Will EMILY’s List Serve?
Democrat Running for Greenwood Seat Awaits Crucial Endorsement
With the issue of reproductive rights likely to play a defining role in Pennsylvania’s 8th district race, there is some grumbling in Democratic circles about the tepid interest that an influential abortion rights group has taken in the competitive open-seat contest.
Attorney Ginny Schrader (D) and Bucks County Commissioner Michael Fitzpatrick (R) are squaring off in the late-breaking race to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Greenwood (R), an outspoken advocate of abortion rights on Capitol Hill.
Schrader supports reproductive rights while Fitzpatrick opposes abortion in most cases.
But EMILY’s List, the organization that helps steer millions of dollars to Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights, is still mulling over whether to endorse Schrader’s bid.
“We are still sort of in the process of doing the assessment on that campaign,” said EMILY’s List spokeswoman Ramona Oliver, adding that the organization’s leaders are still getting the information they need to make a decision. “It takes a little bit of time but we are moving it forward. There’s a lot of thought and work that goes into making decisions about endorsements.”
While two other prominent national abortion rights groups — NARALPro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood — have already endorsed Schrader, the backing of EMILY’s List could provide a financial windfall for the Democratic underdog, who is faced with having to buy television ad time in the expensive Philadelphia market.
The 8th district is comprised almost entirely of Bucks County, but also includes small portions of Montgomery County and the city of Philadelphia. Greenwood has held the seat since 1992, but the district has voted Democratic in the past three presidential elections.
A Democratic poll taken at the end of August found that 54 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as favoring abortion rights.
An additional 28 percent said they would support the procedure in cases of rape, incest and if the life of the mother was endangered.
“I haven’t spoken to EMILY’s List directly but it certainly seems to me that this is a perfect race for them to target,” said Maggie Groff, project director for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Bucks County. “It seems to fit all of their criteria. Having this race be an open seat makes it a better target than many.”
Privately, some operatives grumble that the group may have already missed its best opportunity to aid Schrader, whose campaign basically began from scratch after Greenwood’s surprise retirement announcement in July.
Aside from providing financial support, EMILY’s List can also be instrumental in helping candidates to get a campaign infrastructure in place.
This cycle alone the group has helped Florida Senate nominee Betty Castor (D) and unsuccessful California House candidate Lisa Quigley (D)get their campaign operations up and running.
“It’s surprising they haven’t jumped to help Ginny Schrader in a seat where choice is the dominant issue,” said one Democratic strategist close to the Schrader campaign, “when candidates in states like Oklahoma and Kansas have gotten major support from them.”
Of the House candidates EMILY’s List is currently urging its members to support, at least two — challengers Diane Farrell in Connecticut’s 4th district and Nancy Boyda in Kansas’ 2nd district, who is not currently listed on the group’s Web site — are regarded as longer shots than Schrader.
EMILY’s List is already supporting two other women candidates in southeastern Pennsylvania.
The group played a major role in boosting state Sen. Allyson Schwartz’s (D) primary win in the open 13th district and it is also supporting attorney Lois Murphy (D), who is taking on Rep. Jim Gerlach(R) in the 6th district.
There are 88 Democratic women candidates running for House seats this fall, Oliver said, and only a select few have won the group’s endorsement.
“She looks like a very strong candidate,” Oliver said of Schrader. “This was a late-breaking race. We’re going to do a thorough job of assessing the race, but we’re going to move it forward.”
Schrader’s campaign, which has lagged behind Fitzpatrick in fundraising, could certainly use the boost.
“We’ve had an open line of communication and I’m confident that EMILY’s List feels good about our race,” said Schrader campaign manager Brian Smoot. “They’re looking at it and hopefully they can make a decision in a timely manner.”
Although most of EMILY’s List’s resources have already been allocated with just five weeks before Election Day, Schrader could still benefit from an appeal urging the group’s supporters to contribute to her campaign.
“We’re very well aware of where we are between the number of days standing between us and Nov. 2,” Oliver said.