The momentous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade — which once again reinforced the tremendous political and social chasm that exists in this nation — could create a series of political shockwaves in Florida over the next year.
With races for governor, U.S. Senate, multiple House seats and statewide offices at stake, campaigns on both sides are eyeing how the high court’s decision will energize voters in the third most populous state in the country.
Here’s what you need to know.
The biggest initial question is what the state’s Republican leaders will do in response.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday said the “prayers of millions” had been answered by the ruling and suggested that he wanted to “expand pro-life protections.” It seems unlikely, however, that the GOP-controlled Legislature will act before this year’s November elections.
Instead, all indications are that a push will likely come after the state’s recently enacted ban on abortions after 15 weeks is tested in the courts.
Another ruling falling?
On Monday morning, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union will square off in a Tallahassee courtroom and argue that a provision in Florida’s constitution overrides the ban that is scheduled to take effect on Friday.
The state Supreme Court more than 30 years ago ruled — based on a privacy clause adopted by voters — it applied to abortion restrictions. The question is whether the high court — which has been remade by DeSantis — will wipe it out.
On the trail
While that legal battle plays out, however, Florida’s post-Roe future shifts to the fall elections, where Republicans had been predicting a “red wave” in the state. Can Democrats use the ruling to energize their base and voters across the state to neutralize the GOP’s advantages?
There will be sharp differences in both the races for governor and U.S. Senate when it comes to abortion.
A choice for Democrats
Another big question is whether the ruling jolts the seemingly static Democratic primary for governor. The campaign of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — who got two national cable appearances over the weekend to talk about the ruling — clearly expects that it will.
Fried campaign senior adviser Matthew Van Name distributed a memo on Sunday contending that the issue is “kryptonite” to Rep. Charlie Crist’s primary campaign.
Setting aside the “Superman” metaphor Fried’s campaign says that primary voters are turned off when they find out that Crist has repeatedly called himself “pro-life” and appointed conservatives to the state Supreme Court while he was governor who could throw out the 1989 ruling that has been used to blunt abortion restrictions.
Fried also jabbed directly at Crist on Twitter, saying: “Can’t believe I’m in a Democratic primary with a ‘pro-life’ guy. Seriously. WTF.”
A clip of Fried’s speech at a rally on Friday had been viewed nearly 400,000 times on Twitter alone. Crist, for his part, said that if he were elected he would issue an executive order protecting reproductive rights and he also suggested that both Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch could be impeached for lying to Congress about their stance on Roe v. Wade. In just 58 days, Floridians will see whether Fried’s barrage of criticism will work.