Marilyn Lands flips Alabama House seat in first race after IVF ruling, a signal that reproductive rights are on the ballot

Marilyn Lands has won a seat for Democrats in the deep red Alabama Legislature after focusing her campaign on reproductive rights following the state’s national headline-grabbing in vitro fertilization ruling.

She defeated Republican Madison City Council member Teddy Powell for Alabama’s 10th House District in a Special Election for the open seat.

Her victory is a huge win for Democrats in the ruby red deep south state. Prior to Land’s election, they made up just 28 of the 105 members of the Alabama House. Land’s inclusion will bring that number to 29.

While it’s a small movement in the grand scheme of the overwhelming GOP majority, Lands victory provides a glimmer of hope for Democrats who have viewed the reproductive freedom issue, and the IVF ruling, to make the case that Republicans have gotten too extreme.

“Today, Alabama women and families sent a clear message that will be heard in Montgomery and across the nation,” Lands said in a statement. “Our legislature must repeal Alabama’s no-exceptions abortion ban, fully restore access to IVF, and protect the right to contraception.”

The district, which covers the cities of Madison and Huntsville, is one of the more competitive in the state, though still maintains a GOP advantage with more than 52% registered Republicans compared to just shy of 42% Democrats, according to the most recent L2 voter data.

Alabama has a near-total abortion ban on the books and, earlier this month, the Legislature had to scramble to pass legislation allowing IVF treatments to resume in the state after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that couples who lost embryos in a clinic accident could sue for wrongful death of an unborn child.

The ruling sent shockwaves through the state and nation as it essentially equated a frozen embryo to a child and signaled the possibility of furthering efforts to pass fetal personhood laws, a cudgel to those attempting to preserve or expand abortion access in states with restrictive bans.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), which works to elect Democrats to state legislatures nationwide, targeted the Special Election this cycle.

“Tonight’s victory is a political earthquake in Alabama — the heart of Republican territory and ground zero for the most egregious attacks on our fundamental freedoms. In the first real test of backlash from voters on attacks on reproductive care and IVF, Alabama voters showed up in force to support Democrat Marilyn Lands, who ran courageously and unabashedly as a defender of reproductive freedoms,” DLCC President Heather Williams said in a statement.

She called the election a “harbinger of things to come,” a nod to the upcoming November election in which President Joe Biden will most likely again face former President Donald Trump at the top of the ticket and Democrats will fight to regain a majority in the U.S. House and maintain its majority in the U.S. Senate.

“Republicans across the country have been put on notice that there are consequences to attacks on IVF — from the bluest blue state to the reddest red, voters are choosing to fight for their fundamental freedoms by electing Democrats across the country,” Williams added.

“From Alabama to Florida to New Hampshire to Pennsylvania, the DLCC’s impressive winning streak continues. 2024 is the year of the states. This is the most important year in state legislative campaign history, and we’re only just getting started.”

The Biden campaign issued a statement on the race as well, further signaling its status as a national bellwether ahead of the November General Election. Not to miss an opportunity, however, the campaign used the win to target Trump as the catalyst for restrictive abortion bans and the IVF ruling — he appointed three conservative Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court during his term, paving the way for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and 234 Judges across various courts across the nation.

“Last month, Alabamans lost access to fertility treatments because of Donald Trump,” the Biden-Kamala Harris campaign wrote. “Tonight, the voters in Alabama’s 10th House District elected a pro-choice champion in Marilyn Lands, sending Trump and extreme MAGA Republicans a clear message: they know exactly who’s to blame for restricting their ability to decide how and when to build their families and they’re ready to fight back.”

They added that Trump is “running to ban abortion and gut access to IVF nationwide.”

“Tonight’s results should serve as a major warning sign for Trump: voters will not stand for his attacks on reproductive health care. This November will be no different,” the campaign said.

Lands will fill the seat vacated by Republican David Cole, who resigned from office after pleading guilty to a charge that he didn’t actually live in the district and instead rented a closet-sized space to run for the seat. Lands ran unsuccessfully against Cole in 2022. Now she’ll fill the remainder of his term and face re-election in 2026, at a time when the state’s Governor’s race will be on the ballot.

“To my campaign team and volunteers, both in this run and in my last one, I want you to know how much your support means to me. I could not have done this alone and have been so incredibly blessed by the people around me,” Lands said. “I look forward to representing everyone in District 10 and building a brighter future for Alabama. The campaign might have ended, but our work is just beginning.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. In early 2022, she left the business to serve as Communications Director for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. After leaving the administration, Janelle briefly worked as a communications consultant for candidates, businesses and non-profits, before accepting her position as Publisher for Southeast Politics, a homecoming of sorts to her Florida Politics roots, where she served as a reporter and editor for several years. Janelle has also held roles covering the intersection of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and general assignment news with an emphasis on social justice and climate change for WMNF Community Radio, where she also hosted a political call-in show under several names, including Last Call, Midpoint and The Scoop. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]

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