Former Maine House minority leader, state senator and two-time Democratic congressional candidate Emily Cain has been hired to lead Emily’s List, the influential Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports pro-choice Democratic women.

The 37-year-old from Orono will be tasked with recruiting and promoting female candidates at the national and state level ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. She replaces Jess O’Connell, now CEO of the Democratic National Committee.

“We are thrilled to welcome Emily Cain,” Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a statement. “Emily is a leader for progressive change at a moment when the rights, security and well-being of women and American families are under unprecedented assault by the radical and dangerous policies of the Trump administration and GOP. Emily knows how to fight back.”

After the election of President Trump, who has made disparaging remarks about women, more and more women have expressed interest in seeking political office. In April, Emily’s List announced that more than 11,000 candidates had inquired about running for office – an unprecedented number.

In 2016, the organization raised more than $90 million in the election cycle. In its 32-year history, Emily’s List has raised more than $500 million to recruit and train Democratic women. Since 1985, it has helped elect 116 women to the U.S. House, 23 to the Senate, 12 governors, and more than 800 to state and local office.

Ellen R. Malcolm created Emily’s List in 1985, according to the group’s website. The name is an acronym for “early money is like yeast,” in that it helps the dough rise. The saying references a conventional wisdom in politics that receiving major donations early in a campaign helps attract other donors later.

Cain, originally from Kentucky, attended the University of Maine in Orono in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She then got her master’s in education from Harvard University.

In 2004, at age 24, she ran for a Maine House seat representing Orono, her college town. She served four terms, including one term as Democratic leader. After she was termed out of the House, Cain ran for state Senate and won the seat. She served on the powerful appropriations committee for her one Senate term.

In 2014, Cain won a two-way Democratic primary for the House of Representatives seat left vacant when Mike Michaud ran for governor. Cain bested fellow state Sen. Troy Jackson in the primary, but lost to Republican Bruce Poliquin in the 2014 general election.

Last year, Cain ran against Poliquin again, but failed to unseat him.

Most recently, Cain has served as chief strategy officer of History IT, a Portland-based firm that oversees the digitization of historical archives and collections. Her husband, Danny Williams, is the executive director of the Collins Center for the Arts at UMaine.

Several years ago, Cain was among the founders of Emerge Maine, a group similar to Emily’s List that works to train Democratic women in Maine for political office. Among its alumnae are House Speaker Sara Gideon and majority leader Erin Herbig.

Emerge Maine’s executive director, Sarah Skillin Woodard, said she was thrilled about Cain’s hiring.

“Emerge America and Emily’s list have an official partnership that we are very proud of,” Woodard said. “Together we work to ensure our candidates have the fundraising training they need and Emily’s List provides additional support when they run for office.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England spokeswoman Nicole Clegg congratulated Cain and said her hiring kept with a bipartisan tradition of Maine women helping other women run for office.

“The images of men gathering around the president to decide the future of women’s health care needs to change,” Clegg said. “Women deserve a place at the table and the best way to get there is by running and winning.”

Although Cain has a lengthy political history in Maine, she is less known in D.C.

“I’m excited to hit the ground running at Emily’s List,” Cain said in a statement. “With Stephanie’s leadership and powerhouse team, Emily’s List is getting more women ready to run and ready to win elections at all levels.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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