• Press Release

Turning the Wave into a Sea Change: EMILYs List Impact in 2020

November 2, 2020

To: Interested Parties

Fr: Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILYs List

Date: 10/30/20

Re: Turning the Wave into a Sea Change: EMILYs List Impact in 2020

As we come to what we hope is the end of the Trump era, one thing is clear: women have led the resistance to Trump in nearly every way. It started with the millions of us who marched around the world on the day after Trump’s inauguration and has continued through the 60,000 women who have reached out to EMILYs List hoping to run for office, the women who have led the activist movements, the women who have been elected, the women leaders who have held Trump accountable, and the women voters who are ready to vote him out. And as the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, EMILYs List is proud to be a driver of the women who are changing our government and our society every day.

After a record-setting “pink wave” in 2018, EMILYs List set out this cycle to continue the explosive growth of women’s leadership in politics. While the cycle has brought on many unimaginable and unpredictable events, from a global pandemic to an economic crisis to a reckoning over systemic racism, EMILYs List women have continued to prove time and again that women are leading the Resistance and providing the kind of leadership we’ve lacked from the White House. We’ve watched, particularly in the last year, as women in executive roles around the country showed us what steady, effective leadership looked like, from governors like Michelle Lujan Grisham, Gretchen Whitmer, and Janet Mills and mayors like Muriel Bowser and Keisha Lance Bottoms, who took swift action on COVID-19, to women mayors in major Arizona cities pushing their governor on mask mandates, to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who passed a COVID relief bill in May and has worked to keep the pressure on the Senate and the White House. In short, they’ve helped prove why we’re here and why the work of electing pro-choice Democratic women is more vital than ever.

At EMILYs List, we have worked to meet this moment and provide the help women around the country need to run and win. This cycle, EMILYs List raised $110 million and spent $112 million, including more than $48 million in independent expenditures, in an effort to elect groundbreaking women in races across the country and up and down the ballot. We have bundled $13 million for our candidates, and donated $6.85 million directly to their campaigns and allied parties. These are all record amounts that surpassed previous highs from 2018. In our 35th year, we continue to grow and innovate, expanding our services for candidates, adapting our training operation to address the needs of virtual campaigning, and launching a first-ever VP defense effort. 

No matter what kind of wave we see on Election Day, EMILYs List is working to ensure that women see more than a temporary boost. We are here to create a sea change for women in office. Here’s a look at just how we’re going to do it:

Presidential ticket: Breaking a Glass Ceiling with a Groundbreaking Woman

A record-breaking number of women ran for president this cycle, allowing voters to see women not just as niche candidates or occupying one specific lane, but as competitors across the ideological spectrum, running great campaigns and advocating for all of us. Though they weren’t ultimately successful in this crowded and competitive primary, we were proud to honor Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren with our We Are EMILY award, honoring their leadership, their campaigns, and the ways in which they set an example for women and girls everywhere.

Following the primary, Vice President Biden made a phenomenal and exciting choice as his running mate in Kamala Harris. EMILYs List has been proud to stand with Harris in local, state, and federal campaigns, and we were thrilled to make her our first-ever vice presidential endorsement. In her personal capacity, Stephanie Schriock has signed onto the We Have Her Back effort to call out sexism and racism in the media coverage of Senator Harris, as well as Vote for Her.

Through EMILYs List’s Women Vote program, we have joined with Ultraviolet, Higher Heights, Color of Change, and a number of other allies on a campaign to educate the media and voters on racist and sexist coverage and disinformation. We have also joined with BlackPAC, PACRONYM, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund in a $10 million campaign, with a $5.5 million investment from EMILYs List, to lift awareness of Senator Harris’ record and defend her against attacks. We also designed a multi-million-dollar, research-driven GOTV mail campaign aimed at turning out low-propensity Democratic women voters in key battleground states, including North Carolina and Florida.  

Senate: Supporting the Women Who Can Flip the Senate 

From the confirmation of yet another Trump Supreme Court justice to the hundreds of bills passed by the House that Mitch McConnell has simply refused to address, it has never been more important to flip the Senate, and EMILYs List candidates are a key part of that effort. 

Last cycle, EMILYs List women flipped enough red seats to flip the House on their own. EMILYs List endorsed candidates could do the same this cycle in the Senate. While early race ratings counted only one of our races in the most likely flips, the strength of our candidates, their strong campaigns and fundraising, and our investments have helped move the Iowa Senate race into a toss-up, and have pushed two more races inside the margin of error. 

EMILYs List has spent $18.5 million in independent expenditures on behalf of our Senate candidates and bundled $5.1 million for our Senate candidates. Here are some details on our most competitive races:

  • MAINE: Maine has been one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country. Susan Collins' failure to stand up to President Trump and Republican efforts to restrict reproductive freedom has made it clear to Mainers that Susan Collins is not the moderate she used to be. We have known Sara Gideon for years now and were proud to help recruit her into this race. Sara Gideon has run a strong campaign, traveling extensively around the state and touting her bipartisan track record of working across the aisle to protect people with preexisting conditions and lower the cost of prescription drugs. Contrasting that with Collins' all talk and no action in Washington has put Collins in the political race of her life. 
  • IOWA: Though Iowa was considered a longshot for Democrats at the beginning of this cycle, Theresa Greenfield has made this one of the most competitive races in the country. After promising to make Washington “squeal,” Joni Ernst went to Washington and became a part of the problem. From her numerous campaign finance scandals to her gaffe about the price of soybeans, it's clear that Joni Ernst isn't looking out for anyone but herself. On the other hand, Theresa Greenfield is a scrappy farm kid who struggled as a single mom after the death of her first husband and worked her way up to become a successful businesswoman. She understands the struggles of Iowans and has made it clear she'll fight for them.
  • KANSAS:  Republicans have gone from certain Democrats would never compete here, to certain they'd nominated a candidate to take the race off the board, to spending more than $20 million in outside money just to stay within the margin of error against EMILY's List-supported Dr. Barbara Bollier.  Kansans are responding to Barbara's bipartisan message — she's been endorsed by over 100 Republican elected officials — and focus on health care and protecting insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions. We are proud to have started the spending in this race, realizing early that this flip seat is in play.
  • TEXAS: MJ Hegar is holding Senator Cornyn to an even lower polling performance so far in 2020 than Ted Cruz turned in in 2018 when he barely escaped, and Texas is poised for both record-breaking turnout and the best Democratic presidential performance since Jimmy Carter carried it in 1976.  MJ's record as a war hero and a working mom resonates with the voters that will be decisive here, and Senator Cornyn is struggling to paper over his record as “top salesman” for doing away with protections for preexisting conditions.

House: Protecting Incumbents, Building the Lead, More Women than Ever. 

At the start of the cycle, our top priority in the House was protecting the women who flipped red seats—sometimes in some very Republican areas—last cycle. We created an incumbent protection effort to help shore up our freshman incumbents in the toughest seats, working with them to raise money, hire staff, and build budgets. Through their hard work in the House and on the campaign trail, they are in better shape than anyone imagined in early 2019, despite running in districts that President Trump carried in 2016, some by double digits.

As a result, we have been able to focus on expanding the majority and getting to a new goal of a record 100 Democratic women in the House and the most diverse class in Congressional history. Yet again, the 68 endorsed EMILYs List women bring unique experiences and qualifications to their campaigns. Our candidates have been ER doctors (Hiral Tipirneni, AZ-06), scientists (Nancy Goroff, NY-01), budget experts (Carolyn Bourdeaux, GA-07), and military veterans (Jackie Gordon, NY-02; Gina Ortiz Jones, TX-23; Pam Keith, FL-18, Hillary O’Connor Mueri, OH-14). They have served on the school board, in state legislatures, and on the state Supreme Court.

They’ve also lived experiences that will allow them to better understand and represent their constituents, from surviving cancer and other health issues, living through homelessness, being a single mom. They’ve been caregivers for their families, paid student loans, and struggled to pay for health care and child care. They understand what so many of the voters in their districts deal with every day, and they are running campaigns that address those issues.

Over the course of this cycle, our candidates have built increasingly strong campaigns capable of flipping seats. Though many are first-time House candidates, through their hard work and our training, many of our challengers have outraised their opponents. And our candidates now make up 76 percent of the DCCC’s Red to Blue list of the most competitive seats. The race raters agree, moving the following candidates to toss-up or better ratings as the campaign ends: Hiral Tipirneni (AZ-06), Christy Smith (CA-25), Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07), Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (IL-13), Christina Hale (IN-05), Hillary Scholten (MI-03), Jill Schupp (MO-02), Kara Eastman (NE-02), Amy Kennedy (NJ-02), Jackie Gordon (NY-02), Dana Balter (NY-24), Kate Schroder (OH-01), Wendy Davis, (TX-21), Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23), Candace Valenzuela (TX-24)–and that doesn’t include Deb Ross and Kathy Manning, who will flip seats in two newly drawn districts in North Carolina.

In addition to running $18.3 million in independent expenditure campaigns for 45 of our endorsed women, we bundled $7.5 million from our members for our House candidates.

Building on Our Success in Governor’s Mansions:

As the Trump administration fully bungled the COVID-19 response, from the president spewing conspiracy theories to their failure to get families and communities much-needed relief, governors have stepped up and led us through these unprecedented times. Women like Gretchen Whitmer and Michelle Lujan Grisham aren’t just leading, they’re succeeding—studies show that states with women governors had fewer COVID-19 deaths in the spring. 

This year we have another pickup opportunity in Missouri with State Auditor Nicole Galloway. As the state’s watchdog, Galloway has uncovered more than $350 million of government corruption, fraud, and waste and has brought more than 60 criminal counts against corrupt public officials from both political parties. Health care is a top issue in the state, and Missourians just voted to expand Medicaid over the summer. While Governor Parson is running on a record of denying health care to Missouri families, downplaying the risks of COVID-19, and suggesting kids should go to school and contract the virus, Galloway has made expanding access to affordable health care one of her top priorities. 

State and Local Races: 

Democrats started the Trump era at a massive disadvantage to Republicans in state legislatures. We already knew the importance of winning state legislative seats to ensure fair maps during the 2021 redistricting process, but the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court made even more clear how vital it is to control these legislatures in order to safeguard our fundamental rights. That’s why EMILYs List has made an unprecedented investment in our state and local program for the 2019-2020 cycle. We have quadrupled the size of our team since the end of 2016 in order to recruit candidates and offer services and training to even more candidates, and that effort has already paid off: Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Democrats have worked to flip more than 450 seats and 10 chambers from red to blue, and EMILYs List women have been a vital part of that effort. 

We have endorsed more than 700 candidates this cycle, with 555 women on the ballot this Election Day. Those women are running in vital down-ballot statewide races like lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and more, jobs that play important roles in people’s lives and create a pipeline for national leaders. After successfully flipping the Virginia General Assembly to Democratic control in 2019, our legislative focus in 2020 has been on several states in which we have the opportunity to flip one or more legislative bodies. We’ve already seen in states like Virginia that Democratic control can mean expanding health care, better funding for education, and protection of reproductive freedom and civil rights. Our state flip targets include:

  • Arizona House and Senate
  • Florida Senate
  • Iowa House
  • Michigan House
  • Minnesota Senate
  • North Carolina House and Senate
  • Pennsylvania House and Senate
  • Texas House

We’ve made historic financial investments in these states, and believe our women can deliver the majority in a number of these chambers. This cycle, our state and local team is also focused on breaking the Republican supermajority in the Kansas Legislature, securing a pro-choice majority in the New Mexico state Senate, and protecting the Democratic majority in states like New Hampshire and Nevada, which remains the country’s first and only woman majority legislature. Overall, EMILYs List has hosted 12 fundraisers in 6 states, collectively raising more than $175,000 for our endorsed candidates. 

Investing in Primaries to Ensure the Best Candidates:

Electing more pro-choice Democratic women means investing in primaries. While we are proud to be a major part of flipping Republican seats, we are also focused on building a more diverse Democratic delegation who will better protect our rights. And winning any of these elections means winning the primaries first. This cycle, we have invested heavily in races against anti-choice Democratic incumbents in IL-03, where Marie Newman defeated conservative Rep. Dan Lipinski in her second run, and in TX-28, where Jessica Cisneros ran a great campaign in a close race. On the state legislative side, EMILYs List also endorsed three women who beat anti-choice Democratic incumbents in their primaries for the New Mexico state Senate, which is poised to finally have a pro-choice Democratic majority. 

EMILYs List also spent in open seat primaries, helping Teresa Leger Fernandez in her race for the open seat in New Mexico, which could become the largest all-women-of-color delegation ever in the House. We also invested in ensuring the best candidates with the clearest path to victory won in primaries for competitive flip seats, such as Candace Valenzuela in TX-24, where EMILYs List spent early and during the runoff to ensure victory of a candidate who would make the seat more winnable. 

Working for Diversity in Elected Office

At a time when our country grapples with systemic racism in many of our systems, EMILYs List continues to work to build diversity and better representation in our government. One of our goals is to help level the playing field for candidates who have for years suffered from a lack of representation in office or support from the establishment. We have partnered with allied organizations on trainings and recruitment outreach in order to lift up more diverse women. This cycle, 32 percent of our federal candidates were women of color, and 30 percent of our state and local candidates were women of color. Our spending and raising this cycle has also reflected our work in building diversity, with 45 percent of our IE spending and 39 percent of our money bundled going to women of color. 

Many of our candidates across the country will be firsts for their district or their community. While we always want to celebrate our women who break new ground and do something no one like them has ever done, we are still driven to work harder knowing how many roles that women, and particularly women of color and LGBTQ+ women, have never held. Below is a list of some of the women on the ballot who will be firsts, if elected:

  • Kamala Harris: first woman, first Black woman, first Indian-American woman, and first HBCU alum elected vice president
  • Barbara Bollier: first woman doctor in the Senate, first Democratic woman elected to the Senate from Kansas
  • Paulette Jordan: first Native American woman elected to the Senate
  • Gina Ortiz Jones: first Filipina-American in Congress
  • Candace Valenzuela: first Afro-Latina in Congress
  • Anna Tovar: first Latina elected statewide in Arizona
  • Yvonne Lewis Holley and Jessica Holmes: first Black women elected statewide in North Carolina
  • Jenna Wadsworth: first openly LGBTQ+ candidate elected statewide in North Carolina
  • Nina Ahmad: first woman of color elected statewide in Pennsylvania
  • Daniella Levine Cava: first woman mayor of Miami-Dade County in Florida
  • Farrah Khan: first woman of color mayor in Irvine, CaliforniaCA 
  • Naquetta Ricks: first Liberian-American state legislator in the country
  • Janet Diaz: first Latina elected to the Pennsylvania state Senate
  • Sarah McBride: first openly transgender state senator in the country

Expanding Staff and Services for Candidates

One of the most exciting challenges at EMILYs List in the last four years has been figuring out how best to manage the exponential growth of women running for office. Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, more than 60,000 women have reached out looking for help, mostly at thea local level. For those women starting their electoral process, we have expanded our training services to include an online training center, more webinars, and online training opportunities–all efforts that became increasingly important as we had to shift away from in-person trainings altogether due to COVID-19. Overall, we have now trained more than 10,000 women. We also created our Run to Win program, including a Facebook group where members can ask questions of staff and connect over campaign questions and concerns. That group recently welcomed its 10,000th member. We also created a pilot Fellows program to engage local activists considering running for office. Our first class included a diverse group of accomplished women from around the country who received coaching and training–we hope to see them on the ballot soon.

For our state and federal candidates, we have expanded our campaign services. While EMILYs List is known for our bundling, fundraising, and independent expenditures, we help our candidates from day one through Election Day, and we have expanded our staff significantly to do more of that work. From helping them build a staff and a budget, training that staff, prepping the candidates for debate and media, working with them on their digital efforts, and more, our campaigns, communications, and digital advisors provide value to our candidates throughout the election cycle. While expanding the team is a financial risk, particularly during a pandemic, we know that that risk allows us to be better partners with our campaigns and offer them as much help as possible.