EMILY’s List, the political action committee that aims to elect pro-choice, Democratic female candidates to office, has noble goals—but has occasionally raised progressive anger for supporting moderate Democrats over far more liberal candidates. Such was the case in 2008 in Tennessee, where EMILY’s List candidate Nikki Tinker, a Blue Dog and former aide to Harold Ford Jr., ran a vaguely anti-Semitic primary campaign against Representative Steve Cohen, who had a very strong record on women’s rights. (EMILY’s List distanced itself from the attacks immediately, but did not withdraw the endorsement).
A similar fracture on the left is opening up again this summer in Connecticut, where EMILY’s List has endorsed Elizabeth Esty in the Fifth District primary against Chris Donovan—and is using some well-worn conservative attack lines against him.
Donovan is the speaker of the Connecticut House with a strong progressive record, and at times battled with Esty, a former state House member herself. For example, Donovan helped lead the fight for Connecticut’s first-in-the-nation paid sick leave law, while Esty voted against it.
This week, Donovan’s campaign put out an ad where he tells the camera, “These days, some people are afraid to be called liberal or progressive,” but “I’m proud of my record”:
There’s a lot to attack Donovan over —it would be an understatement to say he’s a flawed candidate, as the FBI has now arrested six people for making “conduit contributions” to Donovan’s campaigns, meaning they hid donations with third parties, and where the real purpose was influencing legislation. Donovan has not been charged, but is listed as “Public Official Number 1” in the indictments. Two people quoted in the indictments suggest Donovan was briefed on the scheme.
But the left blogosphere is up in arms over a July 17 EMILY’s List press release, about an as-yet unreleased mailer, which levels a different sort of charge against him—one that uses distinctly right-wing framing. It accuses him of being a “tax-raiser” and heralds Esty’s resume of “responsible budgeting.”
In 2009, Esty and Donovan were locked in a budget battle—Donovan’s version of the state budget didn’t touch state Medicaid funding nor education funding, and asked for a millionaire’s tax. Esty’s budget proposal, meanwhile, cut Medicaid and Husky health funding by $146 million, cut higher education by $54 million and raises taxes on millionaires at a lower rate than Donovan–her proposal would collect $736.7 million less over two years from top earners.*