Planned Parenthood’s Virginia affiliate plans to spend $3 million to help elect Democrat Ralph Northam as the state’s next governor.
The organization’s Virginia political action committee, working with Northam, plans to deploy canvassers to knock on 300,000 doors, send mailers to 400,000 homes and run digital and radio ads.
The abortion and reproductive health rights group is also supporting other Democrats on the November ballot, including lieutenant governor nominee Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark R. Herring.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia confirmed details of its campaign strategy, first reported in Politico, ahead of an official endorsement of Northam on Thursday.
“Everything about women’s health is at stake,” said Jennifer Allen, chief executive of Planned Parenthood Virginia PAC and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. “It’s really clear that Virginians want and need a fierce champion like Dr. Northam to stand up for them and to stand up for women’s health.”
Polls have shown a tight race between Northam, the sitting lieutenant governor, and Republican Ed Gillespie, a longtime party operative and former chair of the Republican National Committee.
National groups have poured millions into a campaign widely seen as a test of swing-state politics in the era of President Trump. With $3.2 million at the end of June, Gillespie had nearly twice as much campaign cash as Northam heading into the general election.
Abortion rights advocates say the gubernatorial contest is also crucial for reproductive rights. Northam has been a key ally to abortion groups, making the issue a top priority during his time in Richmond.
The state legislature is controlled by Republicans who support restrictions on abortion, but Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) campaigned on being a “brick wall” against antiabortion measures. This year, he vetoed legislation defunding Planned Parenthood. Lawmakers also debated, but did not pass, a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks.
The state’s last Republican governor, Robert F. McDonnell, in 2011 signed a law requiring abortion clinics to operate under the same regulations as outpatient surgical centers. Abortion advocates say the law was an attempt to shut down clinics that could not afford costly renovations.
Gillespie opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at stake. His spokesman, Dave Abrams, said Gillespie would support legislation to cut state payments to Planned Parenthood, though he noted that the candidate believes individual donors should feel free to give their money to the organization.
Abrams accused Northam of “extreme positions supporting abortions in the eighth or ninth month,” an apparent reference to the Democrat’s refusal to back efforts to ban late-term abortions.
In an online video Wednesday, Northam attacked Gillespie’s record on abortion rights, highlighting that he led the RNC when the party platform called for overturning Roe v. Wade and has said he would like to see abortion banned.
Abortion was also a top issue in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Northam’s rival, former congressman Tom Perriello, faced a flurry of criticism, and a last-minute attack mailer from a mysterious group, over a vote in Congress to block insurers who cover abortion from receiving federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
Planned Parenthood stayed out of the primary, although NARAL and its Virginia affiliate endorsed Northam.