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Emily's List to put another $1M into Maryland Senate contest

Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., accompanied by fellow House Democrats, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 16, 2016, to discuss opposition to the President Barack Obama's trade deal.
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., accompanied by fellow House Democrats, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 16, 2016, to discuss opposition to the President Barack Obama's trade deal. (Lauren Victoria Burke / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — A powerful super PAC supporting Rep. Donna F. Edwards' campaign for Senate will invest another $1 million in advertising in the state, doubling down on a race that a series of recent polls have shown is a tossup.

A super PAC associated with Emily's List, the Washington-based group that backs Democratic women candidates for office, will increase its overall investment for Edwards to about $2.4 million, spokeswoman Marcy Stech said.

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"It's clear that the more voters hear about Donna's story, the more they understand that she has the much-needed perspective and experience to take on the tough fights for Maryland families," Stech said in a statement.

The latest investment by the group comes after several polls have put the race within the margin of error. The most recent survey, released by Gonzales Research on Tuesday, also found that 15 percent of voters remain undecided.

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Edwards, of Prince George's County, has not raised significant sums of cash. Her opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, had built a better than 10-to-1 cash advantage by the end of last year. The Emily's List group -- Women Vote! -- is steadily undercutting that advantage.

Van Hollen spokesman Bridgett Frey criticized the involvement of the "mutli-million dollar super PAC" in the race, and said the group couldn't stand the fact that The Washington Post, in its recent endorsement of Van Hollen, called him "a force for accomplishment and identified Donna Edwards as part of the problem in Washington."

Edwards spokesman Benjamin Gerdes noted Emily's List past support for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, whose seat the two are seeking, and said the campaign was proud to have the backing of women "who know that equal pay for equal work is more than just a talking point."

By the end of last year, Van Hollen had spent $2.6 million compared to Edwards, who spent $1.9 million (not including the Emily's List money). When the outside money is added in, Edwards and her supporters had slightly outspent Van Hollen.

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The group's latest investment will lengthen its run on television, but also expand its reach to FM radio and digital advertising. The group did not release a new advertisement -- so it is not clear if it will simply run the same ad it launched late last month, or bring a new message to the airwaves.

The move comes a day after the Edwards campaign reserved airtime on a single Baltimore broadcast television station for the week before the primary. Contracts posted by the Federal Communications Commission showed a small investment -- about $22,000 -- but it is not clear if that is the extent of the campaign's expected advertising, or even whether that advertising will ever actually appear.

The primary is April 26.

Women Vote! spent about $1 million on advertising late last year and into January. More recently it announced a "six-figure" commitment and has reported spending about $400,000 as part of that effort so far.

Forty-two percent of respondents in the Gonzales poll said they are supporting Van Hollen, 41 percent are backing Edwards and 15 percent are undecided -- making the race for Mikulski's seat among the most competitive Democratic primaries in the nation.

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