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US special election seen as litmus test on abortion rights

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The battle for New York's 19th Congressional District comes two months after the Supreme Court sparked nationwide protests by ending the federally-guaranteed right to abortion./AFP
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Aug 24, 2022 - 03:40 AM

NEW YORK — A US special election Tuesday is being viewed as the last bellwether of the public mood on abortion ahead of November’s midterms, as Democrats seek to make reproductive rights a key issue in the campaign.

Voters in upstate New York are choosing a candidate to serve the final months of Democrat Antonio Delgado’s term in the House of Representatives, after he quit to become the Empire State’s lieutenant governor.

The battle for New York’s 19th Congressional — a swing district wedged between New York City and state capital Albany — comes two months after the Supreme Court sparked nationwide protests by ending the federally-guaranteed right to abortion.

Democrat Pat Ryan has sought to turn the vote — the last US special election before November — into a referendum on abortion access.

He has accused Republican Marc Molinaro and his party, who are against such access, of being “too extreme on women’s rights.”

“Choice is the ballot, but we won’t go back. Freedom is under attack, but it’s ours to defend. Our democracy is fragile, but we will fight for it,” Ryan said in a statement on the eve of the ballot.

Molinaro has also followed his party’s main political talking points, including on inflation, highlighting spiralling living costs in a campaign that has seen millions of dollars funneled on advertising.

“We can send a message that enough is enough, that we care deeply about one another, that we are willing to work hard to solve the problems that face us, and that together we can overcome anything,” he said in his own election eve message.

President Joe Biden carried the district by fewer than two points in 2020, after Donald Trump took it by about seven points in 2016. Barack Obama won there in 2012.

Both candidates will be back on the ballot in November, but in different districts newly drawn in the latest round of redistricting.

The somewhat anachronistic system means Ryan — who has yet to be nominated to fight for a seat in the midterms — is on the ballot Tuesday in two districts for two separate seats for two different congresses.

New York is also holding several nominating contests — known as primary elections — including a vote pitting Democratic committee chairs Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney against one another.

In Florida, Democrats pick their candidate to challenge Governor Ron DeSantis in November.

US voters will decide control of Congress in the midterm elections, with all 435 House seats up for grabs, as well as 35 of the 100 Senate seats and the governor’s mansion in 36 out of 50 states.

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