Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Democrats are winning the so-called War on Women, at least when it comes to fundraising.
The 12 Democratic women running for Senate this fall have raised a combined $110 million, more than twice as much as the $42 million their Republican opponents have raised.
Their cash advantage is fueled by liberal donors looking to secure seats in some of the hottest swing states, cash funneled through Emily’s List — which earmarks donations to pro-choice Democratic women — and donors fired up over reproductive rights controversies.
Labor unions, human rights groups, abortion rights advocates and environmentalists are also all ponying up from their political action committees, especially in states like Massachusetts and Wisconsin that could decide the balance of power in the Senate.
Pro-choice women’s groups reported a surge in fundraising this year after GOP attacks on Planned Parenthood funding and a comment from Rush Limbaugh about a female law student shifted momentum in their direction.
Since then, the fight over contraception has dropped from the headlines, but “women have not forgotten the attacks on Planned Parenthood; this is integral to their lives,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “They aren’t going to forget because it’s not on the front page of the paper today. They are remembering and they’re responding to that.”
It’s not just Democrats who are piling up cash. Republican women running for Senate in Hawaii, New Mexico and Connecticut have also outraised their opponents.
Combined, the 18 women running for Senate have raised more than $135 million this cycle.
Women could hold more seats in both chambers of Congress next year than ever. In the Senate, women could add as many as seven seats to their current record high of 17. In the House, a record number of 154 women have won their primaries this year, with 25 women still alive in primary races, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Elizabeth Warren, running against Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, is leading the way after raising more than $25 million in the most expensive Senate race in the country. Brown has raised $17 million.
Warren received nearly $1 million from Emily’s List, which overall has channeled more than $4 million to Democratic female candidates so far this cycle. The group has donated more than $500,000 each to Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada.
“There is clearly an appetite amongst donors to elect good strong Democratic women who share their values,” said Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock. “We have seen an increase of more than a million members now since the Republicans began their war on women 18 months ago. That enthusiasm is reflecting very much in the totals that these candidates are posting.”
Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as his vice-presidential running mate has added fuel to the fire. After the announcement last week, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a statement calling the Romney-Ryan ticket “dangerous to women’s health,” and hammering Ryan for his voting record on family planning issues. Planned Parenthood released a Web video denouncing the GOP candidates for their stance on women’s health.
The fundraising numbers are also helped by the fact that 2012 is on pace to be the most expensive federal election ever and also competitive across the board — Republicans need to capture only four seats in November to take control of the Senate.
The latest fundraising numbers were compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, which includes money raised during the six-year 2007-12 Senate cycle.
In Wisconsin, Rep. Tammy Baldwin has raised $7 million, more than twice the $2.5 million raised by GOP candidate Tommy Thompson. Baldwin — who is openly gay — is the top recipient among Senate candidates of donations from gay and lesbian rights groups. But Thompson, who clinched the nomination on Tuesday after a hard-fought primary, will likely see a surge in cash as Republican donors coalesce around a single candidate.
Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley has raised $7 million, giving her an edge over incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller. She’s the top recipient of labor cash this cycle among Senate candidates, having raked in more than $300,000 from labor groups. Still, she’s facing an uphill battle in the race, and she’s at the center of an ethics probe into whether she used her seat in Congress to improperly benefit her husband’s medical practice.
Democratic Sens. Kirstin Gillibrand of New York, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are all considered safe in their races and have big cash advantages over their opponents.
Gillibrand, who has raised more than $14 million this cycle, is the top recipient in Congress of cash from lawyers and law firms and the entertainment industry. She’s raised another $113,000 through her leadership PAC, which she’s used to boost women running for the House and Senate.
Cantwell has raised $10.6 million compared to Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner’s paltry $690,000. Klobuchar has raised $9 million compared to Kurt Bills’s $394,547.
Feinstein has raised $8 million compared to Elizabeth Emken’s $390,000. Feinstein loaned $5 million to her campaign after her former treasurer embezzled an estimated $4.5 million from the campaign. Emken loaned her campaign $200,000.
McCaskill and Stabenow, the two most vulnerable Democratic women incumbents this cycle, are getting a lot of help. McCaskill has raised $12.5 million, compared to just over $2 million for Republican Rep. Todd Akin, who came out on top of a contested primary fight earlier this month. Stabenow has raised $12 million to former Rep. Peter Hoekstra’s $3.5 million.
Three of the Democratic women running are trailing their opponents in fundraising. In Maine, Democrat Cynthia Dill and Republican Charlie Summers are both trailing former Gov. Angus King, who’s running as an independent.
In North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp has raised about $1.8 million less than GOP Rep. Rick Berg in their battle over the seat held by retiring Democrat Kent Conrad. Heitkamp, who has trailed Berg in recent polls, has tried to put some distance between herself and the left. She’s skipping next month’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and hasn’t asked Emily’s List for their endorsement.
And in Hawaii, Mazie Hirono has raised $3.4 million compared to former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle. $4.4 million. Despite her cash deficit, Hirono has held a comfortable lead in a series of recent polls and has gotten a boost from liberal groups. Roughly $412,000 of Hirono’s campaign cash has come through Emily’s List, and she is the No. 2 recipient of labor cash among Senate candidates after Berkley.
On the GOP side, New Mexico’s Heather Wilson has raised $4 million, about $200,000 more than Democrat Martin Heinrich in the race for retiring Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s seat.
In Connecticut, World Wrestling Entertainment magnate Linda McMahon will face off against Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy for outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat. McMahon lost a Senate race in 2010, despite spending $50 million out of her own pocket. This time around, she has loaned her campaign about $12 million of the $14 million it raised by the end of July.
“What’s significant is the fact that you have so many women running in so many of these important, competitive states that that both parties are vying for,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “What comes with that is the money; the parties want to win those seats.”