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How a Dem flipped an Alabama legislative seat from red to blue

What matters most is not just that Democrats flipped an Alabama legislative seat from red to blue. It’s how Marilyn Lands won that stands out.


As a rule, it’s probably unwise to draw sweeping conclusions from a state legislative special election held more than seven months before national elections. That said, a whole lot of political insiders — in both parties — were keeping a close eye on Alabama’s 10th district this week, and it’d be a mistake to dismiss the results too quickly. NBC News reported overnight:

Democratic candidate Marilyn Lands on Tuesday won a special election for a state House seat in Alabama after she made in vitro fertilization and abortion rights central to her campaign. Lands, a licensed professional counselor, defeated Madison City Council member Teddy Powell, a Republican who once worked as a Defense Department budget analyst.

This Huntsville-area seat was held by a Republican who resigned last fall after pleading guilty to voter fraud. It was against this backdrop that Lands flipped the seat from red to blue in a race that wasn’t especially competitive: With all precincts reporting, the Democrat appears to have won by roughly 26 points.

If recent history is any guide, we already know what the GOP talking points will be. The party is likely to say that this was a low-turnout special election, which is true. It will also likely emphasize that the outcome won't have much of an impact in Alabama’s state House: Republicans will continue to enjoy an overwhelming advantage in one of the nation’s reddest states.

But in this instance, what matters most is not just the Democratic victory. It’s how Lands won that stands out.

“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,” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Heather Williams said in a statement. “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.

“This special election is a harbinger of things to come. 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.”

It was six weeks ago when the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are actual people, and the policy implications in the state were almost immediate: In vitro fertilization options for many families across Alabama quickly disappeared.

Lands’ race was the first since the ruling; she focused nearly all of her campaign on reproductive rights; and the Democrat won in a landslide. An Axios report added, “The outcome from Tuesday’s Alabama race could serve as a blueprint for Democrats nationwide as they battle for the White House and key congressional seats in 2024.”

Republicans were already nervous about IVF; it’s probably safe to say that agita is worse now.