Democrats are chomping at the bit to take over the Senate during the upcoming midterm elections in May. The hopes of riding low presidential approval ratings and recent scandals to victory are high.
At the top of the Democrats’ congressional hit list: Pennsylvania junior Sen. Rick Santorum. The Democratic primaries this year feature three Democratic candidates: Bob Casey Jr., Alan Sandals, and Chuck Pennacchio. The front-runner in the primaries and presumptive nominee at this time is Bob Casey Jr.
But in the Democrats’ eagerness to get a party member from Pennsylvania in the Senate, one has to wonder if people are seriously looking at the candidates. If Casey wins the election, Pennsylvania would have a pro-choice Republican senator (Arlen Specter) and a pro-life Democratic senator (Casey).
Casey opposes gun control and abortion rights, supports the death penalty and is mostly opposed to gay rights. On many key social issues, he holds the same views as Santorum. This most likely comes from his upbringing as a Catholic. It is interesting to note that Casey’s campaign Web site does not feature a “social” category in the issues section.
Casey is the current state treasurer. His campaign focuses mostly on economics and the environment, where his stances are strong. However, the state of women’s rights in America is shaky at best. South Dakota has criminalized abortion and other states, such as Mississippi, Delaware and Texas, are at high risk of following suit. Two new Supreme Court justices leave the bench poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. NARAL Pro Choice’s 2006 abortion report card gave Pennsylvania an “F” grade when it comes to birth choice rights.
We often hear that single-issue voting is bad, but the rights of women in America are in trouble. Maintaining reproductive rights in this country are more important than which party controls the Senate. Having Santorum or Casey in the U.S. Senate would make little difference for women.
Sandals and Pennacchio, the other primary candidates, are both pro-choice and unfortunately both lag behind Casey in the polls and lack vital endorsements. Casey has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania state Democratic Party, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and other influential groups.
The National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation have endorsed Sandals as the Democratic nominee. In a formal statement, NOW said, “Feminist voters have the opportunity to send extremist Republican incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum packing, but we must not do so by trading away our rights.”
The Democratic Party needs to focus less on beating Santorum and more on making sure the candidate they run is a good candidate, not just one who can win. Sandals and Pennacchio trail behind in the polls, but are slowly catching up to Casey.
If the race is Casey against Santorum, for female voters it will not be a “lesser of two evils” situation, as they have basically the same views on birth rights. No matter which way they vote, they will be jeopardizing women’s rights.
The Pennsylvania primary elections are May 16. Democrats need to look a little closer at the three candidates before they just punch in Casey. Otherwise, no matter who wins the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat, women lose.
Carolyn Steeves can be reached at email@example.com.