In North Carolina, the Democratic-leaning 1st congressional district primary, which is scheduled for May 17, has created a controversial and contentious back-and-forth between two candidates.

Sen. Don Davis, a centrist, will be running against former Sen. Erica Smith, a progressive, and at the center of it is Rep. GK Butterfield, who is still on the fence as to who he will be endorsing in the coming days.

With Davis and Smith as rivals and the top two candidates, the latter (and some unaffiliated pro-choice Democrats) are attacking the former for several votes restricting reproductive rights. Sen. Don Davis’ record — denial of Planned Parenthood funding, working with Republicans to pass anti-abortion laws, and obstructing Gov. Roy Cooper’s agenda — make it clear that he is a registered Democrat only. “[He] risks alienating the base we need to win this seat,” Smith’s campaign manager, Morris Katz, said in a statement.

Davis’ campaign insists that he supports the fundamental right to choose an abortion, yet in Congress, he said he would vote to codify Roe v. Wade from the Supreme Court. He went on to tell The Charlotte Observe that his support for abortion rights was shaped in part by the death of a family member due to pregnancy-related complications when Davis was young.

“It’s near, dear, and personal, so I really take it all to heart and want to be very clear about my support for reproductive health,” he said.

But Davis’ votes over the years have drawn ire and criticism from pro-choice groups.

In 2015, Davis—and eight other Democrats in the state Senate—voted for a bill proposed by then-North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) that would have outlawed the sale of fetal parts. The bill also made permanent a provision in the budget denying future state funding for the provision of “family planning” services to groups such as Planned Parenthood, which also perform abortions.

Smith voted against the bill.

Davis was part of a group of Democratic senators who voted for the budget in 2017, and the only Democratic senator to have voted in favor of the budget in 2018. Both bills allocated at least $1 million to an anti-abortion campaign called “Crisis Pregnancy Center,” which is an euphemism for religious institutions that often use misleading arguments to dissuade people from having abortions.

In 2019, Davis was one of only two Democratic senators to vote for Republicans’ “born alive” legislation, which would make it a crime not to treat a baby born during a late abortion as a person. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill on the grounds that existing law protects newborn babies and that the bill was design to erode abortion rights.

Davis was the only Democrat vote to override Cooper’s veto, providing the deciding vote in the Senate needed to pass the bill.

Democrats against Davis have challenged his record as “uneven” and encouraged voters to think twice. “With Roe literally before the Supreme Court, and the possibility that we could see it overturned, we need to have champions at all levels, who will defend reproductive freedom, who will defend access to abortion, and who will codify Roe at the national level,” Sen. Smith said.

A Democratic strategist familiar with North Carolina politics, who is also not affiliated with either campaign, was more explicit.

“It’s a seat that leans for the Democrats and should be ours and I don’t know why we should have someone outside the mainstream representing it,” said the strategist, who requested anonymity for professional reasons.

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