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Making Enemies: EMILY's List Sees Setbacks
Roll Call ^ | 8/8/02 | Ben Pershing

Posted on 08/12/2002 2:41:45 PM PDT by rhema

Add Rep. Lynn Rivers (D) to the list.

While Rivers' race against Rep. John Dingell (D) in Michigan's 15th district primary showcased a number of divisions among Democrats, her decisive loss Tuesday may have meant the most to one of the party's most prominent groups: EMILY's List.

The group that backs pro-choice Democratic female candidates has had a less than stellar record in Congressional races this cycle.

In addition to Rivers - for whom the group funneled and spent several hundred thousand dollars - EMILY's List has backed a number of other losing Democratic primary candidates this year, including Gayle Ray in Tennessee's 5th district, Fran Marcum in Tennessee's 4th district, Susan Longley in Maine's 2nd district, Margaret Workman in West Virginia's 2nd district and Nancy Kaszak in Illinois' 5th district.

To be sure, EMILY's List has also won some important Congressional and statehouse races, the most recent example being Jennifer Granholm's convincing win in the Michigan gubernatorial primary. Also in the group's win column are Democrats Stephanie Herseth in South Dakota's at-large seat, Linda Sanchez in California's 39th district and Rep. Diane Watson, who won a competitive special election primary in California's 32nd district and was elected to the House last year.

But the group has made some decisions that have backfired and stirred up resentment within the party, particularly when it has gone heavily negative on other Democratic candidates. Most Democrats were hesitant to publicly chastise the politically potent group, but privately, party officials on and off the Hill criticized EMILY's List's tactics.

"The question is, how are you picking your fights?" said a House Democratic strategist. "Are you picking the right fights?"

In challenging Dingell, EMILY's List attacked a lawmaker who has enormous stature within the Democratic Party. In backing Kaszak, the group made a potential enemy of former White House aide Rahm Emanuel, who is all but certain to win in November and has even been mentioned as a possible future chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"The thing that bothers a lot of people is when they get involved in a race against an equally pro-choice Democratic man," said a Democratic consultant who has worked both with and against EMILY's List in the past. "In some of these cases they pick a fight they can't win, and even if they do they've made serious enemies. [Emanuel and Dingell] are good pro-choice Democrats. Why would you want them to be an enemy of your group?"

EMILY's List has certainly received such criticisms before, and the group sometimes has to remind outsiders that its goal is not simply to help Democrats.

"You have to put in context what we're trying to accomplish here, which is to elect Democratic women," group President Ellen Malcolm said in an interview Wednesday, adding that in several cases EMILY's List candidates were heavily outspent.

Though she said EMILY's List was "David taking on Goliath" in the Dingell-Rivers race, Malcolm said the group's support of Rivers was something of a no-brainer.

"This is an unusual situation," Malcolm said. "We are not looking for opportunities to run against Democratic incumbents, but when we are faced with a situation where we are going to lose one of our women, of course we are going to come to her aid."

Some Democrats said that they weren't concerned with whom EMILY's List has backed so much as the way the group has executed its game plan. In addition to promoting their own candidates, EMILY's List has aggressively attacked other Democrats, often on issues that have nothing to do with abortion.

In Emanuel's case, the group spent about $400,000 on advertising calling him "anti-worker." In the West Virginia race, EMILY's List went after Workman's opponent, Jim Humphreys (D), with ads alleging that he had failed to pay his taxes. In Tennessee, before Ray lost her primary to former Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), EMILY's List sent out direct mail hitting Cooper on a variety of issues, prompting Ray to ask the group to "ease up" after her campaign got some negative reactions. And with Dingell, the group went after the dean of the House for his support of gun rights.

"What's concerning about it is that it was a tremendous waste of resources," a House Democratic strategist said of the Dingell race. "You had all this lefty cause money that's wasted trying to beat someone who has helped us try to win back the House. That's money that can't go to Stephanie Herseth, for instance."

In several of its losing races, EMILY's List has gone up against candidates heavily backed by unions. In Maine, for example, Longley came in second to anti-abortion Democrat Mike Michaud, who won with overwhelming labor support. In that race and in Michigan, Tennessee and West Virginia, EMILY's List has also been outgunned by the National Rifle Association.

While EMILY's List's fundraising operation is generally acknowledged to be first-rate, the NRA and unions have often been able to beat the group at the grassroots level.

"I think in primaries, EMILY's List just does not have a ready-made ground war, [though] they can buy one," observed a House Democratic leadership aide.

While EMILY's List's stated focus is on abortion rights, the group's forays into other issues may have hurt some of their candidates. "I think they have been a positive influence on the party generally, but a lot of groups make the mistake of trying to go beyond the scope of their original mission," said the Democratic consultant who has worked with the group before.

In some cases, EMILY's List's invocation of gun issues may even have backfired on the group's candidates.

"They're not helping themselves by wandering into the gun control fray," said Chuck Cunningham, the NRA's director of federal relations. "It's like us deciding that we want to base our political decision-making on abortion."

Though she had no legislative record on the issue, Cunningham said Workman actually impressed the NRA with her answers on a questionnaire about gun issues and the group might even have remained neutral had EMILY's List not begun hitting Humphreys on the issue. That raised a red flag for the NRA, as did EMILY's List's endorsement of Marcum in Tennessee.

For her part, Malcolm scoffed at the idea that her group had any influence on the NRA's actions.

"I find it rather odd that the National Rifle Association would create a strategy based on what EMILY's List does," said Malcolm. "If they're having some war with EMILY's List it's news to me, and I'm not participating in it."

Malcolm also downplayed any concern that her group is cultivating enemies among Democrats on the Hill.

"Our job is to bring pro-choice Democratic women into Congress," she said. "We don't lobby. We don't go up to Capitol Hill and talk to our women or men afterwards. As far as I'm concerned, when the primary's over it's over. We who support Democrats get together and fight the November battles together."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: abortion; emilyslist; prolife

1 posted on 08/12/2002 2:41:45 PM PDT by rhema
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To: BibChr; logos
Here's an antidote to EMILY's List: the Republican National Coalition for Life
2 posted on 08/12/2002 2:43:19 PM PDT by rhema
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To: rhema
"What's concerning about it is that it was a tremendous waste of resources,"

Hallelujah! Nothing better than watching the enemy waste huge amounts of money and have a good internal knock-down, drag-out fight! May they continue to put their money into losers! (And ALL Dimocraps are losers.)

3 posted on 08/12/2002 2:59:12 PM PDT by holyscroller
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To: holyscroller
4 posted on 08/12/2002 3:10:01 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: holyscroller
May they continue to put their money into losers!

Their abortion bloodlust assures that they'll back anyone who swears fealty to Moloch.

5 posted on 08/12/2002 3:44:13 PM PDT by rhema
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