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Early money, like endorsements, are coveted by Dem women statewide

In an unusual move, EMILY’s List, a political organization dedicated to
helping elect Democratic pro-choice women to office, has endorsed Sen. Debra
Bowen in next year’s primary for secretary of state, despite another
pro-choice woman, Sen. Deborah Ortiz, entering the race.

“We think she would make a great secretary of state,” Cristina Uribe, the
regional director of EMILY’s List, said of Bowen. According to Uribe, the
decision was made before Ortiz jumped into the race.

EMILY’s List – which stands for “Early Money Is Like Yeast,” because it
makes the “dough” rise–is an organization committed to financially
supporting Democratic pro-choice women, a qualification that both Ortiz and
Bowen fit.

“The last time I talked to Ortiz was early August and she was running for
insurance commissioner,” says Uribe. “If she wasn’t running for insurance
commissioner, she wasn’t running for anything.”

Ortiz had been slated to run for insurance commissioner, but that race would
have pitted her against Cruz Bustamante. Both are clients of Democratic
political consultant Richie Ross.

Though Ortiz was recently quoted in the Sacramento Bee as saying she would
have been prepared to leave Ross, she noted that declaring for secretary of
state was a “win-win” situation.

In a letter dated Oct. 4, Ortiz wrote to supporters that on Sept. 15 she
“took the first step to becoming California’s next Secretary of State.”
Six days after that “first step,” but two weeks before Ortiz’s letter was
sent, EMILY’s List officially endorsed Bowen, though Uribe says the
organization had already made an in-kind donation of a staffer to Bowen’s
campaign in August.

“We support Senator Bowen because she will restore confidence in the
electoral process,” Uribe said in a statement. “As a leading advocate for a
woman’s right to choose, she will be an important voice in statewide
office.”

The move is not unprecedented–Uribe says EMILY’s List made a similar
endorsement of one pro-choice woman over another in Minnesota this year–but
it does highlight a peculiarity of next year’s primaries: There are four
women senators running for statewide office–and they are all running against
one another.

Besides the Debra-Deborah showdown for secretary of state, Sen. Liz
Figueroa, D-Fremont, and Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, will face off
in the battle to be lieutenant governor. They are running against fellow
Democrat, and current insurance commissioner, John Garamendi.

All four female senators running statewide are termed out of office in 2006.
In fact, 16 of the Legislature’s 37 elected women will lose their seats to
term limits next year, with another 11 having terms that expire in 2008. If
women fail to run for and win all those seats, the number of women in the
Assembly and Senate would sink to 10–a mere 8 percent of the 120-member
Legislature.

Many of the women termed-out in 2006 have already announced their intent to
run for further political office, either at the state or local level.
Bowen, by announcing her candidacy early has already sown up the
endorsements of 15 of the 25 Democratic members of the Senate, including the
majority of women senators.

Steve Barkan, Bowen’s campaign consultant, said that he “wouldn’t anticipate
[EMILY’s List] changing their endorsement” with the official announcement of
Ortiz’s candidacy.

As of the latest filing deadline, Sen. Bowen had just short of $250,000
cash-on-hand, spread across three campaign accounts. Sen. Ortiz has about
$415,000 in her campaign account.

The endorsement of EMILY’s List, which has a grass-roots network of more
than 100,000 activists, may come with financial benefits for Bowen. The
group raised more than $10 million in the 2004 election cycle, though almost
all of it was spent outside California.

The group has yet to endorse in the race for lieutenant governor. “We have
met with those candidates,” said Uribe. “And we don’t have a position in
that race.”

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