Greta Kemp Martin, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, speaks during Mississippi Economic Council's 2023 Hobnob at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today

When the U.S. Supreme Court determined last year that Americans no longer had a constitutional right to obtain an abortion, Greta Kemp Martin felt like she had been sucker punched in the stomach.

She said she felt so angered by the decision that she couldn’t let Lynn Fitch, Mississippi’s Republican attorney general responsible for asking the nation’s highest court to overturn Roe v. Wade, run unopposed during the 2023 election cycle.

“At that point, I knew Lynn Fitch had to be taken down,” Martin said at a Lee County event in September.

Martin, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, has made her support of women’s access to reproductive care one of the core components in her campaign against Fitch, the first woman attorney general and first Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction. 

Fitch accomplished what anti-abortion advocates had worked to achieve for decades when the nation’s highest court ruled in favor of the Magnolia State in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.

Since that ruling, the incumbent attorney general said the state’s next goals for supporting mothers should focus on providing affordable childcare, having flexible workplace accommodations and strengthening child support payment laws.

“We’re empowering you, each of you as stakeholders to be involved with us together because we’ve got some challenges,” Fitch said at the Neshoba County Fair this summer. “And as we work together, we can beat those challenges.”

Martin, the litigation director for Disability Rights Mississippi and a Tishomingo County native, believes those policy goals are insufficient.

The Democratic candidate, like many others around the country since the Dobbs ruling, has made access to reproductive health one of the core components of her campaign.

Martin told Mississippi Today that she’s not trying to change voters’ minds about abortion. Rather, she’s framed the issue on the campaign trail about the government’s role in private health care decisions.

“What I’ve tried to get people to see is step away from the abortion side of Dobbs and look at what kind of precedent this sets in our health care freedom and decision-making,” Martin said. 

Mississippi is a deeply religious and conservative state, but voters in 2011 overwhelmingly rejected a “personhood” ballot initiative that would have established in the state constitution that life begins at conception. Since the Dobbs ruling last year, voters in many states, including some Republican-controlled ones, have followed suit and rejected efforts to restrict abortion access.

PODCAST: Greta Kemp Martin, candidate for Attorney General

But in addition to health care access, Martin has also made reforming operations of the state’s top legal agency a focus of her platform. Other policies she’s advocated for on the campaign trail include establishing a conviction integrity unit at the AG’s office to ensure criminal convictions are adequately prosecuted, using her position to protect LGBTQ and differently-abled citizens and creating a fair labor division at the agency.

Martin has also sharply criticized the incumbent’s handling of the state’s sprawling welfare scandal and told reporters that if she were elected attorney general, she would work to seek a criminal indictment of former NFL star Brett Favre and former Gov. Phil Bryant in connection to the scandal.

Prosecutors are usually tight-lipped about criminal investigations and prefer speaking through court documents they file, making Martin’s decision to openly campaign on prosecuting specific people unusual.

“I see nothing wrong with telling people that you intend to investigate these individuals, and if the evidence is provided, prosecute them,” Martin said. “You’re not giving away trade secrets here, but what you are doing is telling Mississippians that you’re there to protect them.”

Both Favre and Bryant have maintained they committed no criminal wrongdoing, and federal and state prosecutors have charged neither with a crime.

Mississippi’s Attorney General Lynn Fitch speaks during Mississippi Economic Council’s 2023 Hobnob at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. Credit: Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today

And Fitch told reporters over the summer that her office has worked with other state agencies in the ongoing civil lawsuit to recover misspent welfare funds.

Substance aside, Martin faces a tough path to victory because her opponent has spent more than twice as much as she has during the campaign cycle and has a vast amount of cash remaining to spend.

Martin reports raising over $179,000 and spending over $176,000, leaving her with around $2,400 in cash on hand. Fitch, on the other hand, has raised over $1.1 million and spent over $421,000. Combined with previous fundraising, the incumbent has around $1.7 million in cash on hand.

But the very fact that Martin has not received an influx of cash from national organizations has irritated some Democratic consultants in the state.

A Democratic operative in the state who asked to speak anonymously told Mississippi Today they believed the lack of national funding was unfair to Martin because she is “a naturally gifted politician” for someone who has never run for public office before.

“I don’t know how in the world national Democrats can look at the success that abortion access has had in other states and think we can look over a candidate like Greta,” the operative said. “That’s political malpractice.”

Still, the Tishomingo County native believes her grassroots campaign, combined with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley’s competitive challenge against Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, could work in her favor.

Whatever happens in the general election, Martin told Mississippi Today that she is not leaving Mississippi politics behind, something the state’s top Democratic leaders are happy about.

“It is on everyone’s mind in the Mississippi Democratic Party that regardless of what happens on Nov. 7, we can’t lose her,” the operative said.

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Taylor, a native of Grenada, covers state government and statewide elections. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Holmes Community College. Before joining Mississippi Today, Taylor reported on state and local government for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, where he received an award for his coverage of the federal government’s lawsuit against the state’s mental health system.