Sandra Fluke, the former Georgetown Law Student perhaps best known for her public spat with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, is seriously considering a run for Congress.
Fluke, 32, has filed the paperwork she needs in order to get an endorsement from the Democratic Party of California, a pre-requisite for running for the seat that will be vacated by longtime Rep. Henry Waxman this year.
While most people vaguely remember the outspoken Limbaugh calling her a “slut” for supporting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate in 2012, Fluke is otherwise unknown to people who don’t follow the minutia of Washington’s political fights.
While it’s still unclear whether Fluke will translate her moment on the national stage into a congressional career, there are some key, but lesser-known things about Fluke that could have a big impact on how far her political ambitions will take her:
1) The politics of being local — or not
Unlike Waxman, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, Fluke is a recent transplant. She grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and has made L.A. her home since law school. (Her husband Adam Mutterperl works in the entertainment industry.)
The Democratic side of the contest to replace Waxman in the L.A.-area district has already unleashed decades of pent up political ambition. Several declared and potential candidates are well known in California political circles, including Wendy Greuel, a former Los Angeles City Controller who launched bid for mayor in 2013, and Ted W. Lieu, a state senator.
And though Fluke’s name may ring a bell — especially among the more politically inclined voters who typically come out in a midterm election year — she will undoubtedly have some work to do in introducing herself to her would-be constituents. Politics is, after all, still local.
2) It’s not just birth control
When Fluke’s name is in the headlines these days, it’s usually accompanied by two words: birth control. It’ll also be followed closely by Limbaugh’s name, and he’s happy to take credit for making her “famous.” But if she runs for Congress, she’ll have to demonstrate a broader appeal, not just to Democratic voters but also pockets of Republicans and moderates in the 33rd District. Where does Fluke stand on say, tax reform, deficit reduction, or the finer points of immigration reform? That’s harder to say. In the meantime, she’ll need to remind people that before there was the flap over contraceptives, she had interests and expertise in other things. In a transition from partisan icon to candidate, expect her to tout her advocacy for human trafficking victims and for domestic workers.
3) Political newbie, expert surrogate
If she runs, Fluke’s first foray as a political principal will be in a high-profile House of Representatives race, making the stakes higher than it’s ever been. Surviving the wrath of the conservative media and speaking at the Democratic National Convention are no small feat, but retail politics is its own animal. After the spotlight dimmed on her fight over contraception in the media, however, Fluke stumped for 14 candidates who are now in Congress and two sitting U.S. senators, Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. All that time on campaign trail means she’s had some practice rallying the faithful. And she’ll be able to call in plenty of favors if she needs extra help.
4) It’s all about the money
And then there’s the money. From the minute Fluke became a GOP target in 2012, she’s been helping to fuel Democratic fundraising efforts. She has close relationships with the Democratic groups she may need, such as Emily’s List, to be successful in a congressional run. Her fundraising efforts have extended to Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and individual candidates across the country. She’ll need all the cash she can get to successfully run in a not-so-cheap media market.
5) Fueling the “war on women” fire
There’s no question that Fluke has managed to incite passions on both sides of the aisle, and Rush Limbaugh was just the beginning. After her speech at the DNC convention in 2012, another conservative firebrand, Ann Coulter, who is no stranger to controversy, fired off a slew of uncouth tweets including this gem: “Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage…”
And around the same time that Fluke was stumping on the trail for then-candidate, now Congresswoman Suzan Delbene about a week before election day, Delbene’s opponent, tea party politician John Koster, dropped his own Todd Akin-esque comments on rape and abortion. ”But on the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s a consequence of this crime, how does that make it better?” Koster said.
Needless to say, comments like these have been used by Democrats to only bolster their case that the GOP is waging a “war on women.” And Fluke’s prominence on the national stage again could further help the party rally the base and incite the other side.