Democratic congressional candidate Ami Bera is making women's reproductive health issues central to his closing argument in the 7th Congressional District.
With one week to go until Election Day, the Elk Grove Democrat brought in activist Sandra Fluke to speak to supporters and launched a new television spot attacking GOP Rep. Dan Lungren on abortion.
Bera framed the issue as a personal one when speaking to supporters at his Elk Grove campaign office on Tuesday, citing his experiences as a doctor and a father to a teenage girl. He also slammed the Republican-controlled Congress for "rolling back" access to contraception and abortion while the economy is in rough shape, calling such actions the "greatest travesty."
"This is an issue of an infringement on our individual liberties. They are encroaching on our individual freedoms, and that is a fight worth having," he said.
Bera's offensive on women's issues comes as the two-time rivals' rematch to represent an eastern Sacramento County swing seat enters the final stretch. Lungren won the 2010 battle by seven percentage points, but a closer registration split in the wake of redistricting, the expectation for higher turnout in a presidential election, and heavy spending from outside groups has made this year's race one of the country's most competitive congressional contests.
Fluke, who became a nationally known women's rights advocate and Democratic campaign surrogate after House Republicans blocked her from testifying at a hearing on birth control, said the closeness of the race and the candidates' contrasting views caught her attention.
"I wanted to be here in the greater Sacramento area because this race is so close and because there is such an extreme and credible difference between Dr. Bera and his stand for women's health and Rep Lungren's absolutely dismal record on this. It is shameful," she told supporters ahead of a phone bank targeting female voters.
Lungren campaign strategist Rob Stutzman accused the rival campaign of "distorting Lungren's record." He dismissed their approach as a "clear indication (Bera and his supporters) don't want to talk about the economy."
"It's a very desperate narrow strategy and I think pretty good confirmation that the broader issues of taxes and the economy that Republicans, including Lungren, are talking about have much broader appeal," he said.
Bera's new television ad attacks Lungren for wanting to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape and incest, a claim based on votes the Gold River Republican made during the 1980s. His more recent record includes support of anti-abortion legislation that allowed for federal funding of the procedure in such circumstances.
The ad also says he tried to change the definition of rape, a reference to legislation that sought to limit certain federal funding for abortions involving pregnancies caused by "forcible" rape. Lungren, who was an original co-sponsor of the legislation, has said he requested that "forcible" be taken out of the measure once he reviewed the bill language.