The addition of an anti-abortion Nebraska mayoral candidate to a Democratic National Committee “unity tour” sparked blowback from the left on Thursday.
Democrat Heath Mello, a Bernie Sanders-backed candidate for mayor of Omaha, is scheduled to appear with Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the DNC’s new deputy chair, at a sold-out rally on Thursday.
But Mello’s sponsorship of a 2009 state Senate bill to require women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before obtaining an abortion prompted a leading abortion-rights group to slam the DNC for elevating him.
"The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women — one of the most critical constituencies for the party — of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement.
The popular liberal website Daily Kos also withdrew its endorsement of Mello on Thursday, citing his stance on the ultrasound bill.
Mello joins Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey as self-described anti-abortion Democrats who are getting support from the party this year.
The budding backlash over Mello comes as Sanders has infuriated other Democrats for not endorsing Georgia House Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff while touring with DNC leaders.
Hogue described Ossoff as "a reproductive freedom candidate who said his campaign was fueled by women. This makes the DNC’s actions even more puzzling and troubling."
Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb, who is also set to appear with Sanders, Mello and Ellison on Thursday, declined to take issue with NARAL’s criticism.
"I understand and respect NARAL standing up for the issue their group is founded on," Kleeb said by email. "As Chair of the Democratic Party, I stand with Democrats who continue to ensure women’s reproductive rights are never restricted, and that life at all levels … is protected."