The State Senate race between two West L.A. Democrats may be the ultimate proving ground for Democrats’ so-called “War on Women” strategy, which the party’s strategists have used in several successive elections to beat back Republican challenges to the left’s control of Capitol Hill and the White House. One of the key figures in that strategy has been contraceptive advocate Sandra Fluke, who came second in the 26th district primary.
Fluke burst onto the national scene as a law student at Georgetown. She wanted the nominally Catholic school to provide health insurance coverage for abortion and contraception. When Republicans denied her a chance to testify at a congressional hearing, she became a minor celebrity; when radio host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut,” she became a megastar, appearing with President Barack Obama and fundraising for the party cause.
Few knew at the time that Fluke was married, already in her 30s, and owned a home in West Hollywood. Her image was that of a lowly student struggling against powerful conservative interests on behalf of poor, single young women everywhere. Her star faded somewhat on the campaign trail–some of her appearances barely drew more than a handful of fans–but the themes she sounded proved key to Democrats’ fortunes in 2012.
Soon Fluke began toying with the idea of her own run for office. Initially, she had aimed to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D-33), but was convinced by party elders to aim at state office first. She came second in the “jungle” primary, bested by Harvard graduate Ben Allen, who had spent the past several years on a local school board, shoring up political support in local party organizations.
As early voting begins in the general election, Allen has held that local edge. Though Fluke has enjoyed media attention from the likes of national cable news network MSNBC, Allen has rounded up a solid set of local endorsements from Democratic Party chapters and the kinds of left-wing groups that might otherwise be inclined to support Fluke. In Santa Monica, for example, he recently won the backing of a renters’ rights group.
Allen has also enjoyed the support of Republican-turned-independent Bill Bloomfield, a businessman who ran against Waxman in 2012 and has poured independent expenditures into Allen’s race, most recently funding a set of mailings to Republican households in the district. Against Republicans, the “war on women” theme may be effective. But in an all-Democrat contest, the party faithful may be looking for something more authentic.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak