It’s been widely known in Lansing for months that state Rep. Lesia Liss, D-Warren, was on the outs with fellow Democrats.
In March, building trades unions and the Michigan Nurses Association endorsed state Rep. Jon Switalski of Warren in the Aug. 7 Democratic primary for Macomb County’s 28th District. Liss, a registered nurse, was elected in 2008 thanks in part to help from the nurses group.
But her June 14 vote for a sweeping abortion clinic regulation bill triggered a downhill spiral for Liss’ relationship with the liberal wing of her party.
In 2008, Liss ran as a pro-choice Democrat. But Liss, 45, says became a “pro-life” convert because her views on the divisive issue of abortion evolved since she took women’s studies courses in college at the University of Michigan Dearborn. Liss said Wednesday the vote earned her an endorsement from Right to Life of Michigan this week.
“She had an interview with the local PAC subcommittee team and was found to be pro-life,” David Malone, Right to Life of Michigan’s political action committee director, told The Detroit News.
Liss drew harsh criticism this week from fellow Democrats for telling Gongwer News Service that state Reps. Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum were “making women look bad” for claiming House Republicans silenced them for a day for saying “vagina” and “vasectomy,” respectfully, on the House floor. GOP leaders said they wouldn’t let the Democratic representatives speak because they violated the decorum of the House.
“As a woman and a nurse, Rep. Liss had an opportunity to do the right thing and stand up for women’s rights, and defend Reps. Brown and Byrum after they were shamefully silenced by House Republicans,” Progress Michigan Executive Director Zack Pohl said in an email. “Instead, she chose to attack her Democratic colleagues and defend censorship by Speaker (Jase) Bolger and Floor Leader (Jim) Stamas. It’s clear Lansing Republicans have a friend in Lesia Liss.”
In an interview Wednesday, Liss said she was trying to restrain her frustration with fellow Democrats who have called her a pawn for the GOP in recent days.
“I’m watching my Ps and Qs because I’m already in trouble for saying they should watch their Ps and Qs,” Liss said Wednesday, referencing comments she made earlier in the week to MIRS, a Lansing political newsletter.
In defending her vote for the abortion clinic regulations, Liss said her district’s conservative Reagan Democrats oppose abortion and want the practice restricted.
Liss believes Brown and Byrum have blown the whole incident out of proportion to gain national media attention. On Monday, female Democratic lawmakers joined playwright Eve Ensler in a politically-charged enactment of “The Vagina Monologues” on the Capitol steps before a crowd of about 3,000.
“I assume they’re using this ‘war on women’ title to try to get women to come out and vote,” Liss told The Detroit News. “Look how many angry women came to the Capitol steps.”
Byrum returned fire in a Twitter post Tuesday.
“3,000 women at today’s event disagree w/ Rep. Liss — that’s far more women than she’ll get to vote for her in Aug!” Byrum tweeted.
Liss added: “Nobody’s silenced anybody as far as I’m concerned.”
Detroit News Staff Writer Karen Bouffard contributed.