The president of EMILY’s List says North Carolina could decide both the presidential race and which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Stephanie Schriock, who leads the national organization that promotes female Democratic candidates, noted the state’s pivotal role while campaigning for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Saturday in downtown Raleigh.
“You are in a critical place for deciding the future of this country,” she said, pointing to the close presidential race and the U.S. Senate race where Democrat Deborah Ross is challenging incumbent Sen. Richard Burr.
“If she wins that seat, the Democrats are going to get the majority in the U.S. Senate,” she said. “She could be the decider right here.”
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Democrats need to win four additional Senate seats to get a majority this year. And since several other states with Republican-held Senate seats are more favorable to Democrats, North Carolina could end up being the fourth seat to flip parties.
EMILY’s List was the first major group to back Ross, a former state legislator from Raleigh who wasn’t Democratic Party leaders’ first choice to take on Burr. When Ross announced her candidacy last October, staff members from EMILY’s List pitched in until Ross hired campaign staff.
Back then, many observers thought Burr would easily win a third term because Ross wasn’t a well-known candidate. Former Sen. Kay Hagan and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx both declined to run.
“We knew just by the strength of Deborah Ross that this race was going to become a race,” Schriock said. “She is so very impressive – not only does she have the passion for service and the love of her state, she really does have a commitment to women and families that we could see instantly.”
Schriock said she’s glad that Republican outside money groups seem to have underestimated Ross until recently. Every week that went by without outside spending to support Burr meant “a party at EMILY’s list.”
“At some point, they’re going to figure out there’s a race in North Carolina,” Schriock said. “They have now.”
The Senate Leadership Fund announced Thursday that it has reserved $8.1 million in TV ads supporting Burr. The super PAC is connected to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the spending is a clear sign that Republicans view Ross’ campaign as a serious threat.
“She has friends too that are going to be coming in to help,” Schriock said.
Burr’s campaign and the N.C. Republican Party criticized Ross’ close ties to EMILY’s List.
“Deborah Ross, the former chief lobbyist for the ACLU, getting a boost from the head of a liberal D.C. special interest group at the same time she touts her phony ‘ethics plan’ is the height of hypocrisy,” Burr campaign spokesman Jesse Hunt said Saturday. Hunt referred to Ross’ proposal to bar former politicians from taking lobbyist jobs until they’ve been out of office for 10 years.
NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse said the involvement of EMILY’s List could hurt Ross. The group is a longtime defender of abortion rights.
“It should come as no surprise that an extreme liberal candidate like Ross attracts extreme liberal friends,” Woodhouse said Saturday. “But as we saw with Sen. Kay Hagan, hanging out with these radical anti-family characters is not the way to win elections or hearts and minds in North Carolina.”
Ross is one of nine female Democratic candidates running for U.S. Senate this year with backing from EMILY’s List – an unusually high number.
“The excitement of the opportunity to run with Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket was definitely part of this recruitment success,” Schriock said. “One of the first things that Secretary Clinton talked to me about was her commitment to seeing more women in leadership in the Senate and the House.”
Schriock said Clinton’s economic plan will be more likely to pass if Democrats take back control of the Senate.
“Women in North Carolina are going to decide this election,” she said. “If (Clinton) wins North Carolina, we’re going to win the White House.”
But even at a friendly gathering of local Democratic Party women, Clinton’s controversial use of a private email server became a topic of conversation. Paula Wolf asked Schriock why Clinton doesn’t have a better answer to questions about the scandal.
“I think the campaign has done a good job, but the press doesn’t like the answers, or the Republicans don’t like the answers,” Schriock said. “The Republicans have nothing to offer the voters, so their only shot is to keep pressing this one issue.”
Busy campaign week in N.C. ahead
Republican Donald Trump will be in Greenville on Tuesday for a rally promoting his immigration policy. On the same day, Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine is giving what’s being billed as “a major national security address” in Wilmington. And former president Bill Clinton will be in Durham on Tuesday to push for voter registration and his wife’s economic plan.
Hillary Clinton has a fundraiser and rally scheduled Thursday in Charlotte.