
“I’m not discounting what happened,” Gonidakis said about the wins for abortion protections across the country last year. “Each state is different. But recognizing the success they’ve had in other states motivates us to work harder.”
Happy Monday. Reach me at [email protected] and @madfernandez616.
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2024 WATCH — Ohio Republicans are considering entering the Senate fray, setting up a crowded primary to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Businessperson Bernie Moreno, who mounted a Senate bid last year, is “inching closer toward another campaign,” per NBC News’ Henry J. Gomez. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who’s also mulling a bid, said that he’s “seen some polling numbers” that shows he’s the “party’s strongest candidate for this office.” Club for Growth has also encouraged Rep. Warren Davidson to run for Senate.
… Michigan State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh is considering a run for Senate to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, The Detroit News’ Beth LeBlanc and Melissa Nann Burke report. Other Democrats considering bids are actor Hill Harper and businessperson Nasser Beydoun.
… Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is running for reelection, KSL NewsRadio’s Lindsay Aerts reports. There are no gubernatorial term limits in Utah, but Cox said 2024 would be the only time he seeks reelection.
… Former Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz is mulling a bid for governor or Senate, per Aerts.
TURNING OVER — Democrat Sarah Godlewski was appointed Wisconsin’s secretary of state after incumbent Democrat Doug La Follette retired. La Follette, who served in the role for more than 40 years, narrowly won reelection last year by less than one point. “Before seeking re-election in 2022, La Follette said he initially planned to retire but felt compelled to run after Republican lawmakers and candidates for governor began floating proposals to overhaul how elections are run in Wisconsin — some including putting election oversight within the Secretary of State’s Office,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Molly Beck writes.
Godlewski previously served as the state’s treasurer and unsuccessfully ran for Senate last year, dropping out ahead of the primary.
IN THE STATES — Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country are debating bills this session that would limit voters’ power to get pro-abortion initiatives on the ballot, POLITICO’s Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly report. Those bills would hike the filing fees, raise the number of signatures required to get on the ballot, restrict who can collect signatures, mandate broader geographic distribution of signatures, and raise the vote threshold to pass an amendment from a majority to a supermajority.
… Louisiana Republicans gained a supermajority in the state House after state Rep. Francis Thompson, the state’s longest-serving Democratic legislator, changed his affiliation to Republican. The switch gives the “GOP 70 House votes if all members vote along party lines, the number needed to override a veto by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. Republicans already hold a supermajority in the Senate,” writes The Advocate’s James Finn.
FIRST IN SCORE — ENDORSEMENT CORNER — End Citizens United/Let America Vote is endorsing Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) in her bid for Senate. It’s Slotkin’s first endorsement and the group’s first Senate endorsement of the 2024 cycle. “Not only will Elissa Slotkin be an exceptional leader to represent Michigan families in the U.S. Senate, but she’s also demonstrated over and over again her commitment to getting corporate money out of politics and making Washington more accountable to voters,” End Citizens United/Let America Vote President Tiffany Muller said in a statement.
Presidential Big Board
— The race for the Republican presidential nomination is already underway — and the field is growing. POLITICO is tracking candidates as they enter the fray and ranking their chances: the favorites, the contenders and the long shots. See it here.
— Former President Donald Trump called on his supporters to protest as he braces for an expected effort by the Manhattan district attorney to bring a criminal charge over his handling of a hush money payment during his 2016 presidential campaign, POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein, Kyle Cheney and Erica Orden report.
MAGA Inc., the super PAC backed by Trump, said the charge would “not only serve to coalesce President Trump’s support, but it will become the single largest in-kind contribution to a federal campaign in political history.” Trump’s fundraising spiked following last summer’s FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.
The PAC also called out GOP presidential contender Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for not speaking out about the potential indictment. Vivek Ramaswamy, another Republican presidential hopeful, condemned it, and called on Haley and DeSantis to do so as well.
On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who’s also flirting with a presidential run, said, “A lot of the Democrats have misplayed this, in terms of building sympathy for the former president. And it does drastically change the paradigm as we go into the ’24 election.” Former Vice President Mike Pence told Jonathan Karl of ABC’s “This Week” that the potential prosecution is “politically charged.”
— Trump is holding his first rally of the 2024 campaign this Saturday in Waco, Texas.
— “Nikki Haley, Tim Scott compete for homegrown SC support at N. Charleston presidential forum,” by The Post and Courier’s Caitlin Byrd.
THE CASH DASH
— The NRCC raised $6.6 million in February, per National Journal Hotline’s Kirk Bado. That’s about half as much as DCCC, which raised $12.7 million last month. DCCC outraised the NRCC in January, too.
— Dozens of candidates who should have filed financial disclosures over the past two election cycles avoided doing so, or filed the forms late without asking for an extension, POLITICO’s Jessica Piper reports. In many cases, candidates did not file the forms until after advancing from competitive primary elections, meaning voters did not have access to information about their finances before casting their ballots.
— Ohio and Iowa are the latest states to signal that they’re leaving the Electronic Registration Information Center, aka ERIC. They’re the sixth and seventh Republican-led states to drop out over the last year, and other states like Alaska and Texas could soon follow. The decision from the states to leave the partnership came shortly following a meeting of ERIC’s board on Friday, where member states voted on significant changes to the governance of the organization, POLITICO’s Zach Montellaro reports.
AS SEEN ON TV
— Conservative former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly placed his first ad buy in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court. It’s a six-figure buy, but liberal opponent Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz has spent millions on ads so far.
CODA — HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Trump-commissioned report undercut his claims of dead and double voters” (The Washington Post)
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