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Political Brew: The politics of Roe, sex-ed in schools and campaign coffers

Our analysts this week are Ray Richardson of WLOB Radio and attorney Ken Altshuler, longtime co-host of the WGAN Morning News.

MAINE, USA — This week, much of the political oxygen has been consumed by the leaked draft opinion, which signals that the U.S. Supreme Court may be ready to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Suddenly, this year, abortion rights are looking like a prominent campaign issue after showing up as a low priority for voters in recent polling.

Ken Altshuler believes this is good politically for Gov. Janet Mills in her re-election bid and may help save some Democratic seats across the country since surveys consistently show that most Americans do not want Roe overturned.

"Democrats need to use this as much as they can," Altshuler said. "It's great political fodder for them. I'm not gonna say we're going to salvage the U.S. House, but we will salvage some seats. We may salvage some statehouses."

Ray Richardson feels that whether this news came out in May or sometime this summer, the decision on abortion law would always become an issue for the fall elections. Former Gov. Paul LePage has always stated that he is "pro-life." Richardson thinks that's enough, and LePage will not have to spell out what restrictions he would push for if elected again.

"LePage hasn't run on this issue," Richardson said. "If he decides to run on this issue, spell it out. If he doesn't, I think he can control the narrative."

Altshuler believes LePage will have to clarify his position for voters.

Richardson added, "I've never believed that Roe is about the woman. Roe has always been about the innocent unborn child that was not allowed to live free."

Altshuler countered that "nobody is pro-abortion. It's pro-choice. It's a woman's right to choose. It is about that."

At their convention last weekend, Maine Republicans adopted a platform plank supporting a ban on sex education in schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Richardson believes "we are going down a very dark path when it comes to five, six, seven and eight-year-olds. That the idea of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity is being talked about openly or even being taught in the classroom." 

He said that's something parents should be talking about. But he added, "I do believe that going to 12th grade is a step too far."

Altshuler called this a solution in search of a problem, saying teachers "get asked questions about sex all the time from children who are not getting those answers at home."

Mills has extended her fundraising advantage over former LePage. She collected more than $2.7 million, compared to LePage's $1.3 million. Neither analyst sees this as a problem for LePage, given his track record.

"Paul LePage has a strong base. That base is going to come out and vote for him no matter what," Altshuler said. "But I still believe it's Janet Mills' race to lose."

Richardson said LePage has prevailed in previous elections even though he has "always been at a fundraising disadvantage. But what Paul LePage has that most politicians don't is an extremely strong grassroots effort."

Our analysts also discuss Sen. Susan Collins' role in whether Roe v. Wade Landmark will be overturned. Also, if Bruce Poliquin's refusal to meet his primary challenger Liz Caruso in a candidate forum, and as the Legislature finishes up its business this coming week, whether either party has an advantage heading into the fall campaign.

Political Brew airs Sundays on NEWS CENTER Maine's Weekend Morning Report.

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