Writings and observations

Donna Nelson
Chuck Winder

Most likely a number of Idaho Democrats are at this point discussion the idea of a legislative race that, a month ago, probably wasn’t much on the radar – a challenge to Republican Senator Chuck Winder of Boise. When candidate filing ended, Winder was among the minority of incumbents without a challenger in either primary or general, understandable since his vote-getting record was solid and he’s in a very Republican district.

Not that he was, or is now, an easy target. But conditions have changed, and even if Winder doesn’t turn out to be beatable, a number of Democrats might be considering if a challenge to him would in fact be worth some extra effort. In Idaho, a candidate can mount a write-in campaign at the primary by declaring intention in advance, and then will get ballot status in the fall if they get enough votes at the primary election.

That’s a little more work than the norm. But Winder has made of himself a major target – a national-level target. Stories about not just his sponsorship of the Idaho abortion/ultrasound bill but also his comments about it have gone national and viral. One of the biggest web stories on ABC news today is about Winder.

It started with some of his closing debate comments (just ahead of the Senate’s 23-12 vote to pass the bill, which now is in the House). Winder: “Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.”

That was a little convoluted, and you could read it several different ways. A Planning Parenthood spokesman, saying her office had fielded lots of calls about the statement, said “I hope that he did not mean to say that some people use rape as an excuse to receive abortion care.”

Probably he didn’t, but his winding and twisting explanations of whatever he did mean didn’t help. Such as: “I used a married woman, the idea being that as a woman or a couple, whether they be married or unmarried at the time, would want to find out if the pregnancy occurred as the product of the rape, or whether the pregnancy was unknown at the time. There was never any intention on my part to question the honesty of a woman in cases of rape.”

Huh? Teasing a clear meaning from that one would not be easy.

Those ready to launch a new political gender battle have in Winder, at this point, an ideal target and symbol. It’s hard to imagine Idaho Democrats will pass up the opportunity to challenge him in this cycle, something they still have the opportunity to do.

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