Endangered House Dem makes big TV ad buy on abortion rights

Politico by Ally Mutnick
June 24, 2022

Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, one of House Democrats’ most endangered incumbents will hit the airwaves in her district with a large TV ad buy focused on abortion.

Democratic Rep. Susie Lee launched a TV and digital ad in Las Vegas warning voters her GOP challenger wants “to make all abortion illegal — no exceptions.” The spot, titled “Stark Choice,” stresses Lee’s commitment to abortion rights and will be backed by at least $500,000, according to plans shared first with POLITICO.

“We decided to go up early, because I think it’s a defining issue in this election,” Lee, a two-term congresswoman, said in an interview. “Nevada is a state that protects a woman’s right to choose, but that can be preempted by a federal law.”

Lee’s spot — and its quick launch — offers a window into the broader strategy some House Democrats plan to adopt in battleground districts now that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established a national right to abortion,is officially defunctThe Democrats hope to anchor part of their campaigns — especially in suburban, blue-tinged districts like Lee’s, which President Joe Biden carried by less than 7 points in 2020 — on the fact that abortion rights are largely popular with swing voters but anathema to most GOP candidates.

“We already see that Republicans are poised to put a nationwide abortion ban on the docket should they get the majority,” Lee said. Voters, she added, “need to understand just how important this race is to access to abortion for women across this country.”

The 30-second ad warns voters that lawyer April Becker, who won the June GOP primary to face Lee, is endorsed by Nevada Right to Life. A narrator notes Lee is backed by Planned Parenthood and will “always” protect a woman’s right to choose.

The ad will start running on TV on Saturday, and it will run for at least three weeks on broadcast and cable channels, including Fox News, where Lee’s campaign is targeting independents. Her campaign cut the spot over the weekend and made edits throughout the week ahead of the Supreme Court’s Friday decision.

The midterms are more than four months away, and most candidates have not yet started running general-election ads. Lee is making a bet that drawing out that contrast early will pay off, especially before the airwaves get crowded with ads from House, Senate and governor candidates. The House GOP campaign arm has made Lee’s district its top target in Nevada.

In statement, Becker said she believes states should decide their own laws on abortion and noted that “Nevada voters have made their voice heard on this issue.” She said Lee “believes in a federal law with no restrictions and would allow abortion until the moment of birth.”

On Becker’s campaign website, she describes herself as “pro-life, with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.” But she is endorsed by Nevada Right to Life, a group that Lee’s ad described as tolerating no exceptions for abortion.

Becker has declined to answer questions detailing her precise stance on abortion bans, Lee said. She said constituents have been vocal about their support for abortion rights over the past two months, since POLITICO obtained a draft of the opinion, and that Becker has been silent.

“I think that people need to know she’s an anti-choice Republican,” Lee said. “This decision rolls back rights that women have had for 50 years, and it’s an extremely personal issue for me.”

Lee said she had a miscarriage and had to get a dilation and curettage procedure afterward. In certain states, she said, women in the same position could now be asked about the cause of the miscarriage before they could have the surgery.

“It’s an incredibly traumatic experience to have a miscarriage, but then to be questioned by politicians, having to prove that I didn’t induce it myself,” Lee said. “I mean it’s just unbelievable to me.”

Her daughter, Lee continued, will grow into adulthood with fewer rights than she did.

The ad will take out a sizable portion of Lee’s war chest. Lee had more than$2.3 million in her campaign account as of the end of May. Becker had just under $250,000 as of May 25, according to her most recent campaign finance report. Both GOP and Democratic super PACs have reserved millions in the Las Vegas media market to run ads.

Democratic Reps. Steven Horsford and Dina Titus are also GOP targets in Nevadathis election. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak are also up for reelection, making it pricey and crowded to run ads in the state by the fall.