Law and order vs. health care as Dems, GOP vie for suburbs

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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press

FILE - In this March 6, 2019, file photo, Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Calif., speaks during a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. In the Republican-leaning California 48th Congressional District in Orange County, Republican challenger Michelle Steel has talked about taxes, while Rouda has focused on health care and prescription drug costs. In the campaign for House control, some districts are seeing a fight between Democrats saying they'll protect voters from Republicans willing to take their health coverage away, while GOP candidates are raising specters of rioters imperiling neighborhoods if Democrats win. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz, File)

WASHINGTON – In Republican hands for 28 years but now up for grabs, a suburban Missouri congressional district hugging St. Louis has become a lab for what each party considers one of its most lethal political weapons.

TV ads by GOP Rep. Ann Wagner show protesters stomping a police car as the narrator accuses Democratic challenger Jill Schupp of support from “radical defund the police organizations.” A Schupp spot says Wagner voted “against people with preexisting conditions during COVID.” The coronavirus causes COVID-19.

The pattern is similar outside Philadelphia, where GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick accuses Democratic challenger Christina Finelo of supporting police defunding. Finelo's first ad says Fitzpatrick's backed ending coverage for people with preexisting conditions. Each contests the other's charge.

Scores of suburban districts are back in play in the GOP's long-shot attempt to win House control in November's election. Democrats who used health care to capture the majority in 2018 are emphasizing it anew, saying they'll shield voters from Republicans trying to tear coverage away during a pandemic.

“This is as current an issue as can possibly be,” said Leslie Dach, who heads the Democratic-backed Protect Our Care Coalition.

In some races, Republicans are talking up lawlessness to try stemming defections of educated, moderate suburban voters from the GOP, spurred by aversion to President Donald Trump. But even where Republican candidates promote themes such as rebuilding the economy, Trump’s blunt-force ads and his tweets on law and order have kept it in the forefront.

“If I don’t win, America’s Suburbs will be OVERRUN with Low Income Projects, Anarchists, Agitators, Looters and, of course, `Friendly Protesters,'” he tweeted recently.

Wagner has voted for bills that would have ended the coverage that former President Barack Obama’s health care law guarantees people with preexisting conditions. She’s introduced bills to protect such coverage, her campaign says.