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Democrat wins Alabama special election in early test for IVF as a campaign issue

Marilyn Lands, who defeated Republican Teddy Powell, highlighted IVF and abortion rights in her campaign for a state House seat that had been held by the GOP.
politics political campaign voter get out the vote
Democratic candidate Marilyn Lands speaks with Nestor Centeno about her run for office in Huntsville, Ala., on March 20.Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Democratic candidate Marilyn Lands on Tuesday won a special election for a state House seat in Alabama after she made in vitro fertilization and abortion rights central to her campaign.

Lands, a licensed professional counselor, defeated Madison City Council member Teddy Powell, a Republican who once worked as a Defense Department budget analyst. A Republican had held the Huntsville-area seat in the state's 10th District.

"Today, Alabama women and families sent a clear message that will be heard in Montgomery and across the nation. Our legislature must repeal Alabama’s no-exceptions abortion ban, fully restore access to IVF, and protect the right to contraception," Lands said in a statement shared by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which supported her candidacy.

Lands had 63% of the vote to Powell's 37% with all precincts reporting.

“The voters have spoken and I’m honored to have been considered for this office," Powell said in a statement to Alabama Daily News. "I wish Mrs. Lands the absolute best as she goes on to serve the people of District 10 in the House of Representatives.”

Powell's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While campaigning, Lands focused on IVF and access to abortions, telling voters that she supports repealing the state’s near-total ban on abortions, which went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Her campaign website notes endorsements from groups such as Planned Parenthood, the Alabama AFL-CIO and the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed a GOP-backed bill to protect IVF after widespread backlash to a ruling by the state Supreme Court in February that threatened the procedure. Tuesday's contest was seen as an early test for Democrats campaigning on IVF after the high court's ruling.

The special election was called after David Cole, a Republican who defeated Lands in 2022 by 7 percentage points, pleaded guilty to a voter fraud charge last year and resigned.

Republicans hold a 75-27 advantage over Democrats in the state House.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2022, abortion has repeatedly appeared on the ballot and consistently delivered blows to anti-abortion activists. It's expected to remain a key issue in November, but it's unclear whether it will be as potent as it was in the midterm elections.