During this last Democratic primary election cycle, there was a common theme touted by some Democratic Party insiders: In order for a Democrat to win the gubernatorial seat, that particular candidate must hold an anti-choice position so that rural voters have a candidate for whom they can vote.
Polling shows that a majority of Americans believe in the right to abortion access. This holds true even in the state of Kansas. In this time of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court, over 70 percent of Americans agree that Roe v. Wade cannot be compromised. Public support for Roe has not been this high since 1973, when the case was handed down and freed women to control their own fertility.
It’s not that we need a candidate who appeals to “outstate” voters. Rather, we need a candidate who demonstrates leadership on the issues, especially when there is a great impact on public health and well-being, such as with abortion.
In the voter identification work undertaken by my organization Trust Women, we have found that people in rural areas show support for access to abortion at rates similar to the general population. The fact that people live outside cities does not mean that they do not need access to quality reproductive health care, nor do they necessarily believe that the right to abortion should be more restricted than someone living in an urban area.
I was disappointed by The Star’s Steve Kraske recently framing Josh Svaty as a Democratic Party hero, when Svaty’s entire campaign faltered across the state and did not prove out the hypothesis posed by the campaign. Svaty’s opponents, state Sen. Laura Kelly and Carl Brewer, garnered the vast majority of the votes in the primary, including a majority of rural counties. Kelly won the state, and also a majority of those rural counties, with 79,301 votes — nearly triple what Svaty received.
Svaty, it seems, is trying to gaslight Kansans into believing that he was somehow swindled out of a nomination that he and his campaign in no way earned.
I worked in the political and legislative world for many years, and I know one thing remains true in campaigning: The amount of money raised, which typically translates to votes, is often an indicator of how well a candidate will do. Kelly raised more than twice what Svaty did. If questions about Svaty’s record on abortion came up and dissuaded potential donors from giving him money, then that means his record and response to the issue was out of touch with voters.
Simply put, the folks Svaty sought to represent as governor care about his past voting record. They care about reproductive rights.
One thing that is often lost and ignored in the abortion access conversation is that abortion is not just a single issue, as many portray it to be. Instead, it encompasses factors such as housing, finances, family dynamics, social services, education, environmental concerns and privacy. All of these are important to Kansans, and all are a part of the right to choose. Kelly’s values and public record simply resonated more soundly with the voters of Kansas.
Kansans spoke, and they quite clearly want a full spectrum of accessible, affordable and private health care. Svaty’s platform and past did not align with those goals to create a better, more equitable Kansas.
Julie A. Burkhart is founder and CEO of Trust Women, a 501(c)(3) reproductive rights nonprofit based in Wichita.