• Press Release

Stephanie Schriock Speaks at the National Press Club

September 18, 2018

This afternoon, EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock delivered the following speech at the National Press Club. The text, as prepared for delivery, is below:

“There’s more to the story of 2018”

Thank you for inviting me here to the National Press Club. At a time when the press is under fire every day, I’m grateful to have a chance to speak to you and would like to start by thanking you for the work you do to bring the truth to the public every day.

I know your job isn’t easy. There is so much unbelievable, unprecedented news (and drama) coming out of Washington these days, I know it must be nearly impossible to figure out. I also know the days of a set news cycle are over. We are in a constantly evolving news environment that moves as fast as the speed of tweets.

But today, I’d like to take a break from the tweets and Trump. Because the primaries are over. We’re fewer than 50 days out from the election. And some of the most important stories you’ll ever hear about this election year still either haven’t been told—or they’re getting lost in the shuffle.

I’ll be honest, this is sometimes hard to watch. With so much focus on the mess in the White House, we miss so much of what’s happening.

Most of the time, it feels like there’s only one story about this year in Democratic Party politics that ever really breaks through, and it gets rehashed over and over again.

It’s the Dems in Disarray narrative.

It’s the theory that breaks the Democratic Party down into easily labeled divides:

The outsiders vs. the party establishment, the socialists vs. the centrists, the progressives vs. the moderates, the old vs. the new.

In this version of the story, the Democratic Party is at war with itself, deeply divided, and confused.

I am here to tell you that great divide is not a divide at all but a simple debate.

A debate that is not breaking the party apart, but making it stronger and more energized than it has been in a very long time.   

More importantly, there’s so much more to the story of 2018.

There’s an energy happening on the Democratic side that has the potential to fundamentally transform our system for the better.

The untold story of that energy and that excitement is what I’m here to tell you about today—because I don’t think any understanding of what’s happening in our democracy right now is complete without it.

And because I believe the “progressives vs. moderates” or the “establishment vs. upstarts” narrative is missing the forest for the trees.

Democrats are in the midst of some policy debates about how to best address the biggest issues facing this country, but whatever we decide, there’s really no comparison to the direction Republicans have driven their party.

In their primaries this cycle, Republicans keep reaching these forks in the road, where they have to decide what matters most to them. And their choice has been to move further and further away from values rooted in basic dignity and humanity every single time.

They are now openly embracing and capitulating to corrupt, racist forces to hold onto their power.

Across the river in Virginia, the Republicans just nominated a Confederate sympathizer for the U.S. Senate…

While an actual Neo-Nazi, multiple white supremacists, and candidates under criminal investigation are on the Republican ticket across the nation. 

I’ll take our policy debates—I’m proud of those conversations.

The GOP is facing a takeover by Trump-aligned forces. They’re abdicating their responsibilities and any pretense of reaching out to all Americans. They’re choosing the darkest path.

You can’t tell me there isn’t a lot of soul searching in the Reagan-Bush wing of the Republican leadership!

And yes, those are extreme examples, but wherever their candidates fall on the right-wing spectrum, there’s one thing the Republicans all agree on, and that’s their end goal:

Empowering and enriching the few at the expense of the many.

That’s what their values are rooted in. That’s the vision their candidates all share.

And this is how they work to make that vision a reality: By electing people to maintain their power by stripping our power away…through corporate tax cuts, dismantling health care, diminished voting rights…the list goes on and on.

And those values, that vision, and their candidates couldn’t be more different from ours.

This isn’t what you’re used to hearing, but if you zoom out just a little, Democrats really are united around these fundamental values:

We all believe everyone must have access to health care…

We believe in keeping families together…

We believe all Americans deserve equal rights and equal opportunities and a chance to earn a living for themselves…

We believe in more people voting, not fewer…

In power that belongs to the people and in our voices being heard…

And we know and understand that this is the time to stand up and take that power back, because if we wait, it will be too late.

The unity around those ideas—especially among Democratic women—is the tide that’s been lifting all boats since the 2016 election:

It’s the reason the energy we saw at the Women’s March the day after the Inauguration turned into electoral wins—In 2017 in Virginia, where our candidate Danica Roem became the first openly transgender woman ever elected to a state legislature…

Where we elected women like Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman and Kathy Tran…

And where Jennifer Carroll Foy—who was put on bedrest right before her election and gave birth to twins right after—then won her recount.

It’s the reason African American women in Alabama decided the special Senate election for Doug Jones, defeating a serial sexual predator expected to win a “safe” Republican seat…

And throughout this primary season, it’s the reason this newly energized electorate looked so different from what we’re used to seeing—and why our general election candidates do too.

Did you know that in Texas, 25 percent of people who turned out to vote in this year’s primary election had never voted in a primary before, while half had never voted in a midterm election?

Or that nearly twice as many Texans voted in this year’s primary as in the 2014 midterm election?

In Georgia, where Stacey Abrams is running her game-changing campaign, 34,700 African American voters—more than 10,000 of whom registered after the 2016 election—voted in a primary for the very first time.

And in my home state of Montana, primary voter turnout was higher than it’s been in more than 20 years.

More than a quarter century has passed since Virginia last elected a Democratic woman to Congress.

This year, in every Virginia House primary race where a Democratic woman ran, a Democratic woman won.

In Pennsylvania—which currently has an all-male congressional delegation—there are eight women running for Congress on this year’s general election ballot.

The state of Nevada is now well on its way to having the first majority-women legislature.

And across the country, historic numbers of women are running for office up and down the ballot.

At EMILYs List, we’ve now heard from more than 40,000 women and counting—starting from the day after the 2016 election—from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. who want to run now and in the future.

Something big is happening.

To really put this in context and start to understand what it might mean going forward, it’s important to remember:

Our country didn’t get here overnight. 

The Republican Party didn’t go from zero to Donald Trump.

What’s happening now was a long time coming.

The groundwork for all of this was laid, over decades, by the Heritage Foundation, and the Moral Majority, and the Tea Party…

And by Republican donors like the Koch Brothers and the DeVoses, who spent years investing in state legislatures and elevating conservative judges; in redrawing electoral maps and creating what has become a command and control structure, where a couple of billionaires say, “This is what we’re going to do,” and everyone else says, “Ok.”

What we are building today is the antidote to all of that.

And because it is powered by people instead of just money – it is building fast.

We talk a lot about the importance of winning majorities at the state legislative level—and that’s because the work we do there is so very critical to driving progress on multiple fronts.

First, because winning Democratic majorities while getting closer to parity is the only way to get better policies, at every level of our government—and because we make progress just by making gains.

I mentioned our wins in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, where EMILYs List women were 11 of the 15 pickups. Well, Democrats didn’t win the House majority there. We came up one seat short by drawing a name from a bowl to break a tie. But Medicaid expansion passed anyway.

That really shows you how everything counts. Because with every person who votes, every woman who runs, and every seat we flip, some amount of progress is made. And when we win in large numbers, we see transformation.

So far this cycle, EMILYs List has endorsed over 429 candidates running for state and local office, which is a record for us. That number includes candidates we endorsed in special elections and elections held in 2017, as well as more than 300 women who will be on the ballot this November.

This year, the U.S. is poised to see the biggest ever increase in women state lawmakers across the country—from just under 26 percent to potentially as high as 38 percent.

Second, this work is building our candidate pipeline for the future.

The 40,000+ women are our next several decades’-worth of candidates. 

I know there are future members of Congress, future senators, future governors, and yes—future presidents—among them.

And for a lot of them, this will start the day they attend an EMILYs List training for the very first time—just like over 5,000 have done in the last 18 months.

Finally, this work matters for redistricting, because when we win Democratic legislative majorities, we draw fairer lines—ensuring more voices get heard.

All of the people stepping into this process, using their voices, taking action, voting, and supporting candidates for the very first time are just getting started—think about the impact they can have over time, with Democratic legislatures backing them up.

We’re in the beginning stages of a transformation that starts with this election year.

And when people look back to this moment in time to see where this started—how we started building something new in the middle of everything else going on—this is what they’ll see:

They’ll see MJ Hegar, running for Congress in Texas' 31st. They’ll see her tattoos, covering the scars where she was shot in Afghanistan—and hear her telling her story of all of the doors that were closed to her before she made her decision to run. (If you haven’t heard her tell this story already, you should Google it.)

They’ll see Sharice Davids in Kansas' 3rd, the daughter of an Army veteran, a member of Ho-Chunk nation, and a professional mixed martial arts fighter, taking on one of her toughest fights to date, to get elected to Congress, where no Native American woman has ever served—and they’ll see Deb Haaland in New Mexico’s 1st – a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe—making history with her.

They’ll see Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico's 2nd, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to work the fields. She now works with farmers on water rights in the same border community where she grew up.

They’ll also see what the other side was doing. They’ll see Republicans in Congress trying to take away our health care—and women telling their stories to stop them.

Including Betsy Rader in Ohio’s 14th, who’s lived most of her life with a pre-existing condition after she was a hit by a car as a little girl, riding her bike…

…and Cindy Axne in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, who sold her possessions on eBay because she couldn’t get affordable maternity care.

Lauren Underwood in Illinois’ 14th, a registered nurse with her own pre-existing condition, surprised herself when she decided to run to save access to health care for everyone.

Every one of these women made the decision to run, knowing it wouldn’t be easy, knowing they couldn’t afford to wait.

Right now, Abby Finkenauer is running in Iowa’s 1st while she pays back student loans.

Veronica Escobar is reheating frozen meals she made ahead in her El Paso kitchen in Texas' 16th.

Gina Ortiz Jones is living off her savings, while living back at home with her mom in Texas’ 23rd.

When we look back at the progress we made at this time in our history, these are the stories we’ll see.

These are the women people will look to, to see what they did and how they did it, in spite of some pretty incredible odds.

I gave you just a few examples of women who  with the help of EMILYs List.

But every one of our candidates has her own story to tell—and no two stories are exactly alike.

After more than 30 years of doing this work, we know that no two winning campaigns are either.

This is why we don’t do generic, pre-packaged talking points.

It’s how we know the “one-size-fits-all” approach isn’t going to work.

This isn’t about a slogan. 

Our candidates are diverse like our country—and they win because each of those candidates meet the voters where they are, connecting with their own individual stories.

That is essential, because this work is about more than just this year.

It’s about more than winning legislative seats and electing women governors.

This work that we are doing is about electing women who can take us somewhere we’ve never been before as a nation—women with the new ideas, perspectives, vision, and voices to take a country that was already great, and make it even better.

So, this is my ask for you:

Look closely at what these women are doing and at what they’ve already done.

Get to know—and then tell—their stories.

As much as anything else, they show us how far we’ve come, where we are and where we’re going as a nation.

Thank you