Winning control of the Senate is a stretch for the Democrats. They must hold onto all their contested seats, as well as two seats where Dems are retiring, and win six of the vulnerable Republican seats. Minnesota has a vacant Senate seat because Democrat Mark Dayton is retiring. There was going to be a contested Democratic primary in September, however Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar proved to be such an impressive candidate that all her main competitors withdrew and shes likely to win this senate seat. Democrats target Republican incumbents in Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. Emilys List attendees heard from the Missouri senatorial candidate, State Auditor Claire McCaskill . Shes running a strong race to unseat the ill-named Jim Talent.
In the roughly 24 hotly contested House races, Emilys List mobilized 11 female candidates. Five jumped out as particularly interesting. Francine Busby (CA - 50th) is running for the congressional seat vacated by convicted Republican congressman Duke Cunningham. The special election will be held on June 6th. Busby is running even in a slightly Republican district. Tammy Duckworth is a retired Army pilot who lost both legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq. She got out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center on December 15th, returned home to Illinois, and started running for Congress on the 18th. Shes competing for an open congressional seat (IL 6th), where incumbent Republican Henry Hyde is retiring. While this is a slightly Republican district, its hard to imagine that anyone who meets Duckworth would vote for her opponent and the latest polls show the race is even. Diane Farrell (CN - 4th) is running against Republican incumbent Christopher Shays. The district leans Democrat, but the race leans Republican. New Mexico Attorney General Patsy Madrid (NM - 1st) is running against ultra-conservative incumbent, Heather Wilson. Madrid is the first female, Hispanic Attorney General and running even with Wilson. Lois Murphy (PE - 6th) is running against Republican congressman Jim Gerlach. Murphy is energetic and articulate and its likely that shell take this seat.
Ultimately the November 7th election will depend upon which Party gets out its base. Emilys List will focus its get-out-the-vote resources on five states: Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. This effort will not only help Emilys list candidates in these states, such as Murphy in Pennsylvania, but it will also have a salutary affect on other key races. In Pennsylvania, there will be a spillover to the senate race where challenger Bob Casey, Jr., is favored to unseat radically conservative Republican Rick Santorum.
In the 2006 race, the GOP will count on their base turning out in force, particularly the Christian Right. Democrats must mobilize their base whose turnout typically drops 12 to 18 percent in an off-year election. Emilys List will particularly focus on the eleven races where they have sponsored a candidate. Using sophisticated demographic analysis, they will identify likely supporters, even when they are in overwhelming Republican districts. Emilys List operatives tried out their new approach in the May 2nd Ohio primary. It produced a victory for Emilys candidate, Betty Sutton, running in Ohios 13th Congressional district, considered a safe Democratic seat in the fall.
The good news coming out of the Emilys List gathering is that Dems have gathered a good set of candidates and have a strategy to win in November. However, theres a long road ahead. Despite their dreadful poll numbers and their woeful record, Republicans can be expected to fight tooth and nail to hold onto their majorities in the House and Senate. They may not have public confidence, but they have lots of money. Theres a long way to go before we declare 2006 another year of the woman.