PubliCola has obtained a boisterous email exchange between retiring state Rep. Deb Eddy (D-48), a moderate Democrat who's backing Republican state Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41) in his fight against Democratic challenger Maureen Judge.
Pro-choice groups have targeted Litzow because, despite his record as a pro-choice Republican (and a former member of NARAL's political action committee board), he voted with the Republicans, during last March's budget coup, against a Democratic maneuver to attach the Reproductive Parity Act (which would have required health care providers who fund maternity leave to also pay for abortions) to the Republicans' budget package.[pullquote]That’s complete bullshit that a procedural vote during the 9th order debate counts against your voting record. I took the same vote, so did Jim Hargrove. Are you going to say Jim Hargrove is your new champion for choice in the Legislature?---State Sen. Rodney Tom (D-45), in an email to NARAL Pro-Choice Washington director Jennifer Brown[/pullquote]
It was a challenge—the motion was made by Democratic senate majority leader Sen. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane)—to Republicans: Oh yeah? If you're going to force us to vote for your budget, we're going to force you to take a big pro-choice vote. Brown, thinking of people like Litzow, thought she had the votes to do that. Nope. Litzow, along with pro-choice Democrat state Sen. Rodney Tom (D-45, Medina), a former Republican who had sided with the Republicans on the budget issue, voted against the move.
Brown tried it twice and it failed twice.
While it wasn't literally a vote on the Reproductive Parity Act, Judge has accused Litzow of voting against the RPA.
We reported on this scuffle earlier this summer,
And now the scuffle turns into a brawl: Yesterday, in response to a Judge mailer an a NARAL email promoting Judge and hitting Litzow for his vote against Brown's procedural amendment, Eddy emailed NARAL director Jennifer Brown along with Sen. Tom and others, including Litzow.
You'll notice that Sen. Tom refers to Sen. Jim Hargrove's vote. Hargrove is an anti-choice Democrat. Tom's point is that it makes no sense to equate generally pro-choice legislators like Litzow and him with a hardcore anti-choicer like Hargrove.
From: "Deb Eddy"
Date: September 11, 2012 1:55:28 PM PDT
To: "'Rodney Tom'", Jennifer Brown
Subject: RE: Steve Litzow
I had a lengthy chat with Jennifer and other NARAL staff on the Litzow question a few weeks ago. I have declined to donate to the auction this year and, further, I removed myself from the NARAL mailing lists. I only saw the latest email because it was forwarded to me by a friend. For those who may not have seen it, the fourth paragraph of the email advocating Maureen Judge’s candidacy reads as follows:
“[Maureen Judge’s]opponent, Republican Steve Litzow, voted to kill the Reproductive Health Parity Act in the 2012 Legislative session, and in an attempt to retaliate against pro-choice and women's health organizations for their endorsement of his opponent, Litzow accused pro-choice organizations of being ‘so militant and extremist.’”
The decision not to pass that bill belongs firmly in the Democratic camp. Rodney’s right; many of us lobbied long and hard to bring it back to the floor at a point Steve could vote for it. Democratic Leadership declined for no reason other than political expediency.
Maureen Judge is a good person, and would be a fine candidate in another setting. But using her as fodder to attack a guy who has been a stalwart defender of women’s rights for decades is just beyond embarrassing. I plan on limiting all further support for women’s health and reproductive privacy to Planned Parenthood, and I’m going to ask all my pro-choice Republican friends to join with me in ensuring that Planned Parenthood stays bipartisan.
Sadly, NARAL has lost my trust.
From: Jennifer N. Brown
Date: Tue, Sep 11, 2012 at 3:43 PM
Subject: RE: Steve Litzow
Dear Senator Tom and Representative Eddy:
Unfortunately, I did not see and was not aware of the message until it had gone out over my signature. I would not have approved this specific message. Apparently Maureen’s campaign sent language to NARAL and there was an OK but it was understood (erroneously) that this was suggested language and NARAL would send some message and that it would then come to me for approval.
NARAL is a non-partisan organization. We endorse only on choice. My understanding is that Senator Litzow was told in advance that if he took that vote (that effectively killed the RPA), NARAL would consider it an anti-choice vote and he would no longer have a 100% pro-choice voting record.
Jennifer N. Brown
From: Rodney Tom
Date: Tue, Sep 11, 2012 at 4:05 PM
Subject: RE: Steve Litzow
That’s complete bullshit that a procedural vote during the 9th order debate counts against your voting record. I took the same vote, so did Jim Hargrove. Are you going to say Jim Hargrove is your new champion for choice in the Legislature? Are you going to count on Hargrove versus Steve or I to champion NARAL’s mission in the Senate? I’ll pay for that ad in Hargrove’s district – Hargrove Champion for Choice. Jim would figure out how to drive to Seattle and would ring your neck (and not in a gentle manner). NARAL is a sophisticated organization, to hide behind the naive assumption that a procedural vote has anything to do with an issue doesn’t hold water. With the current affront against women, NARAL doesn’t need to create animosity amongst their friends and longtime supporters. You need real champions. I’ve championed choice for 10 years now in the Legislature; I expect Steve will do the same. Jim Hargrove has fought choice for over 20 years. You determine who you want on your team.
In an email to PubliCola, Brown responded:
I have to respectfully disagree with Rep. Eddy and Sen. Tom. NARAL Pro-Choice Washington takes our endorsement process very seriously; we take pains to ensure that the candidates we put our name and our resources behind are nothing less than 100% pro-choice leaders. Sen. Litzow voted against a procedural motion to bring the Reproductive Parity Act to the Senate floor for a vote, effectively killing the bill and demonstrating that he was willing to put partisan politics over women’s health and rights. NARAL Pro-Choice Washington considers this an anti-choice vote, and a lost opportunity to stand up and protect women’s rights and health.
Additionally, the budget he supported during the Republican takeover of the Senate included the almost total elimination of the Department of Health family planning grants, which would have left more than 25,000 low-income women without access to birth control and other basic reproductive health care.
That is why, after careful consideration, our board voted to endorse Maureen Judge. Maureen is a stalwart pro-choice champion who will not back away from the issue or play political games with women’s health. This was not a decision based on either of the candidates’ party affiliations, but solely based on their records on reproductive health and rights.
We have calls out to Sen. Tom.
Eddy reiterated her contention to us that she believes the Democrats had the votes after the big floor fight in early March when Brown's procedural vote lost.
"We came back for a 30-day special session," she says. "People were bringing back legislation. I signed a letter supporting the RPA. We had the votes in the house. They had the votes in the senate. I believe there was a discussion [among Democratic leadership] not bring to bring it up for a vote," she says. "The only people to blame are Frank [Democratic house speaker Rep. Chopp] and Lisa [Sen. Brown]."
Eddy believes leadership didn't bring it up for a vote because they wanted to have a campaign issue against Litzow.