Liberal groups add to 2018 political campaign targets

July 27, 2017

The Washington Post: Liberal groups add to 2018 political campaign targets

by David Weigel

Emily’s List, the political group that works to elect pro-abortion-rights female Democrats, is launching an ambitious new program to put at least 50 House and Senate Republicans “On Notice” for 2018. It’s the latest in a series of commitments by Democrats and outside groups designed to widen the playing field for the midterms, despite consistent Republican fundraising and Democratic losses in closely-watched special House races.

“This is a targeted opposition program,” said Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock. “This group of Republicans has been particularly bad at supporting women and their families, not least with votes to defund Planned Parenthood.”

The first 50 targets of the program — aggressive messaging meant to encourage candidates, activists and media in the district — include each Republican in a seat Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won last year, and a few in what seemed to be safe seats. The Montana-born Schriock has included Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) on the list, despite his special-election victory; other targets include Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), who were seen to be secure in gerrymandered districts.

“This is a result of the wave of interest by women in running for office,” Schriock said. “In all of these seats, we’re going to have strong women candidates. They’re going to have the resources that we know can make a difference.”

Schriock couldn’t say how much money that meant, though she pointed out that Emily’s List spent a record $36 million in 2016 through its PAC.

The backlash to President Trump’s administration has sparked unprecedented candidate interest in both swing and seemingly out-of-reach seats; there are more Democratic challengers running now than in the last three cycles combined. Emily’s List is one of several groups playing early in House races as two factors converge — a surge of competitive campaigns and worry that strong candidates will be bloodied by primaries.

Some Democratic-aligned efforts, such as “On Notice,” are trying to build tools that can work for whomever emerges from primaries. SwingLeft, a resistance-born project to fund challengers in swing seats (and defend Democratic incumbents), launched a “leader board” this week on which donors can watch their money grow the victory accounts in various districts, money earmarked for whomever becomes the nominee.