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Nancy Smith

With Friends Like EMILY's List ...

November 21, 2013 - 6:00pm

Who said friends are forever -- right, EMILYs List?

The fair-weather, Washington-based political action committee that claims in its mission statement "to elect pro-choice Democratic women to office" can't -- make that, won't -- explain why it embraced a congressional candidate one day and dumped her the next, and now snubs one of the best friends it ever had.

I'm talking about Jessica Ehrlich and Nan Rich.

Strange things are going on in EMILY's Listland. At least, the part of theinfluential organization that operates in Florida.

Attorney Ehrlich, the Democrat running for the second time in the highly competitive special election for Florida's 13th District, was "on the list" until Oct. 30, when former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink declared for the same seat. Ehrlich was unceremoniously scratched from the List's online page of favored candidates -- and I mean that very day.

Earlier in the month, had posted a link to donate to Ehrlichs campaign, according to a third-party website that archived the page. With Sink's appearance on the list, the Ehrlich link immediately flashed up Access Denied.

An EMILYs List spokeswoman declined to comment. Ehrlichs campaign also declined to comment, but the jilted candidate quit the race soon after.

EMILY's List apparently likes Sink better.

In the case of gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich, the behavior of this organization that exists to field pro-choice women is particularly strange.

Last week it circulated a pitch letter specifically calling to elect more women governors.

Said the letter, "One Democratic woman governor in our country is not enough. In 2014 we need the full weight of the EMILY's List community -- all 3 million of you -- behind Wendy Davis, Mary Burke, and Allyson Schwartz who are fighting to become the voices for women and families as governors of their states."

Who? Why not Nan Rich? How did Rich -- woman Democrat head to toe -- get left out?

-- Rich, 71, is the only female candidate in the Florida race.

-- EMILY's List supported her in previous years when she ran for seats in the state Legislature.

-- The Federal Election Commission shows in February she donated to the organization -- as she does each election year -- this time, $250.

-- More important than anything else, Rich's core issues, her body of work over a long career in Florida politics, are a microcosm of Democratic women's issues. She is you, you are her, List people -- um, except she doesn't flip-flop.

Sunshine State News called EMILY's List twice in the last week to find out why Rich wasn't worthy of the group's support. Both times we were promised "somebody will get back to you" and both times nobody did.

I wanted to ask if it's true what Democrats in the know whisper but never talk about on the record: that it's Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz who makes the listing and endorsement decisions for EMILY's List. And it's Debbie Wasserman Schultz who's driven a wedge between Rich and the list. I didn't expect a straight answer, but I thought the question was worth a shot.

According to figures from the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers, 27 women have filed for governors races around the country so far this year: Ten in open-seat races, 13 as challengers and four incumbents. Yet, EMILY's List pushes only three.

No wonder the Democrats only elected their second female governor, Maggie Hassan, just a year ago in New Hampshire. And, by the way, Hassan came a long time after the first Democratic governor -- the beloved Ella Grasso of Connecticut, whom I had the honor of meeting during Bicentennial celebrations in 1976.

Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, a strong believer in the nurturing principle behind EMILY's List, nevertheless believes that organization and its more local, Florida equivalent Ruth's List need to do more than lead women candidates to the water and nowhere else.

"I just want them to be mindful of their purpose," Edwards said.

Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows pro-choice Rich trailing pro-life Charlie Crist. Yet, Rich is viable against her Republican opposition, only 8 percentage points behind Gov. Rick Scott, 43 percent to 35 percent, with nearly a year to go.

The marks Rich makes, the progress she scratches out, she does on her own, no help from her powerful fickle former friend in the Democratic Party, EMILY's List.

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

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