Lashrecse Aird defeated the only anti-abortion Democrat in the Virginia state Senate Tuesday night in a much-anticipated Democratic primary race, cementing a Democratic majority in the tightly occupied chamber.
“I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your support. It is truly a testament to our community and our commonwealth that I am here on this stage,” Aird said during her victory speech Tuesday night.
“As we look beyond victory tonight, I’m ready to hit the ground running,” she added. “In Richmond, I will be a bulwark for our reproductive rights against Republican extremists who believe they have the right to make decisions about our own bodies.”
Abortion rights have been a major issue in the Democratic primary for Virginia’s 13th Senate district as Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin pushes through a 15-week abortion ban in the state. Aird, a former member of the House of Representatives, is open to freedom of choice and spent much of her campaign time criticizing her opponent, incumbent Joe Morrissey, for his anti-abortion voting record.
Morrissey has called he would support a 15-week abortion ban — though he returned these statements to HuffPost ahead of the election – and has a history of breaking with his party on abortion legislation.
Morrissey, once a self-proclaimed “pro-life” Democrat, has repeatedly voted against abortion laws. Last year he supported a 20-week abortion ban with one of his Republican colleagues, and earlier this year he abstained on a bill that would enshrine reproductive rights in the state constitution. None of the bills were passed.
“Lashrecse Aird ran this race to protect abortion rights — something that the majority of Americans overwhelmingly agree on,” Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said in a statement.
“Aird was a strong pro-choice advocate and campaigned to stop Governor Youngkin from enacting an abortion ban in Virginia. SD-13 voters have been loud and clear: they demand that they be represented by an outspoken advocate for reproductive rights. This is a victory for SD-13 residents, for Virginians, and for access to healthcare throughout our Southeast region.”
The majority of Democrats in the state Senate was slim at 22 to 18, including Morrissey – who often broke with his party to vote against abortion rights. Earlier this year, Virginia Democrats won a key seat in the state Senate in a special election giving Democrats the numbers to successfully thwart Youngkin’s proposed 15-week suspension in the latest session. Aird’s victory will solidify the Democrat majority and likely ensure that abortion care in Virginia remains protected.
Since Roe v. Wade fell almost a year ago, most of the Southeast has become an abortion desert — making Virginia one of the last abortion-rights strongholds. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and other countries in the Southeast have enacted near-total abortion bans. North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida are expected to enact restrictions in the coming weeks. Virginia currently allows abortions up to the second and third trimesters when the life of the pregnant person is at risk. If Youngkin were to issue a 15-week abortion ban, it would have devastating consequences for the people of Virginia and for those traveling from abroad to seek treatment.
The primary made national headlines before Tuesday night as it had a major impact on access to abortion in the Southeast. It also split the Democratic Party in Virginia, as the six Democratic women in the state Senate issued a March 29 statement supporting Aird — and harshly criticizing her colleague Morrissey opinion. Aird also secured the support of Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives. Some Democrats has endorsed Morrissey.
Aird will face Republican challenger Eric Ditri in November’s general election.