Last night, Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) became one of the first House Democrats to be defeated at the ballot box. Losing his primary race by 12 points to state senator Mike Oliverio, an extremely conservative Democrat, Mollohan was hammered during the campaign for supporting the health care reform bill, among other issues. As part of the Bart Stupak bloc of anti-abortion Democrats, Mollohan had threatened to vote against health-care reform over its abortion provisions before capitulating in the eleventh hour. The ire of anti-abortion advocates first came down on Stupak himself, helping to drive him into retirement just weeks after the bill passed. They’ve vowed to take out the other members of the Stupak bloc—did they just claim their first scalp?
The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-choice political action committee, spent $78,000 running attack ads against Mollohan in his district, accusing him of supporting federal funding of abortions by backing the reform law. The group is now claiming victory for his defeat:
“We promised Rep. Mollohan and the other ‘pro-life’ Democrats that we would make their re-election incredibly painful if they voted ‘yes’ on the healthcare bill. Tonight, the Susan B. Anthony List followed through on that promise, and Rep. Mollohan is the second member of that coalition to see those consequences.
“This should be just another sign to ‘pro-life’ Democrats that voted for the healthcare bill that they will face the same consequences as Stupak and Mollohan.”
There were certainly other factors contributing to Mollohan’s defeat. As Marc Ambinder explains, the coal-mining district representative waited until the last minute to come out against the House climate bill, was dogged by ethics charges, and underestimated the primary threat leveled against him. But his loss is certainly a warning sign for other Stupak Dems. The Susan B. Anthony List is now going after other members of the bloc—including Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) and Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Penn.)—and has dedicated $1 million to taking them down. Having slammed the Stupak Democrats for threatening reproductive rights and empowering the anti-abortion camp, the abortion rights lobby will hardly act as a counterweight. And whether the Democratic Party’s national campaign machine or its health-care allies will invest heavily in protecting these seats remains to be seen.