Democrats have drawn even with Republicans in polling ahead of the 2022 midterms, and Jennifer Lewis, the Democratic congressional nominee in the Sixth District in Virginia, is feeling the energy.
“The energy this time around, it definitely feels different,” said Lewis, who is challenging incumbent Republican Ben Cline in the November election in the Sixth, which represents a long stretch of the Interstate 81 corridor in Western Virginia.
Lewis has something to compare the energy to. She ran against Cline in 2018, when the seat was considered an open seat, following the retirement of Bob Goodlatte, a conservative Republican who had represented the Sixth District since 1993.
Lewis received a tick more than 40 percent of the vote in that race, the midterm for Donald Trump after his win in 2016.
The 2022 race is the midterm for Joe Biden, whose poll numbers have been flagging with high gas prices fueling inflation to levels not seen since the late 1970s.
The force behind the energy that Lewis is seeing, and that the polls are measuring, is the blowback from moderates and progressives to the Supreme Court decision overturning abortion rights in place for nearly a half a century.
Within days, legislatures in several red states made moves to enact legislation limiting or even outright banning abortion completely. Even in Virginia, which made a brief turn to the right in the 2021 state elections, but is otherwise reliably blue, the new governor, Glenn Youngkin, has indicated that he will lead an effort in next year’s General Assembly to put a 15-week abortion limit on the books, and legislative Republicans are promising to bring up measures that would codify an outright ban.
Against that backdrop, then, we had this week’s vote in Kansas, where voters were asked in a referendum to approve a constitutional amendment that would allow the state legislature there to ban abortion.
The amendment was blocked by an 18-point margin, in a state that gave a 15-point win to Trump in his re-election bid just two years ago.
“What happened in Kansas just validates what I’m hearing out on the campaign trail,” Lewis said. “You know, I’m knocking on doors, I’m going to the county fairs, I’m having conversations with a wide variety of folks, not just your typical Democrats, and this is an issue that’s top of mind, and not just for people who can get pregnant, either. It’s really exciting to just see all of that kind of validated by Kansas, for sure.”
As was the case in Kansas, where thousands of women came out of the woodwork to knock on doors and work phone banks to get out the vote, the Lewis campaign is getting help from women who feel their rights are being threatened by policies being pushed into law by radicals on the far right.
“I was a volunteer with the Blue Ridge Abortion Fund, so abortion access and funding abortions is extremely important to me,” Lewis said. “To see that kind of echoed in Kansas, in a state where folks really didn’t think that that was going to happen, I do hope that maybe Ben Cline is, you know, reconsidering his position. Especially after, you know, right after Roe, he came out in in opposition to making sure that folks even have access to birth control. You can’t have it both ways, and I’m hopeful that voters are going to see his hypocrisy and will take the chance and vote for somebody different.”