Northam, Chopra launch TV ads

RICHMOND — The two Democrats running for lieutenant governor launched television ads Tuesday, two weeks before their race is decided in a statewide primary.

Both commercials happen to feature ultrasounds, although in very different contexts.

The ad from state Sen. Ralph S. Northam, a pediatric neurologist from Norfolk, highlights his opposition to a 2012 bill that, as originally proposed, would have required women to undergo a vaginal ultrasound before an abortion. An amended version, requiring an abdominal ultrasound instead, became law. The ad notes Northam’s unsuccessful effort this year to repeal that law.

The spot from Aneesh Chopra, secretary of technology under former governor Timothy F. Kaine (D) and President Obama’s first chief technology officer, focuses on his work in Virginia promoting telemedicine for expectant mothers.

Neither candidate refers to his June 11 primary rival, nor to E. W. Jackson, who beat six others to win the GOP nomination at a May 18 party convention,

Northam’s ad does invoke the better-known Republican at the top of the ticket, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, the GOP candidate for governor. Chopra’s ad, meanwhile, claims generally that “Richmond Republicans are blocking women’s health care.” Those references suggest that no matter which Democrat emerges as the party’s nominee, he intends to revive the “war on women” strategy that Obama and now-Sen. Kaine employed in the fall elections.

Northam’s 30-second spot opens with former delegate Paula Miller, a Democrat from Hampton Roads, who last year said she was considering a run for lieutenant governor.

“When Ken Cuccinelli and his crowd in Richmond pushed the transvaginal ultrasound bill, we knew what to do,” she says. “There was one person to turn to: Dr. Ralph Northam.”

Northam is then shown sitting with a group of people, and later tending to a young patient.

“There is no reason that a group of legislators, mostly men, should be telling women what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their bodies,” he says.

Northam proposed three bills this year to eliminate or soften the ultrasound law. All of them died.

While Cuccinelli is well known as an opponent of abortion, he raised constitutional questions about the ultrasound bill in 2012. This year, he quietly supported a Northam bill that would have made the ultrasound optional. Northam said at the time that Cuccinelli later dropped his support for making the test optional. Cuccinelli’s office said the bill simply died before he could publicly back it.

Chopra’s ad is his second, coming two weeks after he launched the first commercial of any down-ticket candidate. His latest 30-second spot shows him reading to his two young daughters dressed in princess costumes. There is also footage of a woman getting an ultrasound.

“My daughters ask me if there really are magic wands and enchanted valleys,” Chopra begins. “Someday I’ll tell them about the Shenandoah Valley, where their daddy and governor Kaine used the Internet to connect mothers who had high-risk pregnancies with specialists at U-Va., reducing pre-term births by 25 percent.

“I’m Aneesh Chopra, and we could be doing this all across Virginia, but Richmond Republicans are blocking women’s health care. Mothers-to-be don’t need magic, just someone on their side.”

The ad refers to Chopra’s efforts to expand telemedicine under Kaine. Asked about the reference to “Richmond Republicans ... blocking women’s health care,” Chopra campaign manager Trey Nix said that did not refer to the telemedicine program, but to GOP-led efforts aimed at restricting access to abortion.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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