Goodbye to a pro-life Democrat: Nick Rahall ends his 19 terms in Congress
Most pro-life voters complain that they have two uninspiring choices who fail to protect unborn children and the family. In West Virginia's third district, they had the opportunity to choose between two such candidates. In the end, they chose to unseat Congressman Nick Rahall, a long-serving Democrat with an equally long record of supporting life and marriage.
“Congressman Rahall has been a consistent and reliable pro-life vote during his tenure in the U.S. House,” Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America (DFLA), told LifeSiteNews. “His voice for the voiceless is needed more than ever within U.S. House and particularly within the Democratic Party. The pro-life community has lost an advocate who shares our commitment to ending abortion by providing more support and options for pregnant women and supporting working families in caring for their children.”
She called Rahall “a true whole-life hero.”
The Beckley Democrat was elected to Congress in the Bicentennial year of 1976. Rahall has earned a 93 percent lifetime pro-life voting record over his 19 terms in the House, according to National Right to Life. He sponsored, co-sponsored, or voted for bills to ban partial birth abortion, to protect infants born alive during botched abortions, to deny taxpayer funds to underwrite abortion at home or abroad, to prohibit transporting minors across state lines for abortion, and to recognize the unborn child as a victim when a pregnant woman is assaulted.
Most recently, he co-sponsored the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” Act, which codifies the Hyde Amendment government-wide, and the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which restricts abortion to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy on the grounds of fetal pain.
A stalwart champion of marriage, Rahall supported a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the “Marriage Protection Amendment” (H. J. Res. 51) introduced by Kansas Republican Timothy Huelskamp.
A onetime staffer for Sen. Robert Byrd, Rahall will leave his perch as the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he supports greater infrastructure spending, often in West Virginia. “I can look across the spectrum of legislation that I'm very proud to have gotten through the Congress,” he told West Virginia Public Broadcasting after the election.
Rahall united the often conflicting interests of his district, being a lifelong member of both the NAACP and the National Rifle Association. Rahall, whose grandparents emigrated from Lebanon, was also the most senior Arab-American lawmaker in the Congress.
His electoral woes began when Rahall voted for the original Affordable Care Act, conventionally known as ObamaCare. Although he was part of Bart Stupak's group of socially conservative Democrats who opposed taxpayer-funding of abortion, he and Stupak changed their votes in exchange for an executive order that Stupak has since branded a “double-cross.”
Rahall has voted against full repeal of ObamaCare, a position that placed his safe seat in jeopardy. In 2014, Rahall raised more than $2.3 million, nearly twice his 2012 campaign war chest. This year he was endorsed by an unusual coalition that included the AFL-CIO, teachers, and the NRA. Yet he lost to Evan Jenkins, himself a former Democrat, by 10 percentage points.
Rahall is replaced by another pro-life and pro-family lawmaker. Jenkins' website said, “Evan knows that life begins at conception” and recognized “that marriage is between one man and woman.” He also supports repealing ObamaCare.
Republicans had not held the Third Congressional district seat since 1958.
“The national Democrat message to support abortion destroys Democratic candidates in pro-life states and districts by pushing pro-life Democrats out of the party,” Day said. “We are alienating a whole new generation of pro-life Democrats.”
She believed Rahall may have been hurt with pro-life voters when West Virginia's moderate Democratic governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, vetoed a bill banning late-term abortion. His veto – and the Democratic Party platform's full-throated support for taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy – made West Virginia voters question whether they could trust a Democrat who says he supports life.
“In pro-life states and districts, Democrats, and particularly pro-life women, have a hard time pulling the lever for a candidate who is associated with a party that not only supports abortion but actively campaigns against providing any reasonable restrictions on a ‘medical procedure’ that takes a life,” Day said. “Pro-life Democrats believe that life exists in the womb. Until the Democratic leadership accepts and respects that point of view, the party will not heal – and not win.”
The issue is hardly restricted to socially conservative but economically liberal West Virginia. In Maine, one-time “pro-life Democrat” Mike Michaud flip-flopped on abortion in his efforts to become the state's first openly homosexual governor. Gov. Paul LePage, an outspoken pro-life Republican considered among the most likely to lose his race, won re-election.
Missouri State Rep. Linda Black, another Democrat who voted for abortion restrictions, announced she was switching to the Republican Party one day after being re-elected for her fourth term in District 117. The party change, she admitted, had mostly to do with her position on social issues.
“We are once again hopeful the national party elites will reassess their pro-abortion stance after the disastrous results of Tuesday night,” Day said.“They are costing us elections and abandoning our founding values of protecting and advocating for those who need a helping hand. At the top of that list should be helping protect the rights of the unborn.”