Photo: top, left to right: Molly Donahue, Lindsay James, Ann Fields. Bottom, left to right: Lori Egan, Janice Weiner, Mary Stewart.
The influential pro-choice organization EMILY’s List is wading in to several state legislative primaries in Iowa. The national group announced this morning that they are endorsing six female candidates in local races:
Molly Donahue (HD-68)
Lori Egan (HD-56)
Ann Fields (HD-28)
Lindsay James (HD-99)
Mary Stewart (SD-41)
Janice Weiner (SD-37)
Each race involves a Democratic primary (see our posts on the House and Senate primaries). Some are in highly competitive races, while others face relatively easy paths to the party’s nomination. They stuck to only primaries where there is just one woman in the race, though they didn’t endorse in every single primary where there is one woman.
After Republicans passed the most restrictive abortion law in the entire country this session, national women’s groups will likely target the Iowa Legislature in a big way in 2018.
“Whether it’s passing the strictest anti-choice law in the nation or gutting access to affordable health care, Iowa Republicans have proven their top priority is dismantling the rights of women and families statewide,” said EMLIY’s List president Stephanie Schriock. “These six women are already using their voices to fight back and speak up for the needs of their communities. Electing pro-choice Democratic women to be at the table is crucial to ensuring Iowa voters finally have the voice they deserve.”
The most interesting pick here is Janice Weiner, a former diplomat, in SD 37, where four candidates are running replace retiring Democratic Senator Bob Dvorsky. Zach Wahls, who rose to national fame with his speech at the Statehouse about his two mothers, is running a high-profile, well-funded campaign here and is seen by many as a future star in the party. But he has to win the primary first, and Weiner has run a very competitive effort here. This race could be closer than some originally expected, and EMILY’s List involvement likely signals they don’t think this primary is a done deal.
Both Molly Donahue and Lindsay James are locked in highly-contested primaries for their respective house districts. Donahue is looking for another shot at the suburban Marion-based HD 68, one of Democrats’ top pick-up opportunities. James is seeking the nomination in HD 99 to replace Abby Finkenauer in the deep-blue Dubuque district. EMILY’s List’s endorsement could give both a nice boost heading into the final weeks to show momentum and win over some extra female voters that are often key in these Democratic primaries.
Mary Stewart has a lot of party activists and organizations coalescing around her bid to fill retiring Senator Mark Chelgren’s seat. She’ll need to win over a decent amount of women in Fairfield to offset Mayor Ed Malloy’s home-field advantage there, but Stewart is still favored to win here regardless.
Two other endorsements came in districts where the female candidate is very likely to win the primary. Lori Egan, a nurse from Waukon, should handily win her primary in Northeast Iowa’s HD 56, an open Republican swing seat that should be a top target in November. Ann Fields is a particularly intriguing candidate in HD 28 – the former first female president of William Penn University. That Knoxville-based district will be harder for Democrats to capture, but it could emerge as a sleeper race for the party if a blue wave does develop.
EMILY’s List took a pass on several important primaries that included two female Democrats, including the Connie Ryan/Claire Celsi race for SD 21 (Matt McCoy’s current district) and the Heather Matson/Reyma McCoy McDeid primary for Ankeny’s HD 38. They also didn’t get involved in the Nancy Fett/Leo Gansen race in the rural Dubuque County HD 57.
The organization’s endorsement will be a nice badge of honor for each of the candidates receiving it, though EMILY’s List PAC won’t be able to contribute before the primary due to the legislative session going so long. However, it signals to local female activists, donors and people who just generally care about electing more female candidates that these people are ones to watch and possibly support as we enter the final stretch of the June 5 primary.
by Pat Rynard
Photos via candidates’ Facebook pages