Record numbers of women were elected to Congress last year, many of them Democrats bolstered by EMILY's List. Now, the Democratic women's group is turning its eye to executive positions ahead of the 2014 midterms, hoping to expand the thin ranks of Democratic women governors.
Congress will remain a priority for the group, which recruits pro-choice Democratic women to run for office and supports them with campaign assistance, bundled donations from a two-million-strong member list, and independent TV and mail ads. But there is just one Democratic woman governor in office right now -- Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire -- and EMILY's List president Stephanie Schriock said in an interview that the group is looking forward to rectifying that in 2014.
"We're talking to women in 15 different states," Schriock said. "Will all 15 run? Probably not. But I'm confident that we'll see a good number of them step up."
Numerous high-profile Democratic women are already laying the groundwork for 2014 gubernatorial runs, whether against Republicans or fellow Democrats. Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz has said she is interested in running against GOP Gov. Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania. In Illinois, Attorney General Lisa Madigan is reportedly "very close" to deciding to run (against unpopular Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn) there, while Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is mulling a primary challenge against Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (or a Senate bid).
Schriock mentioned Rhode Island -- "Gina Raimondo is going to jump in and run, that's another exciting one," she said -- where independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee is a vulnerable incumbent; Raimondo, the general treasurer, has positive approval ratings. Schriock also said she hoped that women candidates would jump to the fore in Maine and Florida, among many states.
Though congressional Democrats make sure issues like the long-stalled Violence Against Women Act become national stories, the main events in Democrats' "war on women" narrative the past two years have come from state governments helmed by Republican governors. Schriock said women gubernatorial candidates will be particularly well-equipped to take advantage this cycle. For various reasons, not least the 2010 Republican wave, the number of Democratic women governors has dwindled to one as the number of Democratic women legislators has risen, both in Congress and at the state level. There are 58 female Democratic House members and over 1,100 Democratic women in state legislatures across the country, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Many were elected with EMILY's List's support.
EMILY's List founder Ellen Malcolm called the group a "political venture capital fund," and it is looking forward to helping some of investments take the next step in their careers.
"Many of the women we've talked to about running for mayor and governor are women ... we've been working with in the pipeline" for a long time, Schriock said. Statewide candidates who win EMILY's List's endorsement are rarely getting the group's backing for the first time; among the PAC's biggest Senate wins in 2012 were candidates like Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., with whom EMILY's List had worked since Baldwin was running for the state legislature.
Before 2014 even rolls around, EMILY's List is looking to elect a few other women executives -- mayors -- in the nation's biggest cities. Neither New York City nor Los Angeles has ever elected a woman mayor, but Democrat (and EMILY's List endorsee) Christine Quinn is the early favorite in New York's mayoral race, and Schriock said her group is "excited" about Wendy Greuel advancing to the L.A. mayoral runoff. When asked about a timetable for endorsing Greuel, Schriock said, "I'm heading to L.A. this week, so you should stay tuned."
If Quinn and Greuel both succeed, three of the four biggest U.S. cities would have woman Democratic mayors by the end of the year -- if Houston Mayor Annise Parker wins reelection -- right as EMILY's List gets ready to make its big 2014 gubernatorial push.
One other 2013 race EMILY's List plans to contest is the New Jersey governor's race. EMILY's List has already endorsed New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono to oppose Gov. Chris Christie, who currently sports record-high approval ratings. Schriock conceded that beating Christie would be a "long shot," but she is clearly relishing the opportunity to beat up on him in the name of helping Buono. That could have a dual purpose when another major opportunity to elect a female executive rolls around. Christie is considered a potential GOP presidential contender in 2016, and EMILY's List hopes to have a presidential candidate to support in that open race -- perhaps Hillary Clinton, whom the group endorsed in 2008.
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