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EMILY's List undermines its cause

EMILY's List began with a worthy mission _ raising money for women candidates to high office so they could compete with men on a level playing field. Now it's hard to distinguish EMILY's List from other narrow interest groups that litter the political scene.

The Democratic fund-raising group is no longer just supporting pro-choice women candidates for Congress; it is also playing favorites among pro-choice women candidates in primary elections. The involvement of EMILY's List in primary campaigns risks alienating some of its own supporters. And you have to look no further than the U.S. House District 11 Democratic primary race to see why.

Sandy Freedman is the pick of EMILY's List to replace retiring Sam Gibbons. The former Tampa mayor is certainly a qualified candidate and meets the group's requirements: She is a woman, a Democrat and an abortion-rights advocate.

The problem is that two of her opponents in the Democratic primary fit the profile as well. In fact, Phyllis Busansky, a Hillsborough County commissioner, and Pat Frank, a former state senator, along with Freedman have been members of EMILY's List. Jim Davis is the fourth candidate in the primary, but as a man he is not eligible for support from EMILY's List.

Who can blame Freedman for accepting the group's support, which typically is worth $40,000 to $100,000 in contributions? EMILY stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast, and that's a lot of dough.

This race is the shining example of women's success in politics: three accomplished women running vigorous campaigns. EMILY's List says its real goal is to beat Republican Mark Sharpe in November. In a letter to members, the group said it chose Freedman after seeing polls that make her the "clear front-runner." "If (Freedman) can raise sufficient resources to outdistance her weaker opponents," the letter said, she can win the primary without a run-off election.

Frank said the excuse EMILY's List officials gave her for entering the primary was that they didn't have time to print their recommendation between a possible run-off in October and the November general election. Frank didn't buy the lame excuse; she's no longer an EMILY's List fan either. The group is actually sowing the seeds of divisiveness in the primary. When it starts picking favorites, EMILY's List is undermining its own cause and ultimately damaging what it set out to do.

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