Emily's List May Help Split Democratic Vote in Calif. House Race

Monday, 28 Apr 2014 07:57 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Emily's List, the pro-choice women’s group, could prove to be a fly in the ointment for Democratic Party efforts to pick up a House seat in California being vacated by a Republican, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has endorsed Pete Aguilar, the 34-year-old Hispanic mayor of Redlands, Calif. The party wants to ensure there is not a repeat of 2012, when Republican Rep. Gary Miller won California’s 31st District.

Miller isn't seeking re-election. The district is widely considered to be one of the best pickup opportunities in the fall midterms for Democrats, according to the Journal.

For Democrats, the district was a worst-case scenario in 2012. The party split its votes in the primary and the working-class, majority Latino district was forced to choose between two Republicans.

State rules require the top two vote-getters in a nonpartisan primary move to the general election, even if they are members of the same party. That's how both candidates in the 2012 general election were Republicans.

Democrats immediately began working to make sure that didn’t happen again, quickly anointing Aguilar as the man for the job. They never expected labor lawyer Eloise Gomez Reyes to foil the plan by jumping into the race. Reyes, 58, has the backing of Emily’s List, which seeks to "ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office."

"There are others who are going to Washington to get a job; I'm going to Washington to do a job," Reyes told the Journal. "When you have someone who is a career politician, they are going to be more concerned about the politics. I'm concerned about the people."

Reyes has proven to be a "formidable fundraiser," the newspaper said, having kept pace with Aguilar. She credits Emily’s List, and its donors, for her success thus far, MSNBC reported earlier this year.

"If Emily’s List had not spoken with me at the beginning of this campaign, I would not be in the race," she told MSNBC.

Emily’s List spokeswoman Marcy Stech told MSNBC that the organization is "excited about Eloise – her story and her vision."

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Reyes spoke Spanish before English and picked onions and grapes to buy secondhand school clothes as a child. She worked her way from community college to the University of Southern California to Loyola Law School, building a practice focused on workers’ compensation, according to MSNBC.

Though Aguilar is also pro-choice and Hispanic, Reyes is being billed as the more progressive candidate.

Supporters cheer her "labor roots" and "promise to push back at proposed cuts in Social Security through changing the formula by which benefits are calculated," according to the network.

In-party fighting has mostly been associated with the GOP, where members of the tea party have caused problems for traditional, pro-business Republicans, according to the Journal. But Democrats are not immune. In addition to Reyes, there are other self-described "outsiders" that could upset primaries.

In Pennsylvania, for example, Emily’s List is backing Shaughnessy Naughton in her campaign against Kevin Strouse, the DCCC-backed candidate, according to the Journal.

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