In a swirling battle of Pennsylvania politics that could decide the House majority, a tempestuous clash is brewing that could thrust the controversial issue of abortion rights into the forefront of the 2024 election. Republican incumbent Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, already a prime target for Democratic contenders, now finds himself being challenged by a member of his own party.
Mark Houck, a newcomer to the political arena, has emerged as the contender from the right, injecting a fervent anti-abortion stance into the race.
On Thursday, the political novice made his intentions official by filing candidacy paperwork for Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District.
Following in lockstep with his political aspirations, Houck was propelled into the limelight after a recent legal battle that culminated in his acquittal on criminal charges stemming from an altercation with an abortion clinic.
According to Politico, Houck, who opposes abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, recently told Pennsylvania’s 1210 WPHT, “I believe that those exceptions are not exceptions at all. When it comes to rape, incest and life of the mother, you know, my faith informs me on some of that. But let me say rape and incest — look, the child does not commit the crime.”
During his appearance, Houck was interrupted by radio host Dom Giordano, who mentioned that opposing abortion access was unlikely to go over well with Bucks County voters, who comprise the majority of the congressional district.
The radio host pointed out that abortion could be a key issue to sway voters in the swing district. Of note, in 2022, Democrats Gov. Josh Shapiro and Sen. John Fetterman won Fitzpatrick’s district.
Still, according to a spokesperson for the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, abortion won’t be a decisive issue. The spokesperson went on to cite Fitzpatrick’s past primary success.
While some among the GOP are calling the race a nonissue, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pledged to make abortion access a top campaign issue in 2024.
But Fitzpatrick is a moderate Republican, and his district doesn’t have a history of supporting “hardcore pro-lifers,” veteran Republican strategist Christopher Nicholas told Politico.
Still, Nicholas said of Houck, “I’m sure he’ll run a spirited primary. But the road is littered with Republicans who thought they were going to successfully primary challenge Fitzpatrick, and I see no evidence yet that he won’t join them.”
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