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Nancy Smith

EMILY Has Egg on Her Face

March 16, 2014 - 7:00pm

State and national Democrats in leadership loved Alex Sink. Adored her. Fawned all over her. But none was quite as gushy as the folks at EMILY's List.

Alex Sink has an outstanding record of public service and business leadership, and shell be ready to use her experience to fight for Florida in Congress from the day she takes office, crowed Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILYs List.

Only, Alex isn't going near Washington anytime soon unless it's on vacation. She might as well break the lease on the Pinellas condo she was renting. She no longer needs to establish residency. She lost the CD 13 congressional race to no-name David Jolly by 2 percentage points.

That mess you see all over EMILY's face is egg.

And how much money she got specifically from the EMILY's Listendorsement is a secret she still keeps, just as she did in 2009-10, when she was running for governor partially on a platform of more transparency in government.

EMILY's list is the national group of men and women who claim to be "committed to electing Democratic women and empowering women donors and voters in order to achieve progressive change."

That's except for when President Obama or other high-ranking Democrats tell them to back off -- exemplified by EMILY'S decision to lift not a finger for party loyalist and candidate for Florida governor Nan Rich.

True, EMILY's List did the same thing to St. Petersburg lawyer Jessica Ehrlich -- recommended her during a May-October courtship in 2013, then dropped her like a used-up handkerchief as soon as GOP Congressman Bill Young died and Schriock and friends decided to go with Democratic National Committee darling, Alex Sink. Ehrlich's photo and promo disappeared from EMILY's website overnight.

It always struck me as entirely sexist that EMILY's List would decide two women shouldn't run for the same office. Doesn't that smack of tokenism to you?Why in politics is there an automatic, unspoken assumption that only one woman can run at a time?If Ehrlich and Sink both hold the same progressive principles, why not list both of them and let the chips fall where they may? I don't remember anybody in the party hierarchy in 2004 telling Howard Dean he had to pull out of the Democratic presidential primary because John Kerry was The Man.

EMILY's List clearly wanted Ehrlich out.

Nan Rich, though -- now here is a different kettle of fish. She had nobody waiting in the wings to challenge her in a Democratic gubernatorial primary. For the best part of two years, she ran alone. She had no baggage. She had never lost a race and during her years in Tallahassee (2004 to 2012)always had been recommended by EMILY's List. What reason could there be to ignore Nan, whose Democratic bona fides are beyond repute. In fact, against Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat former Gov. Charlie Crist, they're stronger than ever.

EMILY & Co. never gave Nan a tinkle, never kept her in the loop, never told her why they wouldn't support her. This is a group, remember, that claims it only exists to help promote women candidates to higher office.

All you hear is, well, nobody knows who Nan Rich is. Of course nobody knows who she is. Everything she did on her campaign from the very beginning was no thanks to the party, no thanks to the better known Democratic "names" who might have supported her, and certainly no thanks to EMILY's List, which pretended the three-term state senator didn't exist. In the early days, significant fundraising in the Rich camp was a cross between a dream and a joke.

But what I'm starting to see is a rumbling among some Democrats who find Alex Sink's demise at the polls last Tuesday a wake-up call -- that the party faithful wants something better. Three Democratic candidates for governor in a row came from the Tampa region and all three were defeated. Charlie Crist would make No. 4. This doesn't bode well. Nan is from Democrat-rich South Florida.

Rich deserves at least a hearing before all the people of Florida -- a debate with Charlie, for starters. Sheaddressed the Broward County Democratic Party's sellout dinner Saturday night, making it clear in her speech that she is the same kind of progressive Democrat that Reubin Askew was, and that Democrats need somebody in the governor's office with those values.

It would have been a chance for the party faithful in Broward to do a Crist-Rich side-by-side comparison, but Charlie never showed up.

Earlier in the day National NOW Inc. endorsed Rich, and Terry O'Neill, its president, promised Rich she would be in Florida often during the next several months to campaign on her behalf.

I am not running because Im a woman, she told me, and I will surely lose if I think thats why people should support me. I am running on my integrity and courage to do the right thing for Florida."

By the way, Hillary Clinton apparently doesn't walk in lockstep with EMILY's List. In the last few months, the former first lady visited Florida twice and both times paid zero attention to Alex Sink, Didn't campaign with her, didn't even meet with her.

Not having the support of EMILY's List frees up a woman to run her own way. Nan Rich has already been defiant by insisting she won't get out of the race. From what I've observed, EMILY is having an identity crisis. Rich can stick with the women who are tweeting on her behalf, interviewing her on radio, writing her up, and the fine crew of volunteers spreading her message -- she doesn't need EMILY..

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

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