EMILY’s List to Spend Big on Legislative Races in 2020

The group spent nearly $40 million in the 2018 midterm cycle for pro-choice candidates

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July 5, 2019

EMILY's List, one of the largest pro-choice political action committees in the country, announced its intentions to spend $20 million supporting and training female state legislative candidates in the 2020 election cycle in hopes of improving Democrats' control of the redistricting process.

The group, which spent nearly $40 million in the 2018 midterm cycle in favor of pro-choice candidates, said its Focus 2020 initiative "will focus on more than 20 states where reproductive freedom is under attack and state legislatures control redistricting."

"Over the past 10 years, Democrats have continued to lose power at the state legislative level due to Republicans' heavily gerrymandered state maps, and women and families are suffering the consequences," Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY's List, said on Tuesday.

"These state legislative battles are crucial in the fight to protect reproductive freedom and ensure that districts are truly representative of voters in each state," she added, noting the new initiative is the organization's "biggest-ever investment in state legislative work."

The eight-figure investment will be directed toward a variety of measures to assist candidates running in lower-tiered races including research, training, and direct contributions to candidates.

Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, heralded the organization’s announcement as "a huge effort to flip state legislatures red to blue."

EMILY's List said it will target Republican-held majorities in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin and look for opportunities in other states to support pro-choice female candidates.

Dave Abrams, a spokesman for the Republican State Leadership Committee, told the Free Beacon Republicans are prepared for the increased spending by liberal groups at the state level.

"Big-money, liberal groups are once again spending massive sums of money to force their harmful policies upon the very women and families they claim to support. Americans have repeatedly rejected their radical agenda of higher taxes, lower wages, and fewer choices in health care at the ballot box," Abrams said. "Republican leaders across the country, including hundreds of conservative women candidates, will be happy to remind them of why."

During the 2018 midterm cycle, the organization endorsed and supported over 500 women running for state legislative seats and other local down-ballot offices.

Since the 2018 midterms, Republican and Democratic-controlled state legislatures have seen an uptick in legislation addressing abortion-related issues. Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, and Kentucky all passed legislation limiting access to abortion with Alabama passing a near outright ban of abortion unless the woman's life is at risk. In more traditionally liberal states such as New York and Illinois, legislatures have moved to vastly expand abortion rights this year.

The announcement occurs as Democrats have attempted to make inroads in the nearly 1,000 state legislative seats they lost during President Obama's tenure in office. Near the end of his presidency, Obama, alongside his former attorney general Eric Holder, launched the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which focuses on electoral and legal opportunities to boost Democratic legislative and judicial candidates.

In a majority of states, legislators are tasked with redrawing congressional and their own legislative districts each decade following the nationwide census.

In 2010, Republicans flipped over 700 state legislative districts, giving Republicans complete control over the redistricting process in 20 states. Democrats have alleged Republicans unfairly drew districts to give themselves an electoral advantage throughout the past decade.

Their arguments eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which last week maintained the Court's reluctance to wade into decisions about what makes a district too partisan in favor of one party over the other.

"We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority opinion in the 5-4 case.

"Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions," Roberts added in the decision.

U.S. political parties have been accused of drawing districts to benefit themselves since the early 1800s, when Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry supported a map, featuring one district shaped like a salamander, that significantly favored his own political party.