Planned Parenthood is planning to spend $1.5 million to reelect Gov. Wolf in November, calling him a bulwark against GOP-led attempts in Harrisburg to restrict abortion rights.
The health-care provider and abortion rights advocacy group says this is its biggest investment ever in a Pennsylvania midterm election.
“Tom Wolf’s reelection will decide whether or not our patients have access to health care,” Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania’s political arm, said in an interview Thursday. “He’s the last line of defense.”
Wolf, a Democrat seeking a second four-year term, is running against Republican Scott Wagner, the owner of a waste-hauling business. Wagner resigned from the state Senate earlier this month after winning the May primary to focus on the governor’s race.
Stevens said Planned Parenthood would focus its efforts in Philadelphia’s collar counties, seeking to tap enthusiasm among voters, especially women, opposed to President Trump.
The group says its polling shows most voters in the Philadelphia suburbs have a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood.
That “told us we had an incredibly unique role to play,” Stevens said.
Reelecting Wolf is the organization’s top priority, Stevens said, but it is also likely to commit resources to competitive legislative races.
“It’s no surprise that Tom Wolf is setting records for donations taken from special interests,” said Andrew Romeo, spokesman for Wagner. “He is bought and paid for by those filling up his campaign coffers.” Wagner would ensure “lower health-care costs for Pennsylvanians,” Romeo said.
Planned Parenthood’s $1.5 million in independent spending will cover door knocking, phone banks, texting, and digital advertisements, Stevens said.
She said the group’s previous spending record for a midterm race in Pennsylvania came in 2014, when it invested $1 million to help Wolf defeat Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
The group says women’s health care has been under siege from lawmakers in Harrisburg.
The Republican-controlled legislature moved closer this week to passing legislation that would ban abortion based solely on a diagnosis of Down syndrome. The House passed the legislation in April, and it advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Wagner is a cosponsor of the legislation. Wolf has said he opposes it.
“We believe in the right of everybody — everybody — to make their own choices over their own health care for their own bodies,” Wolf said at an event with Planned Parenthood last year.
In December, Wolf vetoed Senate Bill 3, which would have outlawed abortion at the 20-week mark of pregnancy, four weeks earlier than under current law. The bill provided some exceptions for emergencies like protecting the life of the mother, but not for cases involving rape or incest.
Planned Parenthood also credits Wolf for expanding Medicaid and access to contraception, among other issues.
Wagner — who has mostly focused on pocketbook issues like pledging to eliminate school property taxes — wasn’t social conservatives’ top pick in the GOP primary. But he voted in favor of the 20-week abortion ban and has said he would support legislation that would prohibit abortion if a doctor detects a fetal heartbeat — typically about six weeks into a pregnancy.
Wolf had $15 million in his campaign account as of June 4, according to campaign-finance records made public Thursday.
Wagner had $1.6 million following an expensive primary. He has lent his campaign $6.1 million.
Wolf is leading Wagner 48 percent to 29 percent among registered voters, according to a Franklin & Marshall poll released this week. However, 23 percent were undecided, and the Wagner campaign said the survey’s sample overrepresented Democratic voters.