Retiring Obey Endorses Pro-Choice Rep. Lassa For Seat


In the 7th district race in northwestern Wisconsin, retiring Representative David R. Obey (D) has just endorsed Wisconsin state Sen. Julie Lassa to take over his seat.

Lassa has been the Democratic party’s top choice from the beginning. Called a “consensus candidate” by CQ Politics, Emily’s List quickly endorsed Sen. Lassa soon after Obey announced his retirement with the likely Republican challenger, Sean Duffy, already campaigning.

Lisa Subeck, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin told RH Reality Check:

“Lassa has been an incredibly strong pro-choice advocate in our state legislature…having earned an “A” grade from NARAL Pro-Choice America for her work in our state. She has consistently defended the right to abortion through voting against bills that seek to limit access. We hope she would carry that to Washington DC.”

For its part, Emily’s List is working hard to elect what would only be Wisconsin’s third female member of Congress. Although Obey is a Democrat, having been re-elected as his district’s senator solidly over the last eight years, this race may turn out to be challenging for Lassa.

CQ Politics assessment of the district switched from “Likely Democratic” to the less certain “Leans Democratic” because of Obey’s retirement and:

“…because [Republican] Duffy, a county prosecutor who has been campaigning for 10 months, has a big head start in organization and fundraising against inchoate Democratic opposition.”

Subeck also notes that Lassa would be a stronger advocate for reproductive and sexual health and rights issues “in a way that he [Obey], based on his history at the federal level, hasn’t. Obey really has not been with us on a number of choices issues.”

As Wendy Norris writing on RH Reality Check notes,

His legacy of marshaling support for comprehensive reproductive care, health research and HIV-AIDS support services has been marred by funding ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs girded by controversial and medically inaccurate religious views.

Between midnight deals to insert Title V and Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) dollars into the federal budget to the consternation of the House pro-choice caucus to whipping conservative votes with abstinence-only deal sweeteners, Obey bore the wrath of sexual health advocates.

Rep. Lassa, on the other hand, was a strong supporter of her state’s Healthy Youth Act which supported evidence-based, comprehensive sexual health education in Wisconsin’s public schools. Lassa has also consistently voted in favor of measures that increased access to contraception, according to NARAL’s Stubeck.

Lon Newman, the executive director of Family Planning Health Services, Inc. in Lassa’s Wisconsin district, tells RH Reality Check,

“I have worked with State Senator Julie Lassa for many years. She has been a consistent ally on reproductive health and rights. She has supported Wisconsin Medicaid Family Planning program expansion and Governor Doyle’s refusal of Title V abstinence-only funding.”

He supports Lassa with no uncertainty, “Lassa will make a great Congresswoman.”

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To schedule an interview with Amie Newman please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.