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EMILY’s List to Spend $37 Million in 2018 Cycle

Pro-abortion rights group is looking to play in roughly 30 House races

EMILY’s List trained thousands of women looking to run for office, many of whom were energized by the Women’s March in 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
EMILY’s List trained thousands of women looking to run for office, many of whom were energized by the Women’s March in 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 4:04 p.m. | EMILY’s List, a group that backs female Democrats who support abortion rights, said it expects to spend more than $37 million this election cycle, which includes the $14 million it already spent in Democratic primaries. 

Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY’s List, told reporters in a briefing Monday that the group plans to play in more than 30 House districts to help Democrats net the 23 seats needed to win a chamber majority. 

“I have all intentions of this institution delivering the U.S. House for the Democrats,” she said.

The group’s spending will be on television ads, direct mail campaigns and digital ads through its independent expenditure arm, which means that spending will not be in coordination with candidates. Additionally, EMILY’s List  is projecting to bundle at least $10 million for its endorsed candidates and directly contribute $3.5 million to candidates and party organizations. 

EMILY’s List is continuing to work directly with nominees across the country, with Schriock also noting that the group helped many first-time candidates launch their campaigns. Aggressive efforts by the group in Democratic primaries across the country helped many of its favored candidates win primaries in top pickup opportunities in Texas, Kansas and Pennsylvania.

“We were still rolling a boulder up a hill in a lot of places,” said Lucinda Guinn, vice president of campaigns for EMILY’s List.

Guinn pointed to primary wins by Gina Ortiz Jones in Texas’ 23rd District and Sharice Davids in Kansas’ 3rd District as two success stories for Women Vote!, the group’s independent expenditure arm. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Kansas race a Toss-up and the Texas contest Tilts Republican

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A record number of women have won their parties’ primaries this year, according to the Center for American Women and Politics: 182 Democrats and 52 Republicans on the House side; and 15 Democrats and 7 Republicans in Senate contests.

Schriock traced the wave of female candidates to President Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, which led to scores of women marching the day after his inauguration.

“These women just kept marching,” she said.

Schriock said more than 40,000 women contacted the group about running for elected office, and EMILY’s List has trained more than 5,000 female candidates for the current election cycle.

The group has endorsed 64 House candidates and 12 Senate candidates, including 10 sitting Democratic senators up for re-election this year.

The historic success by women in primaries is a product of the sheer volume of strong female candidates, Schriock and Guinn said. Voters are also looking for a change, Schriock noted, adding that “when you have a Congress that’s only 20 percent women, women are change.”

Schriock said EMILY’s List will spend in races where their candidates have a path to victory and where their resources can have the most impact. The group may also endorse a few more House candidates in emerging Democratic targets, including in seats that were previously not viewed as competitive, she noted. 

EMILY’s List continues to coordinate with other Democratic outside groups, including House Majority PAC, Senate Majority PAC, the League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood and labor unions, to discern the most effective way to spend money in the Democrats’ expansive field of targets. 

But Schriock said the group also has to be strategic about where it spends its money, and will pull funds if a race is no longer competitive.

“We have been known to walk away,” she said. “It hurts, but we will do it.”

Some of the group’s candidates are running in heavily Republican districts, but Schriock dismissed a question about whether its involvement in races could lead to a pushback from socially conservative voters who balk at the group’s pro-abortion rights stance.

She said “99.9 percent” of Democratic female candidates support abortion rights, and the vast majority of them seek the group’s endorsement.

“My philosophy has been: You’re going to get hit anyway,” Schriock said. “You may not be running on that, you may not be focusing on that, but Republicans are going to highlight it. So you might as well have the support of the organization to get you all the other things: good staffing, good structures and extra money.”

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