Considering the excellent year Democrats had in 2006 at all levels, a group that funds Democratic women who are pro-choice on abortion would have been expected to do well. That EMILY's List did so poorly, despite the trend, provides yet another interesting confirmation that this election was a non-ideological confrontation between the two parties, decided mostly on the basis of a failed Iraq occupation and a corrupt Republican establishment. Voters in swing districts were not keen on abortion-focused candidates in 2006, even as they elected several pro-choicers.
Of the 19 competitive House races in which EMILY's List backed and funded a candidate, only two won. This follows on the heels of the group's 2004 performance, in which it went three for 13 in head-to-head contests against the conservative Club for Growth.
The only successful EMILY contenders for Republican seats were state Sen. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) -- who was heavily favored all along to win the seat of retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe (R) -- and New York attorney Kirsten Gillibrand, who won only after the late leak of a police report alleging that Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) had choked his wife.
The only two other Democratic women to take Republican seats were activist Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire, a late Democratic surprise, and Nancy Boyda in Kansas. Neither was endorsed by EMILY's List -- in Boyda's case, it was because she said she would back a ban on partial-birth abortion.
Across the map, though, female pro-choice candidates lost in competitive contests with Republicans. Combined EMILY's List contributions of $100,000 and independent expenditures worth $270,000 could not save the, high-profile candidacies of Iraq War vet Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and child-safety advocate Patty Wetterling (D-Minn.), and those totals may be larger once the final filings are made. In New Mexico, Atty. Gen. Patricia Madrid (D) failed in her quest to oust perennial survivor Rep. Heather Wilson (R), despite $48,000 in contributions and $110,000 in independent expenditures from EMILY. In Florida, both Phyllis Busansky (D) and Christine Jennings (D) have officially lost (the latter result is being challenged in court).
Other EMILY candidates who had high hopes -- in Arizona, Washington State, Nevada, California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Nebraska -- all lost, even as male Democrats rode the wave to victory on November 7. Both of the group's Democratic challengers in Ohio now appear to have lost as well.
To be sure, EMILY's List candidates also won in several safe Democratic seats, and the group's token endorsement of scores of safe incumbents -- such as Representatives Pelosi, Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and others, allows them to pad their record. They also succeeded in the defeat of Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.). They should receive another such victory December 9, when Karen Carter faces Rep. Jefferson in the Louisiana-2 run-off election.
Due to the disproportionate number of moderate Republicans who lost, the loss of 29 Republican seats was accompanied by a pro-life net loss of roughly 13, depending on what litmus test is used for the term "pro-life." Nonetheless, some appropriations language restricting the use of federal money for abortion may now be in danger because of the Democratic takeover.