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Insider News

Week of May 19, 2006

Read past editions of Insider News

Taking control in 2006
Doing the impossible — round two!
Coming together for change

Taking control in 2006

In a political climate ripe for Democratic takeover, pro-choice Democratic women are leading a class of incredibly qualified candidates, particularly in races for the U.S. House. EMILY's List has recruited a top-tier roster of pro-choice Democratic women to run in the hottest races of 2006.

"Winning back the House is within reach," says Ellen R. Malcolm, president of EMILY's List. "At a time when Republicans and President Bush are in free fall, and with candidates of such high caliber, it's a very real possibility."

Congressional candidates from New York to California and all points in between are revved up and raring to go.

Victory in Ohio builds momentum for November
Ohio's status as a presidential battleground state has drawn the attention of political pundits who view the 2006 election as a harbinger for 2008. Republicans hoping to keep this state red are beset by problems both political and ethical, problems that place Ohio at the epicenter of GOP corruption outside the Beltway.

This is clearly a moment of opportunity for Democrats, who got a major boost May 2 with the nomination of Betty Sutton in the state's 13th district. A labor lawyer and former legislator, Sutton came in first in a field of eight with 31 percent. Her opponents for this open seat included a former member of Congress and a shopping mall heiress who spent nearly $2 million of her own money. Sutton's victory dims Republican hopes of taking over this Democratic seat in November, as she was widely viewed as the strongest Democrat.

This open seat is still on the GOP radar screen, however. "Their nominee is a strong fundraiser with proven bipartisan appeal," says Martha McKenna, EMILY's List's director of campaign services. "But we could not ask for a better candidate than Betty Sutton."

In Ohio's 15th district, Rep. Deborah Pryce, the highest ranking woman in the GOP House leadership, faces EMILY's List candidate Mary Jo Kilroy in what many view as the toughest challenge of Pryce's career.

A practicing attorney, Kilroy is a member of the Franklin County Commission and a former member of the Columbus School Board. She has a long record of upholding progressive values and longstanding support from reproductive rights advocates.

"Kilroy's campaign has put this seat in play for Democrats," says McKenna. "She's running a top notch campaign. But Pryce is a rarity for Republicans: a woman in the GOP leadership. They will go to the mat to help her keep her seat."

Opportunity in New Jersey
Remarkably, New Jersey has not sent a pro-choice Democratic woman to Congress in over 25 years. That could change in 2006, now that Assemblywoman Linda Stender is challenging right-wing Republican Mike Ferguson in the seventh district.

Stender is another candidate whose strength puts an otherwise safe GOP seat in play for Democrats. A former mayor of Fanwood, she served on the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders for seven years before winning a seat in the Assembly in 2001. During years of public service, Stender has led fights to preserve open spaces, reduce access to ingredients used to make methamphetamine, and crack down on human trafficking.

Republicans in this district are decidedly more moderate than Ferguson, who is among the biggest recipients of campaign cash from Tom DeLay ($54,000 and counting). Ferguson opposes embryonic stem cell research and supports amending the Constitution to ban all abortions, without exceptions from victims of rape or incest.

National Democrats are excited about Stender’s chances of defeating the far-right Ferguson — as is EMILY’s List. "Linda Stender’s strength makes this a race to watch," says McKenna.

Opening in New York
Rep. John Sweeney (NY-20) went to Congress in 1999 as a moderate Republican. But somewhere along the way a new Sweeney took over — one who has stuck with Bush 80 percent of the time since 2001. Sweeney has voted in lockstep with Republicans to cut student loans; loosen regulations protecting workers, the environment, and consumers; and ban late-term abortions with no exception for a woman’s health.

In 2006, Sweeney faces the first serious challenge of his career from attorney Kirsten Gillibrand, who has deep roots in this Albany-based district. Gillibrand serves on the board of the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee and is founder and chair of the Women’s Leadership Forum Network.

Like many House Republicans, Sweeney has used his power for personal gain. He has taken more money from special interests than any other of New York’s 29 congressional representatives. Last winter he held a fundraiser at a ski resort in Park City, Utah, in the company of several lobbyists, a trip local newspaper editors labeled "grotesque." Sweeney has even put his wife on the payroll; she earns 10 percent of every dollar raised for his campaign, though she has no other clients or fundraising experience.

Gillibrand’s aggressive campaign has thrown Sweeney off stride, and national Republicans are rallying to help him withstand her challenge. She has raised more money than Sweeney’s three last challengers combined.

"Kirsten Gillibrand is a rising star running a great campaign," says McKenna. "But Sweeney’s seat on the House Appropriations Committee means he can count on funding from special interests eager to keep him in the House."

Doing the impossible — round two!

EMILY's List is extremely proud of Betty Sutton's recent primary win in Ohio's 13th congressional district, but we're not wasting any time running victory laps. Instead, we have another imminent opportunity for victory in California, where Francine Busby can win a June 6 special election runoff to the U.S. House. Recent polling data in California and the political situation on the ground shows a real opportunity for Francine Busby to take back a Republican seat.

In normal times, this would be a solidly Republican House district. But these are not normal times. Republican failures — Iraq, skyrocketing gas prices, ballooning deficits — and Republican corruption are horrifying independent and even conservative Republican voters. And Busby's seat is just one example. Opportunities like this are opening up across the country.

EMILY's List must convince voters to say "NO!" to failed Republican leadership and send candidates like Francine Busby to Congress. A powerful WOMEN VOTE! project can help Democrats take this and other Republican House seats.

Democrats can take back the House — but only if we jump on every opportunity. If we can win in Ohio — ground zero in the battle for control of the U.S. House — we can parlay this exciting political opportunity in California into countless victories to come.

Coming together for change

It's difficult to pinpoint the highlights from this year's 15th annual Majority Council Conference on May 11 and 12, because there were so many! Nearly 250 members from across the country came together for an informative and inspiring two days. Each and every pro-choice Democratic woman candidate, either in the spotlight or in the crowd, showed us why we are so proud to help her win.

With expertise, humor, and enthusiasm, EMILY's List political staff and renowned Democratic party leaders and pollsters outlined plans to take back control of our government — by recruiting and training outstanding candidates; by identifying and persuading women voters; and by working together as a progressive force for political change. This year's conference was held in conjunction with "Change," our Washington, D.C., luncheon with more than 1,100 members from the across the country. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama headlined the event. His remarks were a rousing call to arms, and a touching reminder of why we are doing everything we can to make a difference by electing pro-choice Democratic women. Click here to read more about Sen. Obama's address.

Majority Council members left the conference energized and mobilized. Voters are ready for change, but we have to make sure they go to the polls for our outstanding candidates!