The robust fundraising totals posted Tuesday by Democratic Senate candidates Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky ($2.7 million) and Michelle Nunn of Georgia ($2.4 million) speak to one of the party’s major assets this cycle: the fundraising machine that is EMILY’s List.
The group, which works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, has always figured prominently in the Democratic caucus. But this year, it’s on track to play a more significant role than ever, racking up record-breaking donations. Both Grimes and Nunn have their own strong fundraising networks. But they are among the Democratic female politicians also being lifted by donations via EMILY’s List, which has bundled $5.5 million so far for its candidates. That’s $1.5 million more than the group had bundled at this point in the 2010 midterms.
The increase is due in part to a huge expansion in the organization’s membership, which grew by 1 million people in 2013, officials said.
“We have really invested in reaching new communities of donors and voters,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.
That has widened the group’s donor base substantially. So far this cycle, more than 140,000 donors have contributed $30.1 million to EMILY’s List – up from the 71,000 who gave $18.1 million at this point in 2010.
Contributions are also up by $5.5 million compared with this point in 2012 — a presidential election cycle in which half the Democratic women’s caucus was up for reelection.
The group has endorsed 24 House candidates, six Senate candidates and six gubernatorial candidates.
Schriock credits the surge in giving to two factors: “First off, Republicans continue to push an agenda that is really bad for women and families. The other piece is we know from our research that voters see Democratic women having the right judgment, the right priorities and the ability to cut through partisan bickering.”
And the historic nature of some of the candidacies is also creating excitement among donors, Democratic fundraisers said.
Peter Buttenwieser, a Philadelphia education consultant who raises money for Senate Democrats and has been introducing Nunn to his donor network, has been struck by the enthusiastic response.
“It’s not only that she’s a very bright, positive woman with a substantive message, but she’s also in the process of making history,” he said. “We’ve never had a woman senator from Georgia.”
Nunn outpaced her opponents by over $1 million–Republican Rep. Jack Kingston raised $1.1 million, while Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey were each reportedly under $500,000 for the quarter. Grimes, who would be the first woman senator from Kentucky, out raised Sen. Mitch McConnell by $300,000.
“There is recognition that having women in the Senate is a really important thing, and that cuts across party lines,” he said. “But I think it’s very profound on the Democratic side, and it’s one of the things that has propelled Michelle’s campaign.”
Here’s a look at EMILY’s List growing reach over the last few years:
She The People reached out to the Center for Responsive Politics for a look at how women candidates have done overall this year and here is their top 10 list: