Democrats nationwide latched onto Kansas’ resounding affirmation of abortion rights as a sign of good things to come.
The first referendum on abortion in a post-Roe America, Kansas is seen as a bellwether of voter opinion on the issue heading into the November midterms.
The vote was a major win for abortion rights advocates in the state. But in Kansas it remains to be seen whether their momentum will translate to Democratic wins in November when the party will attempt to break up the Republican supermajority in the Legislature and re-elect Gov. Laura Kelly and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids.
Democrats seem to think so. Several emerged from Tuesday’s vote energized that it was a sign that the U.S. Supreme Court decision eliminating the federal right to an abortion will continue to motivate voters and help the party overcome qualms about record inflation and high gas prices.
The message will be simple, that Tuesday’s vote was a battle and the war rages on.
Six of Kansas’ seven supreme court justices are up for retention in November. Anti-abortion activists could seek to oust Democratic appointed judges. They could also pursue another constitutional amendment, or more anti-abortion legislation.
“This is an ongoing fight and we’re fighting against an opponent who knows how to run a solid war of attrition,” state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, an Overland Park Democrat, said Wednesday. “They said last night we will be back and I believe them.”
Kansas Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat, said Tuesday night she was hopeful the momentum could translate to achievements on other progressive priorities like Medicaid expansion.
“When we really get the grassroots groups out and we show up, we show that Kansans really care about each other,” she said.
But holding together that coalition could be easier said than done - a voter’s opinion of the amendment does not necessarily mean they will return to vote in November or that they will vote with Democrats.