Barbara Streisand and Progressives Across the US Come out with Big Support for Donna Edwards' Senate Campaign

Maryland Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards is making early national waves in her 2016 campaign for U.S. Senate by raising contributions from progressives across America, including well-known Democratic Party activist Barbara Streisand. 

The singer, actress, director and composer is perhaps the most eyebrow-raising early donor to Edwards, contributing $2,600 out of $335,000 raised so far, according to the Federal Election Commission. Her top competitor for the seat held by retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the Senate’s longest-serving woman, is Rep. Chris van Hollen, Jr., one of the House’s top fundraisers, who has $1.14 million in his Senate campaign account and an additional $1.6 million in his House account

The Baltimore Sun’s analysis of the campaign contributions—which must be done by looking at paper records because the FEC has only posted online totals—found that 80 percent of Edwards’ funds were from donors across the country, which makes sense because many progressive groups have endorsed her. These include EMILY’s List, which supports pro-choice women; Democracy for America, founded by ex-governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean; and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

They have all been drawn to Edwards over Van Hollen, who has been part of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team for fundraising and budget negotiations, because Edwards has not previously compromised on many national issues of concern to progressives, such as cuts to Social Security. Edwards, a charismatic single black mother who became a nationally known activist against domestic violence, is seen as the principled outsider—whereas Van Hollen is known for his inside deal making.        

Last October, Streisand, who regularly blogs on election issues for The Huffington Post, urged “American women” to come out and vote—saying they could make the difference in who holds the majority in Congress. In many respects, her message then could easily be applied to her support for Edwards now, who, if elected, would be the first African-American woman in nearly a generation.

“The country needs to hear from you! Do you know how powerful your one voice can be? How powerful your one vote can be?” Streisand wrote last fall, explaining why women’s voices need to be heard.  

“Women will usually vote for the things that make a difference in everyday life,” she said. “It is women who do most of the shopping and are on the lookout to provide healthier food for their families. They are less interested in the priorities of giant agro-business and factory farms that are promoting unsafe use of antibiotics and the overuse of GMOs and pesticides. Women are trying to make the world a healthier place for generations to come, while Republicans are often on the receiving end of the torrent of campaign contributions from these corporations.”

If you compare Edwards and Van Hollen’s congressional contributors, Edwards’ donors are weighed with individuals who work in the public interest community, whereas Van Hollen has many corporate sponsors.  

The Maryland and Capitol press corps noticed Streisand’s contribution, where they tended to summarize it as just another a celebrity endorsement. Streisand declined to comment. But the singer has been a Democratic Party activist for many years, from headlining events to raise funds for presidential candidates, to reaching out to party members via various media pathways, to running her own charitable foundation that has given away more than $25 million “to build a healthier and more just world.”

Against that backdrop, it’s not surprising that she would be an early supporter of Edwards’ candidacy—especially their agendas.

“At a time when domestic violence is on the front pages, it took Congress a full year and a half to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act,” Streisand wrote last fall, urging women to vote. “160 Republicans voted against it! Women make up 51% of the country, but only 19% of Congress. We need more representation!”

“I am particularly concerned with women’s health,” she said. “Because research on heart disease focused solely on men for so long, it was understood more as a man’s disease. Meanwhile, heart disease is the number one killer of women... killing more women than all cancers combined... killing more women than men. This is just one example of why representing ‘women’s issues’ in the governing body that doles out NIH grants is extremely important to our everyday health. It seems like women are still second-class citizens.”

In contrast to Streisand’s passionate advocacy on behalf of many under-represented issues, Van Hollen’s most intriguing early donors reflect his reputation as an insider. Retiring Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid gave $5,000 through a leadership PAC. And Maryland resident Judy Gross, whose husband Alan Gross was imprisoned by Cuba for five years until recently, gave $2,000.

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