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EMILY’s List ‘hyper-focused’ on Senate elections in 2020

Roll Call: EMILY’s List ‘hyper-focused’ on Senate elections in 2020

By Bridget Bowman

While the presidential race will dominate the 2020 cycle, EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock is imploring Democratic voters to recognize the importance of flipping the Senate, especially because of its role in confirming Supreme Court justices.

If President Trump wins reelection in 2020 and Republicans maintain control of the Senate, Schriock predicted a “massive fight” over the next Supreme Court vacancy.  A vacancy could further shift the ideological balance of the court, which has influence over issues including abortion, a core issue for EMILY’s List. 

“We think the best way to prevent that scenario is to make sure that that Senate is in Democratic hands no matter what happens in the White House,” Schriock said Thursday in an interview for the C-SPAN program “Newsmakers” scheduled to run this weekend. “So we are so hyper-focused on winning that United States Senate.”

She said voters who care about the courts should not wait.

“The fight’s now. The fight isn’t when there’s an opening,” Schriock said. “The fight is right now in 2020 and we’ve got to win as Democrats if we want to see a strong, fair justice sitting on that court. I don’t know what else to tell folks.”

Democrats need a net gain of three or four seats to flip the Senate, depending on whether a Democrat wins the White House, since the vice president casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate.

EMILY’s List, which backs Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights, has endorsed three Democrats looking to flip Republican Senate seats in 2020: Sara Gideon in Maine, Theresa Greenfield in Iowa and Barbara Bollier in Kansas. Schriock also said if the crowded Texas Senate primary continues to a runoff featuring one man and one woman, EMILY’s List would back the female candidate.

But in some of Democrats’ best Senate pickup opportunities, such as Arizona, North Carolina and Colorado, the top Democratic candidates are men. 

“There are some good Democratic men out there,” Schriock said with a laugh. She said EMILY’s List had a “soft spot” for Mark Kelly, the Democrat running against GOP Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona, given that he is married to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Women running ‘next time’

Schriock said EMILY’s List had been talking to women about running for Senate in Colorado and North Carolina, but they were not ready to launch Senate campaigns. 

“In states like all three of those, we’ll have the candidates next time,” Schriock said, noting women are continuing to run for lower-level offices.

But EMILY’s List has not backed every Democratic woman running for Senate. Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, has not sought the group’s endorsement, Schriock confirmed Thursday. McGrath also did not seek the group’s backing in her unsuccessful 2018 House race. 

“On occasion, and it is a rare occasion, a candidate feels that she may either not be tied to a national organization or has a different campaign strategy that she wants to execute,” Schriock said. “And I think that’s probably the case here.”

Aside from Maine and Colorado, where GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Cory Gardner are running for reelection in states Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, the rest of the Democratic Senate targets are in states that President Trump won. But Schriock dismissed the notion that a liberal Democratic nominee could complicate down-ballot races in Republican-leaning states. 

“I do believe that whoever the nominee is on the Democratic side is going to pull together the winning coalition that we need because this is about Donald Trump and the direction he’s taking the country and it is a dangerous direction,” Schriock said. 

EMILY’s List has so far not taken sides in the crowded presidential race with several women initially running. The field has since narrowed, with three women remaining: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. 

Watching Iowa

Schriock said if the presidential field narrowed to one woman candidate, the group would endorse that candidate. She said EMILY’s List had “long, existing relationships” with both Warren and Klobuchar and could not choose between the two. 

Asked if the group was running out of time to weigh in with early state contests starting next week Schriock said, “We haven’t even started.”

“We’re going to watch, and watch this Iowa caucus, very, very closely and make [an] assessment following that and try to figure out what the best path is to ensuring we get a woman to the top of the ticket,” Schriock said.

If the eventual nominee is not a woman, Schriock said the group will work to ensure a woman is chosen as the vice presidential nominee.

“The party is really driven by women and we believe that is how we are going to win this presidential election,” Schriock said.