It’s four weeks into the legislative session, and lawmakers are getting restless. Meetings on the state budget have moved behind closed doors to speed the process. At nightly parties and receptions in Raleigh, the talk centers on the fall elections and how quickly the session will wrap up so politicians can go home to campaign.

At one such gathering last week at a graceful old house in Raleigh’s Oakwood neighborhood, the focus was on campaigns by pro-choice, women Democrats. Women now hold just seven of 50 state Senate seats (five are Democrats) and 24 of 120 House seats (12 are Democrats). Lillian’s List–a Tar Heel political action committee modeled on the national fundraising powerhouse, Emily’s List–aims to up those proportions. Since 1997, the North Carolina group has raised $60,000 for women Democrats who support abortion rights. Laura Edwards, chief fundraiser for Lillian’s List, stressed that early financial support is crucial to candidates who often lack the old-boy networks of their male counterparts.

As for campaign finance reform, “I think most of us in this room support it,” said Jan Allen, who founded Lillian’s List three years ago. “It shouldn’t cost this much to run for office, but while it does, we have to play ball.”