A powerful political group that helped elect Barbara A. Mikulski to the Senate nearly 30 years ago will spend $1 million in advertising for Rep. Donna F. Edwards' campaign to be her successor, helping to close an advertising gap with her better-funded opponent.
Emily's List, the Washington-based group that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, will begin the Baltimore-focused campaign on Tuesday, a week after a poll for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore showed Rep. Chris Van Hollen with a double-digit lead in the race.
The investment is significant in part because it signals Emily's List plans to be a factor in the contest, helping Edwards raise her profile and compete for television air time. Van Hollen, who has more than 10 times the cash on hand, has already run three broadcast ads in Baltimore.
The group will spend $875,000 on cable and broadcast ads alone, plus another $146,000 on radio and digital spots. The ads will run over six weeks and will target African American women. The ad campaign is paid for through WOMEN VOTE!, the group’s super PAC, which spent more than $12 million in the 2014 election cycle.
"Donna Edwards knows what it’s like to struggle," a narrator says as the camera flashes through pictures of Edwards and her son. "But Donna overcame. She persevered. Then she put that backbone to work for us."
"Powerful interests don’t want Democrat Donna Edwards," the ad concludes. "That's a powerful reason why we do."
Though Emily's List is prohibited from coordinating with the Edwards campaign, the message is consistent with a major theme the congresswoman has been pitching on the campaign trail.
Edwards has stressed her progressive track record, her humble beginnings and also the historic significance of her potential election: She would be the first African American to represent Maryland in the Senate and the second black woman to serve in the chamber nationwide.
Van Hollen, meanwhile, has also touted his progressive bona fides, had picked up endorsements from many of the state's best-known Democrats, and has noted that more of his financial support has come from within the state itself. Earlier this year, Van Hollen pressed Edwards to commit to rejecting outside advertising in the contest, an offer the Edwards campaign refused.
Mikulski announced in March she would step down in 2017 after 30 years in the Senate, setting off a competitive contest for a rare open seat in Maryland.
The Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore poll -- the most recent in the race -- found that 45 percent of likely Democratic primary voters would support Van Hollen, compared with 31 percent for Edwards. The survey found Van Hollen leading Edwards two-to-one in the Baltimore region. The gap widened when Baltimore's suburban counties were included.
The state’s primary is set for April 26.