A Democratic candidate who actually polled ahead of incumbent liberal Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island’s 2006 U.S. Senate race announced last week he would not run after all.
The “no-go” decision by Rep. James R. Langevin came after pro-abortion activists expressed their intense opposition to his candidacy and threatened to withdraw financial support from any national Democratic organization that supported him.
On most issues, Langevin is a typical left-of-center Democrat (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 18%). But he is generally pro-life. He says he opposes abortion except in cases of rape and incest. When asked how he would vote in the Senate on judicial nominations, he said: “I am not applying any litmus test on any issue. I would base my vote on a nominee’s entire record.” His Democratic supporters used this statement to argue he would support the confirmation of pro-Roe justices, and perhaps oppose confirmation of anti-Roe nominees.
He was one of 47 House Democrats who supported the special bill to help Terri Schiavo.
Langevin did not cite opposition from pro-abortion forces as a reason for leaving the race and seeking to retain his House seat. Ironically, however, the intra-party Democratic opposition to his pro-life Senate candidacy coincided with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D.-N.Y.) patently cosmetic efforts to reposition herself as less stridently pro-abortion by urging her party to find common ground with the pro-life movement.
Langevin, 40, has been confined to a wheelchair since he was wounded by an accidental gunshot at 16. He is the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress.
In his initial primary race for the U.S. House in 2000, his Democratic opponent attacked his opposition to abortion. Langevin retorted that because of his personal tragedy: “I became aware of how precious life is….I’m pro-life.” He won 47% to 29% and has since coasted to reelection.
A Brown University poll in February showed him beating Chafee 41% to 27%. The same survey showed Chafee beating the only other Democratic Senate hopeful, Secretary of State Matt Brown. (Like Chafee, Brown opposes even a ban on partial-birth abortions.)
Still, the thought of the Democrats making a net gain in the Senate thanks to a pro-life candidate did not sit well with former National Abortion Rights Action League President Kate Michelman and the Hollywood crowd. In co-hosting a Washington fund-raising event for Brown, Michelman condemned Democrats who supported Langevin, telling the Providence (R.I.) Journal that “political compromise is not the prescription for defending the party’s values.”
In February, 40 members of the National Organization for Women picketed a Langevin fund-raiser. Victoria Hopper, wife of actor Dennis Hopper, enlisted 16 Hollywood actors and producers to sign a letter to the National Democratic Senatorial Committee objecting to the Langevin candidacy because he was not pro-abortion and hinting they would not support the committee if he became the candidate. Actresses Camryn Manheim, Christi Lahti, Kathy Najimy and Heather Thomas signed the letter.