ANNAPOLIS, JULY 20 -- One of the state's major abortion-rights political action committees reportedly will throw its financial support to state Sen. Frank J. Komenda (D-Prince George's) despite his vote this year against a law ensuring continued access to abortions.
An endorsement of Komenda by Choice PAC could open a rift among abortion-rights organizations at a time when the abortion issue is a major factor in enough races to tip the balance of power in the General Assembly next year. The Maryland chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League has targeted Komenda and two other antiabortion senators for defeat.
Steven Rivelis, a Baltimore political consultant who is chairman of Choice PAC, declined to identify which General Assembly candidates will get support.
But Bruce C. Bereano, a leading Annapolis lobbyist who said he is helping raise money for Choice PAC, said today that the Maryland-based organization has decided to endorse Komenda for a third term.
Two leading abortion-rights supporters in the General Assembly, Sens. Paula C. Hollinger (D-Baltimore County) and Barbara A. Hoffman (D-Baltimore), have disagreed with colleagues who said Komenda should be defeated.
Hollinger said she and Hoffman had been urging all abortion-rights groups, including Choice PAC, to support Komenda because he sided with abortion-rights supporters in a procedural vote to cut off an eight-day filibuster staged by antiabortion senators. In the end, no abortion-related legislation was adopted by the General Assembly this year.
Komenda "was with us on the procedural vote" to stop the filibuster, Hollinger said. "He was a very important pro-choice vote."
Karyn Strickler, executive director of Maryland-NARAL, disagreed. She said she is worried that if an abortion-rights group endorses Komenda, it will send a "confusing message to voters that Frank Komenda is somehow pro-choice, and he's not." Strickler's group has endorsed Del. Gloria Gary Lawlah (D-Prince George's) in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary in District 26.
Both Komenda and Lawlah said they were not aware of an endorsement from Choice PAC, which plans to contribute $50,000 to chosen candidates in the primary and an additional $50,000 in general election campaigns.
Since the acrimonious fight over abortion in the General Assembly last winter, Komenda has been something of an odd man out.
While Komenda has an antiabortion record, his vote to cut off the filibuster irritated those on that side of the issue.
Last weekend, he was not among the 16 filibustering incumbent senators honored at a dinner Sunday in Ellicott City by the political action committee of Maryland Right to Life, the leading antiabortion group in Maryland.
But Komenda is getting some help.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer is scheduled to attend the ceremonial opening of Komenda's campaign headquarters Saturday morning, and aides said Komenda will be one of several legislative candidates whom the Democratic governor will support this year.
Lawlah, noting that she ran against the establishment when she was first elected to the House of Delegates four years ago, said she is unconcerned about Schaefer's decision to support Komenda.
"I have broad-based support in the district," Lawlah said. "I'm the pro-choice candidate and Senator Komenda is the pro-life candidate."