Takeaways: Kansas abortion backlash, Greitens collapse

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In one of the key days of this year’s campaign season, voters rejected a measure that would have made it easier to curtail abortion rights in the red state of Kansas, and they rejected a scandal-ridden former governor seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri.

Meanwhile, a political newcomer emerged from Michigan’s messy Republican gubernatorial primaries, setting up a rare women-on-female general election between conservative commentator Tudor Dixon and incumbent Democratic chief executive Gretchen Whitmer. And a Democratic congressman was expelled from Congress after being forced to run the same primary as a co-incumbent through reclassification.

Takeaways from Tuesday night’s election results:

RED STATE KANSAS REJECTS ANTI-ABORTION AMENDMENT

Kansas may seem like an unlikely place for abortion rights advocates to land a big win.

But on Tuesday, voters in the conservative state firmly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed lawmakers to ban abortion. It was the first major test of voter sentiment since the Supreme Court ruling in June to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The amendment would have allowed lawmakers to overturn a 2019 state Supreme Court decision declaring access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state constitution.

The vote failure in a state that won Donald Trump by nearly 15 points is a clear warning to Republicans, who have downplayed the political impact of the Supreme Court ruling. It also delivers a significant win for Democrats, who are feeling renewed energy heading into what was expected to be a difficult midterm election season for them.

Kansas currently allows abortion up to the 22nd week of pregnancy. After that, abortion is allowed only to save a patient’s life or to prevent “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of an important bodily function.”

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Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, has warned that the Republican-led legislature’s efforts to ban abortion are hurting the state. Tuesday it became clear that many voters agree with her.

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GREITENS’ COMEBACK COMES IN

Democratic hopes of securing a U.S. Senate seat in scarlet Missouri faltered Tuesday after Republican voters chose Attorney General Eric Schmitt as their candidate over former chief of government Eric Greitens, who stepped down in disgrace in 2018.

Greitens, they predicted, would be poisonous in a general election. Democrats landed a strong recruit in beer heir Trudy Busch Valentine, who won her primary on Tuesday. And the state’s Republican establishment prepared millions of dollars for an independent candidate in the general election, potentially breaking the GOP vote.

But Greitens fell short on Tuesday, finishing a distant third behind Schmitt and U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler. The decline of his campaign can likely be traced back to March, when his ex-wife filed a lawsuit in the former couple’s custody battle.

Sheena Greitens said in an affidavit that Eric Greitens had abused her and one of their young sons. She also said that in the run-up to his 2018 firing, he exhibited such “unstable and coercive behavior” that others took steps to limit his access to firearms.

At the time, Greitens was facing possible impeachment after his former hairdresser testified that he blindfolded and held her in his basement, assaulted her and appeared to take a compromising photo to pressure her to keep quiet about an affair.

He resigned and avoided testifying under oath about the affair.

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He launched his comeback campaign for the Senate last year, marketing himself as an unabashedly pro-Trump conservative. And while many in Missouri wrote him off, one major political figure didn’t: Donald Trump, who publicly mused on Greitens’ traits.

But eventually Trump stopped issuing an endorsement, instead issuing a vague statement this week throwing his support behind “ERIC.”

And on Tuesday, the other “ERIC” in the race won – Schmitt.

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Messy RACE IN MICHIGAN

Essentially, Michigan’s raucous Republican gubernatorial primary was a contest whose candidate’s personal baggage was the least disqualifying. On Tuesday, conservative media personality Tudor Dixon was victorious and held a November general election against Democratic government leader Gretchen Whitmer in the battlefield state.

Dixon’s past as an actor in a series of vulgar and low-budget horror films became a campaign issue. But her career has sparkled in such titles as “Buddy BeBop Vs. the Living Dead” and a vampire TV series called “Transitions” pale in comparison to its rivals’ problems.

One of them, Ryan Kelley, is facing federal charges after being videotaped in Washington during the Jan. 6 uprising that led a crowd of Trump supporters to a staircase leading to the U.S. Capitol. Kelley pleaded innocent.

Another, Kevin Rinke, is a former car dealer who settled a series of lawsuits in the 1990s after he allegedly made racist and sexist comments, including calling women “ignorant and stupid” and stating that they “shouldn’t work in public.”

A third, Garrett Soldano, is a chiropractor and self-help guru who has sold supplements he falsely claimed were a therapeutic treatment for the coronavirus.

Many in the state’s Republican establishment, including former Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, see Dixon as their best shot at defeating Whitmer. Trump backed Dixon in the race Friday, just days before the primary.

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But her primary win is an outcome few months ago could have predicted. In addition to the failings of her rivals, her path was cleared when the two best-known candidates in the race were kicked out of the polls in May for submitting false petition signatures.

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PRO-ISRAELL LOBBY SUCCESS AGAIN

Realignment forced two incumbent Democrats into a bitter primary in eastern Michigan. But massive spending by the pro-Israel lobby is what Rep. Andy Levin, a former president of his synagogue, may have been doomed in Tuesday’s race against Rep. Haley Stevens for a congressional seat in suburban Detroit.

Stevens, who attends a nondenominational megachurch in the city of Troy, was supported by more than $4 million in ad spend by the United Democracy Project, a super PAC launched by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, commonly referred to as AIPAC.

The ads reinforced Stevens’ campaign message, but some also attacked Levin. But it’s no surprise that the group, which is funded in part by two billionaire Republican mega-donors, went after Levin despite its Jewish faith.

Levin, a forward-thinking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been highly critical of Israel’s human rights record and what he called the country’s “deliberate campaign to dilute the Palestinian population.” He’s also just the latest Democrat in Congress to be defeated after a major group release, which has spent at least $24 million in federal races this year.

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