After a lengthy delay, during which Nikki Tinker and her supporters became visibly restless, the feminist PAC Emily's List has finally conferred its endorsement on the 9th District congressional challenger, whom it had also backed during Tinker's first try for the office in 2006.
One probable reason for the organization's hesitation was a highly organized lobbying campaign against such an endorsement, conducted for months by several long-term local feminists who support incumbent Democrat Steve Cohen and who cited to Emily's List what they described as Cohen's lengthy record of support, both as state senator and as congressman, for women's causes.
During the multi-candidate Democratic primary of 2006, Tinker got a considerable boost from fundraising efforts and late-term advertising on her behalf by Emily's List - which also made a point of distributing flyers attacking ultimate winner Cohen, who would go on to win the general election against two opponents.
As the press release announcing its endorsement of Tinker noted, the corporate attorney came within six points of leader Cohen in the 2006 primary.
"This is a matter of plumbing. They don't endorse males," responded Cohen campaign manager Jerry Austin to the Emily's List action. "They spent half a million dollars roughing up Steve in 2006 and couldn't beat him." Austin said numerous women supporting Cohen countered "in the best way possible; they stopped writing checks to Emily's List."
Below is the Emily's List press release, in its entirety.
May 30, 2008
EMILY's List Announces Endorsement of Nikki Tinker in
Tennessee's Ninth Congressional District
WASHINGTON D.C. - EMILY's List, one of the nation's largest political action committees and financial resources for women running for elected office, today announced its endorsement of Nikki Tinker for Tennessee's ninth congressional district.
"Nikki Tinker has the passion and experience needed to get results in Washington D.C.," said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of EMILY's List. "A remarkable young leader, Tinker is a strong advocate for women, families, and for those who are most in need of a voice. Her background in public service, work in the business-sector, and dedication to the residents of Memphis ensure that Nikki Tinker will bring a fresh perspective to Congress for Tennessee and for the country."
Nikki Tinker's leadership skills stood out at the University of Alabama where she was the first African American elected president of the law school's student body. A respected attorney and community activist, Tinker has devoted her career to issues surrounding women and children. As a civil rights attorney she fought for equality in the workplace and worked with companies to develop sound employment policies and practices. Tinker has been a leader in her community, mentoring Memphis youth, delivering food to home-bound residents, and providing under-privileged youth with their first airplane ride at the Memphis airport through her role as general counsel and vice president of labor relations for Northwest Airlink/Pinnacle Airlines.
Tinker's work as campaign manager for Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. gave her a first-hand knowledge of the ninth district and its business and community leaders. She came within six points of winning this district in 2006 and has continued to earn grassroots support from critical community leaders in Memphis and across the country. If elected, Tinker will be the first African American woman elected to Congress from Tennessee and the youngest African American woman currently serving in the House.
"I'm proud to receive this endorsement from EMILY's List and to have the support of its members in Tennessee and across the country," said Tinker. "From the moment I set foot in the halls of Congress, I will work on the issues most critical to Memphis and all of Tennessee - encouraging new jobs in the district, strengthening our education system for our children, and working to ensure affordable health care and insurance is available for all residents. I learned the importance of public service by working my way through school, and it is a lesson that will continue to guide me as I serve this great district."
With more than 100,000 members across the country, EMILY's List is one of the largest political action committees in the nation. Since its founding in 1985, EMILY's List has raised over $240 million to elect 70 pro-choice Democratic women to the U.S. House, 13 to the U.S. Senate, and eight governors. Over the course of 23 years, EMILY's List has helped elect hundreds of pro-choice Democratic women to federal office, state legislatures, state constitutional offices, and other key local offices.