Rarely has a municipal election in a midsize city ignited such a fierce national debate over what defines a Democrat. But the election this spring for mayor of Omaha is pitting abortion rights activists against economic populists and threatening the party’s unity as it regroups to confront President Trump.
Part of the twist: The populist side’s standard-bearer, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is not even a Democrat. (snip)
Mr. Sanders and the new leadership of the Democratic National Committee touched a party sore spot this week when they took their “Unity Tour” to Omaha to rally for a mayoral candidate who opposes abortion rights. Mr. Sanders, repurposing the themes of his presidential bid, told a crowd of about 6,000 on Thursday night that the candidate, Heath Mello, 37, would be a future star in the Democratic Party who could help break the grip of big money on the nation’s politics.
Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a prominent abortion rights advocacy group, called it a betrayal, especially of the women who have fueled the “resistance” that has energized Democrats since Mr. Trump’s unexpected triumph.
“It tells your most active political base that we’re just negotiable political property,” Ms. Hogue said of the statement sent by Mr. Sanders and Representative Keith Ellison, the Democratic National Committee’s new deputy chairman, who appeared with Mr. Mello. “Since the election, women have been engaged on the front lines of every progressive fight. So what message does it send for the party to start this tour with an anti-choice candidate?”
Mr. Mello, a practicing Catholic, supported a Nebraska State Senate bill requiring that women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before an abortion. The anger over that position reflects a long-running argument among Democrats over