Abortion could become a potent election issue in New Jersey’s few competitive Assembly races this year.
A Monmouth poll released today found that though the largest chunk respondents nationally thought lawmakers in their own state were putting in the right amount of effort — 34% for Republican legislators and 36% for their Democratic Counterparts — the same was not true of respondents’ opinions of Republican lawmakers in other states.
Half of those asked told pollster they believed Republican lawmakers in other states were putting too much effort into abortion issues. Only 34% said the same about Democratic legislators outside their home state.
The results come on the heels of heavy abortion restrictions being passed into law in states like Georgia and Alabama, where state lawmakers recently enacted a bill that makes abortion illegal even in cases of rape.
“Some Democrats see legal abortion as being under threat from Republicans at the state level and want their own party’s national leaders to be more engaged in this fight,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
That trend could impact the race in New Jersey’s 25th legislative district, where Assemblyman Anthony Bucco is facing a challenge from Lisa Bhimani, an OBGYN that lost to State Sen. Tony Bucco by about four points in 2017, and Chester Township Democratic Municipal Chair Darcy Draeger.
Assemblyman Bucco received a 0% rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and has been endorsed by New Jersey Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group.
The assemblyman’s running mate, Denville Councilman Brian Bergen, has backed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, though it’s not clear where he stands on abortion generally.
Bergen is running to replace Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, who left the legislature after 24 years there to mount an unsuccessful bid for Morris County Surrogate.
The Democrats’ campaign has already taken to targeting Assemblyman Bucco over his record on healthcare, and the jump from there to abortion issues isn’t a big one.
With the national climate around abortion the way it is, that attack could prove a fruitful one, especially if challenges to anti-abortion laws in states like Alabama make their way to U.S. Supreme Court.
“We tend to focus on anti-abortion voters as the more potent electoral bloc on this issue,” Murray said. “But we are seeing some evidence that voters on the other side of the spectrum could become more activated in 2020,”