Vice President Kamala Harris and her team plan to hit the campaign and fundraising circuit in an aggressive bid to elevate Democratic state legislators and governors on the abortion rights frontlines.
The events reflect the vice president’s expanding work on abortion policy since the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade. And, if executed, they would mark an aggressive push by the second highest Democrat in the land to get involved in races often overlooked by the national party.
“We need to make it a goal that we’re out in America three days a week,” Harris told her staff recently as they worked to figure out how much overall travel she should take through the November elections, a source familiar with the conversations said.
Already, the vice president has started executing on the state and local strategy. Last weekend, she surprised volunteers and campaign aides for Josh Shapiro’s gubernatorial campaign in Pennsylvania with a visit. White House aides said the campaign had asked Harris to stop by and give a morale boost in what’s set to be a very close race in the state.
“Who is governor of this state will matter,” Harris told the crowd. “The General Assembly … [we’ve] got to turn it and elect a majority pro-choice General Assembly.”
The message echoed those she’s shared for national races, and the visit was part of what Harris aides and Democrats in state-focused organizations see as a necessary step to find ways to protect abortion rights.
For weeks, Harris has held meetings with lawmakers in states where abortion rights have been, or will be, greatly restricted. Those meetings have been a mix of listening sessions and opportunities to relay promises the administration will assist in the push back against restrictions.
But the next chapter in her strategy will get more aggressive. White House aides said the vice president is going to specifically head to red and purple states to call out “Republican extremism” on issues like abortion. On Monday, Harris will visit Indiana, as the state begins a special legislative session on abortion, the first in the nation since Roe v. Wade was overturned last month. The White House says she’ll meet with abortion rights advocates and state legislators during her trip.
On a parallel track, the White House has also taken several executive actions to try and protect access to abortion pills and give additional protections to abortion providers, as well as those who cross state lines to get the procedure. But Harris, President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders have stressed that the main remedy for the court’s decision is to elect more Democratic lawmakers who could change the laws on the books.
Harris’ direct involvement in local and state elections is something that Democrats in organizations focused on those races have sought for years from top Democrats.
“If the vice president is willing and interested in doing fundraisers down ballot we would gladly welcome it,” Jessica Post, president at the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said in an interview. “We continue to trail our Republican counterparts. So having a major leader of our party out there helping with fundraising would be huge for us.”
Democrats say Harris is uniquely qualified to make the push both as the first woman vice president and a past state and local elected official herself. Allies and attendees of Harris’ legislator meetings say she has leaned on that experience to stress that “she inherently understands the stakes”of state and local elections on abortion policy.
“She’s been kind of leading the fray and just pushing that shift forward in making sure the Democrats focus on that. All too often to our detriment, we’ve put a lot of focus on federal elections,” said David Turner, communications director for the Democratic Governors Association. “We’ve seen the results in some of the key states about what can happen when we lose a state legislature or a governor or an attorney general.”
Already, Democrats say they’ve seen a gush of money pour into races across the country in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling. An official at the DLCC said it had its two best online fundraising days in the 48 hours after the decision came down, raising nearly four times what it did this time last month.
The DLCC also doubled its new donors during the second quarter of this year compared to its first (the second quarter included both the publication of the Supreme Court draft decision and the final decision). The committee also credits its role to help flip a GOP-held district in New Hampshire in 2021 to the issue of abortion rights, which it’s independent expenditure arm made a central piece of its campaign.
An aide at the DGA said the organization raised more than $200,000 on June 24, the day Roe was overturned, reflecting its best day of a two-year cycle and one of the strongest in history with more than $900,000 coming in since.
Meanwhile, the Democratic online fundraising portal Act Blue released data showing that small-dollar donors gave $20.6 million on the day Roe was overturned, “making it ActBlue’s largest day of the 2022 cycle by contributions and dollars raised.” It added that eight out of ten of the biggest days of the cycle for first-time donors occurred in the days following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe, when the draft opinion was published, and after the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.