It was payback time for state Rep. Jim Crawford, a conservative Democrat from Oxford who crossed Planned Parenthood with his flip vote for the controversial abortion bill last year. Crawford, a 28-year incumbent, was knocked out by fellow Democrat Rep. W.A. “Winkie” Wilkins in a redrawn district that favored Wilkins. Crawford lost by a 56-37 percent margin.
Crawford ran afoul of fellow party members when he joined the ranks of four other conservative Democrats to vote against the governor’s budget. But it was his switch vote on the controversial abortion bill – the one requiring women get ultrasound exams, receive counseling and wait 24 hours before having an abortion – that may have cast his fate.
On Wednesday, two Planned Parenthood-affiliated political groups claimed victory in his defeat, saying they campaigned for Wilkins as part of its drive to support pro-choice candidates. Crawford joined his party in voting against the abortion-restriction bill. But then he and three other renegade Democrats voted to override the governor’s veto, providing the one-vote margin needed to salvage the bill. Tillis later appointed Crawford co-chairman of the powerful appropriations committee.
“Nowhere has the war against women been waged more viciously than in North Carolina,” Planned Parenthood’s Paige Johnson said in a statement. “Yesterday’s defeat of Jim Crawford by Winkie Wilkins, shows clearly that women have had enough.”
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central North Carolina and Planned Parenthood Health Systems Action Fund were the entities involved. They are separately incorporated 501 c(4) organizations.
UPDATE: Dome was remiss in failing to mention that another factor in Crawford's defeat was the involvement of the N.C. Association of Educators, which also campaigned for Wilkins.
"Our educators in Granville and Person counties finally had enough of Crawford's votes to cut millions of dollars from local classrooms and not being truthful about those votes and backroom deals," said NCAE's Brian Lewis. "Rep. Wilkins has always stood with public school educators and they stood for him on election day."
Crawford also cast a key vote against NCAE in the bill stripping it of its ability to automatically receive membership dues.
Another House member infamously in the news last year appears to have lost his seat, too. Rep. Stephen LaRoque, the Kinston Republican who was under investigation for his handling of two private nonprofit groups he operates, trailed John Bell of Wayne County by just 54 votes.
He told The Associated Press that he will call for a recount because his supporters want it, although he doesn’t expect it will change the outcome. LaRoque has been a key part of the House Speaker Thom Tillis’ leadership team, as co-chairman of the House Rules Committee.