ST. PAUL, Minn. — When Mark Kennedy became a U.S. congressman six years ago, he started a Rosary group on Capitol Hill. He also gathered fellow Catholic legislators for a St. Thomas More study group.

And since then, he’s had a stellar pro-life voting record.

But in a race for the U.S. Senate, he’s losing to a pro-abortion candidate who wants to redefine marriage.

His situation, it seems, is far from unique, and that has some pro-lifers worried. Very worried.

Polls show pro-life Senate candidates Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Michael Steele of Maryland, Conrad Burns of Montana and Mike Bouchard of Michigan all trailing by significant margins.

Pro-lifers are worried that this spells trouble for legislation and judges that would protect the lives of the unborn and preserve marriage.

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life surveyed Kennedy, a Republican, and his opponent, Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, vis a vis life issues. When another Supreme Court seat opens up, the group concluded, Klobuchar’s pro-abortion backers can count on her, as a U.S. senator, to “feverishly oppose any U.S. Supreme Court justice nominated by pro-life President Bush.”

The race for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Mark Dayton has been viewed as one of the most competitive races in the country. Several media-driven polls have shown Klobuchar with a wide lead (56-40), and independent polls don’t paint a much rosier piecture, placing Klobuchar’s lead at between 8 and 10 points.

Klobuchar, the Hennepin County district attorney, is running as a Democrat-Farmer-Labor (DFL) candidate in the mold of fellow Minnesotans Walter Mondale and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. If elected, she would be the state’s first elected female senator.

Kennedy, an accountant by profession, first won a U.S. House of Representative seat from Minnesota’s Second District in 2000. Following the state’s reapportionment, he ran and won the seat in the state’s Sixth District both in 2002 and 2004.

The Register is examining several key Senate races in which Catholics are running. They include the races between Rick Santorum and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Michael Steele and Ben Cardin in Maryland, and John Spencer and Hillary Clinton in New York.

         

Culture of Life

The National Right to Life Committee has given Kennedy a “100% pro-life” rating. He has voted in favor the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act. He co-sponsored the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, calling the controversial procedure “cruelty masquerading as medicine.”

“There are a whole lot of issues out there that need to be decided on. Some have more, and some have less, moral perspective,” Kennedy told the Register. “The Vatican has been clear that the issue of life was not an issue that one could really have any other kind of view on. It’s fundamental to our existence as a human race. It’s fundamental to the Church to defend life.”

While Klobuchar has said that she would like to see the number of abortions reduced, she fully supports abortion on-demand and has received significant financial support and the endorsements of several pro-abortion groups. Her campaign failed to return calls to the Register, but she said in a Jan. 26, 2006 debate that she believes the decision to abort “should be made between a woman and her doctor.”

She also supports embryonic stem-cell research.

“I support bi-partisan legislation, recently vetoed by President Bush, which allows stem cells that would otherwise be discarded to be used with the permission of donors,” says a statement on her website.

In contrast, Kennedy supports neither abortion nor embryonic stem-cell research.

“We talk about promoting a culture of life,” said Katie Bueche, outreach coordinator for the Kennedy campaign. “That’s the message we’re trying to communicate. Hopefully that reaches most Catholics.”

“Mark holds life as one of the most sacred gifts we’ve been given,” said Heidi Frederickson, press secretary for the Kennedy campaign. “He opposes federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.”

Kennedy also voted to uphold President Bush’s veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.

“Stem-cell research is a complex topic that, unfortunately, has become somewhat clouded by politics,” said Kennedy, who supports cord-blood and adult stem-cell research that does not destroy life. “My focus has been to find cures for deadly diseases, while respecting the strongly held beliefs and emotions surrounding this issue, not to get caught up in the politics.”

He also is aware of the importance of the judicial branch in the pro-life struggle. “Liberal activist judges continue to substitute their own views for the law,” he said. “They are usurping the function of legislatures and ignoring the views of the people,”

Sanctity of Marriage

The defense of marriage is another area where the two candidates differ sharply. Kennedy supports the Defense of Marriage Act; Klobuchar does not.

Kennedy also voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment.

“The Defense of Marriage Act, overwhelmingly passed by Congress … could have and should have been the last word on marriage from Congress,” said Kennedy. “Unfortunately, a few local politicians and radical judges have placed it and traditional marriage in jeopardy. … This amendment would settle the question once and for all, and stop these liberal activists from redefining marriage in Minnesota and the rest of the country.”

Klobuchar disagrees.

“I don’t think we need a constitutional ban on same sex ‘marriage,’” said Klobuchar during a debate earlier this year. “We’ve already defined it [marriage] that way and that would ban people’s equal rights.”

In response to a questionnaire from the Stonewall DFL (the homosexual caucus of the DFL party of Minnesota), she said, “Such an amendment would ban civil unions, which I do not oppose.”

Klobuchar has also received money from the homosexual activist political action committee, the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

So why is Kennedy polling so poorly?

Critics cite his support for President Bush and the war in Iraq. A recent University of Minnesota poll cited 45% of voters as saying the war in Iraq was their primary concern.

According to Federal Election Commission records of itemized disbursements, between Aug. 1 and Oct. 11, 2006, Klobuchar has received more than 6,000 contributions totaling more than $630,953 from individuals through Emily’s List, the nation’s largest pro-abortion political action committee. The vast majority of that money has come from outside Minnesota.

“Emily’s List is mammoth,” said Joseph Cella, president of Fidelis, a Catholic-based advocacy organization in Chelsea, Mich. “Upwards of 80% of the overall bundled money received by their candidates comes from a state other than their home state.”

Klobuchar’s campaign has received more than $6 million in contributions, with much of the political action committee money coming from unions, attorneys, the Human Rights Campaign Fund and Emily’s List.

Emily’s List describes the race as a “must-win” to retain Dayton’s Democratic seat.

“Our membership will dedicate their considerable strength to seeing that Amy Klobuchar is victorious,” said Ellen Malcolm, president of Emily’s List.

By comparison, Kennedy’s campaign has received more than $7 million in contributions. The vast majority of Kennedy’s money has come from private corporations. His contributions from the pro-life organizations Concerned Women for America and the Susan B. Anthony List have been significantly smaller than those received by Klobuchar from pro-abortion committees.

The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, is also supporting Kennedy with a get-out-the vote campaign.

“We’ve communicated with more than 40,000 women in Minnesota who typically do not vote in mid-term elections,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List. “Through polling, we’ve learned that they care about partial-birth abortion and parental notification. We’ll be making sure that they vote on Election Day.”

“We’ve given up to $50,000 in Senate races,” said Dannenfelser. “Kennedy’s House record was consistently pro-life. It couldn’t be a better contrast to have someone as extreme as her running against a great guy like him.”

         

Tim Drake writes from

St. Joseph, Minnesota.