Campaign Flyer Causes Stir in Sussex State Senate Race
This flyer claims that Ernie Lopez, a Republican candidate for the 6th District seat, opposes government funding for Planned Parenthood.
LEWES, Del. - A campaign flyer that focuses on funding for Planned Parenthood is causing a stir in the race for a newly created state Senate seat in Sussex County.
The mailer shows a girl hugging a woman and says, "If Ernie Lopez wins, women lose." The flyer claims Lopez, a Republican candidate for the 6th District seat, opposes government funding for Planned Parenthood.
"I decided to make it clear there are issues that define what is important in this district," said candidate Andy Staton, a Democrat whose campaign paid for the mailer. "An attack on families and children by defunding Planned Parenthood is a policy issue that's important for voters to learn, to know about."
Lopez said the claim in the mailer is not true. The Republican said he opposes tax dollars for abortion but would not end funding for the agency.
"I am against abortion and I am pro-life," said Lopez. "That being said, the role of a Delaware state Senator - that conversation doesn't come up."
Staton, who supports Planned Parenthood, said state law does not allow state money to go towards abortions, a position he supports.
The flyer is based on a voter's guide from Delaware Strong Families that focuses on candidates' values; the survey was released before the September primary, Staton said. Question 12 asked candidates, "Use tax payer money to fund Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortion services." Lopez marked "O" for opposed. Staton did not respond to the survey.
Lopez called the recent mailer the first piece of negative campaigning in a race where both candidates vowed to avoid attacks. Staton said the flyer is about policy, not a personal attack.
Delaware lawmakers approved $145,900 in total funding for Planned Parenthood of Delaware this fiscal year, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Most of that money comes from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, money from cigarette companies paid to the state, said OMB spokeswoman Jessica Eisenbrey in an email.
In their request for funding, the agency said the money would go towards pregnancy prevention, health exams, screenings and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, Eisenbrey said.
State funding makes up about five percent of the overall budget for Planned Parenthood of Delaware, said agency spokeswoman Amelia Auner. The group receives some additional state funding for an infant mortality reduction program, based on its use, and federal funding for an education program, Auner said.
"If the services that are provided by Planned Parenthood are important to the community, which I believe they are by the number and percentage of the people that use those services, that's why I decided to make it clear what those differences are," Staton said.
Lopez took issue with the flyer, but said he would maintain a positive campaign.
"As a father of daughters, as someone who's married with a wife, and just turn that into something where I don't care about women's issues - again, probably one of the worst smears we've seen in a really long time," Lopez said.
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