Lori Chavez-DeRemer sat in the gallery of the House nearly two decades ago with her mom and her twin daughters – tourists peering down at lawmakers on the floor of the chamber.
“I’d really love to be here someday,” the Oregon Republican recalled telling her mother, who encouraged her to think about a run. She’d recently been elected to her city council, but she had her doubts. “I said, ‘Everybody on the floor there probably has a law degree. I’m a stay-at-home mom.’”
The trail she has blazed is emblematic of the progress that the Republican Party has made in electing women over the past decade – hard-fought milestones reached only after outside groups began playing a larger role in primaries.
Still, GOP women are far from reaching parity with Democrats. Thirty-three of them will serve in the House alone this term, compared with 91 Democratic women. Though many women (and men who care about electing them) applaud a recent shift in attitude among GOP leadership and a segment of the donor class – for whom identity politics has often been anathema – long-term hurdles remain.
Some leaders, including House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, want to see the party do more.
That push is not just about statistics. It’s imperative as the party tries to appeal to a broader spectrum of voters, including the many suburban women who abandoned the GOP after Donald Trump was elected in 2016.
“Suburban women and independent women are going to continue to be the X factor in whether we win,” said Annie Dickerson, the founder and chair of Winning for Women, an outside group that helps elect female Republicans.
Trying to solve the primary problem
When Erin Houchin first ran for the Indiana state Senate in 2014, she urged a few party leaders to support female candidates in primaries – especially in deep-red seats where the primary is the only competitive election.
“The answer I got was, ‘Well, we don’t get involved in primaries. You should go see if other women will help you,’” Houchin recalled.
After winning her race, she ran for Congress in 2016 – the only woman in a five-person primary for a safe Republican seat. The party officially stayed out; the National Republican Congressional Committee’s policy is to never take sides in primaries.
Houchin had support from Republican women, including early backing from Value in Electing Women, or VIEW, PAC, which encouraged female members of Congress to write checks for her.
Those checks, however, were no match for what Houchin was up against: an opponent who benefited from a big-spending super PAC that likely could have outspent her even if she had more institutional party support. Trey Hollingsworth won that primary and the general election and went on to represent the 9th District for three terms before retiring last year.
Houchin speaks with members of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association at a Golden Corral in Greenwood, Indiana, in April 2016.
Al Drago/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images
“There were many more groups this time around that did engage,” Houchin said, praising VIEW PAC, Winning for Women and Stefanik’s leadership PAC, known as Elevate PAC or E-PAC. “That made a difference.”
Republicans have long viewed supporting diverse candidates differently from Democrats, who were earlier to embrace building coalitions among specific demographics.
“Some of the Republican men didn’t necessarily think that it ought to be a priority,” GOP strategist Parker Poling, the executive director of the NRCC for the 2020 cycle, said of the party’s prior attitude toward boosting female candidates.
“I had to sell it very differently in the beginning, back in 2017,” Dickerson recalled. “And it was real work persuading donors that it wasn’t identity politics. It was really about identifying excellence.”
Stefanik raised the alarm with House GOP leaders after the 2018 election, when, as the first female recruitment chair of the NRCC, she had enlisted more than 100 women to run. Just one of them won.
Democrats flipped the House that year, buoyed in large part by the success of female candidates, but the number of GOP women in the chamber declined by nearly half. Even if Republican leaders didn’t immediately recognize the problem – then-NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer called Stefanik’s desire to get involved in primaries a “mistake” – they quickly came around in their public support for her mission.
“I am very proud that our efforts have been pretty much embraced across the board,” Stefanik said last month when asked if leadership now understands the importance of supporting women.
That commitment to changing those dynamics showed in 2020 – which some have called the “Year of the Republican Woman” – when a record-breaking number of nonincumbent House GOP female candidates won, helping flip several pivotal Democratic seats.
“There’s an understanding now that Republican women candidates can be very successful in the general election and in many cases are stronger candidates than men,” said Cam Savage, a veteran Republican consultant who worked for Houchin. “It’s been true for a while; it just hasn’t been recognized.”
McDaniel accepts a shirt from Rep. Michelle Steel at the congresswoman’s campaign office in Buena Park, California, in September 2022.
Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images
McDaniel also noted that the tenor of conversations with donors has changed.
“Our investors – when I started, some of them would say to me candidly, ‘You have young kids. How can you be a mom and do this?’” she said. “I don’t have those conversations anymore. It’s more: ‘What other women candidates can we invest in?’ ‘Where can we support women in our party?’”
Winning in red districts
After impressive gains in 2020, Republican women made more nominal progress in 2022. Just one GOP woman, Virginia’s Jen Kiggans, unseated a Democratic incumbent in a swing seat, while several others flipped open seats in Oregon, Florida and Texas.
There’s excitement, however, about conservative women’s success in red districts and how that could help deepen and extend the longevity of the bench of female Republicans in Congress.
“You can’t just focus on electing women Republicans in swing seats. That’s why we had, you know, such a historic loss in 2018, as most of our women members were in those swing seats,” Stefanik said.
Of the seven nonincumbent Republican women elected last year, five represent districts Trump would have carried in 2020.
“That allows those members to gain seniority over time and also to make investments in other candidates,” added Stefanik.
In other words, electing women in safe seats means they’re more likely to stay there – although not always. Liz Cheney lost her deep-red Wyoming seat in a primary to another woman backed by Stefanik.
And those very primaries in deeply conservative districts have sometimes been harder for women to win, even if – based on their policy positions and voting records – they are the most conservative candidates.
Houchin, for example, said it was important for her to be very clear about where she stood on the issues because “it’s been easier to paint female candidates as more moderate or more liberal. That’s certainly not my profile.”
Her story speaks to the message pushed by potential White House aspirant Nikki Haley, who has channeled her energies into elevating female Republican candidates through her Stand for America PAC.
“What we need to do is to tell women, ‘We need you. We need you at the table. We need you making the decisions. We need your experience. We need your ability to talk about families and budgets and crime, and all of those things,” the former South Carolina governor and onetime US ambassador to the United Nations said in a brief interview on the campaign trail in Nevada last year.
Haley speaks at a campaign event for De La Cruz and Rep. Mayra Flores in McAllen, Texas, in October 2022.
Allison Dinner/AFP/Getty Images
“Success begets success,” Poling added of female candidates’ track record. “When people see that this helped us win more seats, then they’re more likely to put the time and effort into recruiting and helping female candidates.”
Party operatives credit strong recruitment – both in 2022 under NRCC recruitment chair Carol Miller of West Virginia and in 2020, under then-Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana.
“That begins with the acknowledgment that the way you recruit women is different from men,” Savage said. “You don’t have to recruit men. They line up to tell you they’re the best fit.”
But one of the major lessons from 2018 is the recognition that getting women to run isn’t enough: Helping them through the process is also critical.
“I don’t look at women as a monolith – they come with different backgrounds and experience – but sometimes fundraising can be a challenge, or life balance,” said McDaniel, who was elected RNC chair in 2017.
One part of addressing that is female candidates supporting each other. Monica De La Cruz was one of three Republican women running for South Texas swing districts along the southern border last year.
“We had a support group of women who understood exactly what you were going through at that moment, so it was a very special time,” said De La Cruz, the only one of the three to win.
And increasingly, there’s recognition that a female perspective can be a strength in the eyes of voters.
“I had no political background. I’m a small-business owner, single mom of two teenage children. And people could relate to that,” said De La Cruz, who has been tapped to serve on the RNC’s advisory panel to examine how the party can continue broadening its appeal to women and more diverse voters.
De La Cruz takes a selfie with supporters in McAllen, Texas, in October 2022.
Sergio Flores for The Washington Post/Getty Images
“They saw me at the Friday night football games, and the Saturday morning volleyball games,” she said. “They saw me in parent-teacher conferences at the school. My community saw themselves in me.”
The GOP still has a lot of catching up to do. Even with leadership PACs and outside groups committed to boosting women in Republican primaries, the party lacks the firepower of a group like EMILY’s List, which has been helping elect Democratic women who support abortion rights since the mid-1980s.
Some of the outside groups backing GOP women have diverged in primaries, either not engaging in the same races or even backing different women in the same primaries.
To expand institutional support, McDaniel pointed to the example of programs such as League of Our Own, a campaign program she worked with in her home state of Michigan that has focused on training female candidates.
“We talked about things like, ‘How do you raise money? How do you pick a campaign manager?’” McDaniel said. “You’d see these women who were graduates, going on to be state reps or state senators. It’s really, really impactful to see how even just that little bit of campaign school and that little bit of help can go a long way in bringing women into the conversation.”
Chavez-DeRemer said the party must “keep reaching out” and “make sure that all women are running at a local level.”
Stefanik echoed that sentiment, pointing to a robust state and local pipeline as a lynchpin to deepening the bench of Republican women in Congress in the years ahead.
“It’s a long-term strategy,” she said.
By Simone Pathe, Maeve Reston, Janie Boschma and Renée Rigdon, CNN Illustration by Will Mullery, CNN
Rep. Walorski remembered for her faith, conviction at funeral service
Nick Gay2023-01-19T02:18:29+00:00August 20th, 2022|
Family, friends and colleagues remembered Indiana U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown) for her faith and character at her funeral service Thursday.“Jackie was a no-nonsense, get-it-done, move-it-or-lose-it woman of strength and intense integrity,” Missouri U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) said.
Speakers at the service mourned the suddenness of Walorski’s death, including U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
“Like you, I was not ready — nor was I prepared — for that phone call,” McCarthy said. “Shocked. Angered. Bewilderment.”
Others who knew Walorski — including Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb — remembered her for her high spirits and strong convictions.
“When people from afar think about what makes Indiana so strong, they might reflexively go to our steel, or our limestone,” he said. “I think about Jackie, and I think about Jackie’s steel spine.”
Walorski was born in South Bend in 1963. A graduate of Riley High School, she attended Liberty University and ultimately graduated from Taylor University with a degree in communications and public administration.
She served three terms in the Indiana House before her election to Congress in 2012.
Her career before Congress included stints as a reporter for WSBT-TV, an independent missionary in Romania, and director of the St. Joseph County Humane Society.
“To tell you the truth, Jackie never really had a job. She always had a purpose and a mission,” McCarthy said.
The crash that killed Walorski also killed her district director, Zachery Potts, her communications director, Emma Thomson, and the driver of the other vehicle, Edith Schmucker.
Walorski’s burial was accompanied by a three-rifle volley and a rendition of taps.
“Jackie is not dead the way you would imagine. Right now, she’s more alive than all of us together in this room,” Walorski’s husband, Dean Swihart, said. “Right now, she knows fully the things that we’re having trouble to comprehend.”
A special election to fill Walorski’s Congressional seat will be held Nov. 8, the same day as the general election. The Indiana Republican Party will hold caucuses Saturday, Aug. 20, to select candidates for the ballot.
As the 2022 midterm election season gets underway, speculation is already mounting that it’s going to be another banner year for female candidates. Early reports suggest that Black women and Republican women are especially poised to make historic gains.
But make no mistake, even if 2022 is another so-called “Year of the Woman,” politics is still a man’s game.
At first glance, that claim seems to fly in the face of reality. Women in politics aren’t just running for Congress in 2022. They’re everywhere all across the political spectrum. The vice president and the Speaker of the House are women. Republican Liz Cheney is the face of the congressional committee investigating January 6. Conservative firebrands Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert are social media stars. AOC is a household acronym. And Ballotpedia has already identified 13 Democratic and seven Republican women as prospective presidential candidates for 2024.
But we’ve been studying women and men’s interest in running for office for decades. And overall, women today are just as unlikely as women were 20 years ago to express interest in running for office.
We started tracking people’s interest in running for office in 2001, when we launched the first wave of the Citizen Political Ambition Study—a survey of 4,000 “potential candidates.” These are people with professional backgrounds common among elected officials—lawyers, businesspeople, educators, and political activists. Among this sample of equally matched women and men, women were dramatically less likely than men to have thought about running for office. Whereas 59% of men had considered running for some elective position, the same could be said of just 43% of women. Women were also much less likely than men to express interest in running for office in the future. This was true regardless of political party affiliation, income, age, race, region of the country, even martial and parental status.
Ten years later, we conducted another survey of 4,000 potential candidates. By this time, Nancy Pelosi had been elected the first female Speaker of the House; Hillary Clinton had run for president; Sarah Palin had been a vice presidential candidate; and the percentage of women in Congress had increased by 25%. Yet, the results of 2011 Citizen Political Ambition Study were indistinguishable from the 2001 findings. The gender gap in interest in running for office was just as large—16 percentage points—and just as sweeping as it had been a decade earlier.
We’ve now completed the 2021 wave of the Citizen Political Ambition Study. Among this new crop of potential candidates, the gender gap in political ambition is virtually the same size as it was 20 years ago. If anything, it has grown a little—to 18 percentage points. Whereas nearly 60% of men have considered running for office, nearly 60% of women have not.
The gender differences go far beyond the general thought of running for office. Men are twice as likely as women to report that they’ve “seriously considered” a candidacy. And they are twice as likely as women to say that they’d be open to running for office in the future. (This is true whether we’re talking about local offices like mayor or federal positions like the U.S. Congress.)
Importantly, the gender gap in political ambition isn’t a result of gender differences in attitudes about the political climate or electoral politics. More than 70% of both women and men report dissatisfaction with the direction the country is headed. A majority of female and male potential candidates hold negative attitudes about various aspects of political campaigns, including fundraising, sacrificing time with their families, and the loss of privacy.
The roots of the “Ambition Gap” are deeply embedded. Consider how women and men with the same qualifications and credentials evaluate themselves. Whereas 36% of the men we surveyed consider themselves “very qualified” to run for office, only 20% of women feel that way. By contrast, women are three times as likely as men (24% compared to 8%) to rate themselves as “not at all qualified” to run. These gender differences have not narrowed since 2001 or 2011.
Potential candidates’ self-perceptions are consistent with messages they receive—or don’t—about running for office. Men are two-thirds more likely than women to have been encouraged to run by an elected official, party leader, or political activist. They are 40% more likely to receive the suggestion to run from a colleague, spouse, or family member. On this dimension, too, the gender differences are just as large as they were twenty years ago.
A lot has changed since we conducted the first wave of our study in 2001. The number of women serving in Congress has doubled (to 28%). Women’s organizations have made it a priority to recruit women to run for office. And famous female politicians, glass-shattering candidacies, more attention to women’s under-representation, women’s marches, and #MeToo are features of the contemporary political environment.
These changes and efforts have helped propel a record number of women into elective office, but they haven’t been sufficient to change broader attitudes about whether women belong in the political arena. They haven’t been sufficient to close the gender gap in political ambition. Still today, we operate in a world where people see men as candidates. And men see themselves that way. Significantly fewer women live in that world.
Until women are just as likely as men to consider running for office—even if they ultimately write it off as something they don’t want to do—then we really haven’t achieved full inclusion of women in the political system. And politics remains a game for men.
VIEW PAC executive director Julie Conway joined the podcast to talk about Republican women’s successes in the 2020 campaign cycle. Conway discusses the challenges of recruiting women for Congress, the role that President Trump plays in these races, and the Georgia Senate runoffs.
A network of mentors helped support female Republicans this cycle
The coronavirus pandemic sent candidates scrambling in the spring, trying to figure out how to campaign amid a global health crisis. For Republican women, that meant calling Julie Conway.
“I was having the same conversation 30 times a day,” Conway, the executive director of VIEW PAC, which supports GOP women running for office, said in a recent interview. “It occurred to me: Why don’t I just get them together once a day?”
Then came the Zoom calls — roughly two dozen female Republicans running for Congress, with no staff or consultants, having candid discussions with experts, current and former lawmakers and each other about how to adjust their campaigns. In the spring, those calls occurred every day and eventually became less frequent. But Conway plans to hold similar virtual events in future election cycles.
This kind of virtual gathering was new, but the behind-the-scenes mentoring wasn’t. Though often unseen, mentors have long helped female candidates navigate obstacles their male counterparts may not face. Lawmakers and campaign strategists say this mentorship is vital, and the record number of women in the House is thanks in part to this support.
Republicans, left with just 13 women in the House after the 2018 elections, were especially focused on supporting female candidates this cycle. The next Congress will see at least 28 House GOP women, a new record.
Now the party faces questions about how to grow that effort and make sure it lasts.
‘Hundreds of hours’
New York GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, who led the effort to recruit and support Republican women after 2018’s dismal results, said current female lawmakers made an “extraordinary time commitment” that outsiders would not appreciate in mentoring candidates this year, including endless phone calls and texts.
“This is literally hundreds of hours of conversations … probably more than that actually,” Stefanik said. “I think that strongly benefits the recruited candidates who are engaging in those conversations throughout their candidacy.”
A handful of congresswomen-elect who spoke to CQ Roll Call named both Stefanik and Conway as critical mentors. California’s Young Kim, who lost a close race to Democrat Gil Cisneros in 2018 before unseating him this year, said Stefanik pledged early on to support her if she ran again. But Stefanik also set a specific goal for Kim — to raise $250,000 in the first quarter of her campaign.
“I looked at her, I said, ‘Challenge accepted,’” Kim recalled. She raised $401,000.
Personal relationships with mentors can also help bring funds and support to a race, said former Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, who serves on the board for VIEW PAC and Winning for Women, another group that supports female Republicans.
“In October, people call and ask you, ‘OK, I want to help. Where can I put some money? What are some good races?’” Comstock said. “When you see a race being well run, and you have that personal relationship with the candidate, then it makes it easier for you to say, ‘Let’s put more money down here.’”
Kim said the level of support was more palpable this year compared to her 2018 race, in part because the party made recruiting and supporting women a higher priority.
That support can help women navigate challenges male candidates may not have to face.
South Carolina’s Nancy Mace, a single mom, said she was often asked on the campaign trail how she was going to take care of her kids. Mace, who participated in the regular Zoom calls with VIEW PAC, said having a network of women going through similar experiences was valuable.
“As a woman, you have to work twice as hard to be seen as equal,” she said. “These women know that.”
Mace went on to defeat freshman Democrat Joe Cunningham, becoming the first Republican woman elected to Congress from South Carolina.
Iowa’s Ashley Hinson leaned on her network when her campaign website was found to have plagiarized from various news outlets and the website of her Democratic opponent, Rep. Abby Finekanuer. Hinson said at the time she wasn’t aware the passages were plagiarized, and she shook up her campaign team as a result.
A long-term effort?
Conway acknowledged that this network of Republican women is largely informal, while Democrats have a more organized effort concentrated mostly within EMILY’s List, which backs female candidates who support abortion rights.
EMILY’s List executive director Emily Cain said the group has personal relationships with candidates that span several years as they climb the political ladder. And they’ve been successful. The next Congress will include at least 89 Democratic women in the House, tying the record set in 2018.
“The challenge has been, ‘How do you sustain it? How do you make it personal and how do you make it deliberate?’” Cain said.
“And that will be the challenge that [Republicans] have to face as well if the party is really serious about actually empowering and adding more women to their ranks,” Cain said.
Republican women believe their efforts are sustainable and don’t necessarily have to be centralized in one organization like EMILY’s List. Conway said the mentoring and networking needs to be “catered” to individual candidates, and others pointed to GOP efforts to recruit and support women that have been underway for years.
“This is not like it just happened the last two years,” California Rep.-elect Michelle Steel said. “We worked on this.”
Stefanik noted that the Republican State Leadership Committee, which supports GOP candidates running for state office, has been working to recruit women. Since the group launched its Right Women, Right Now effort in 2012, 665 women have been elected to state office.
Of the nine GOP women who have flipped House seats so far, according to The Associated Press, eight were previously elected to state or local office.
“We are looking to build that long-term,” said Kamilah Prince, RSLC’s director of recruitment and training. “I think overall, it’s been very successful. There’s definitely still room to grow.”
The newly elected GOP women, including Hinson and Kim, said they are ready and willing to mentor candidates themselves in 2022, and Hinson said she’s already reaching out to women and encouraging them to run. But for now, their more immediate task is setting up their offices in the Capitol. Mentors can help with that too.
Conway has been helping incoming lawmakers vet staffers, and she’s even helping three of them find places to live in D.C.
“My job isn’t only to get them elected,” Conway said. “It’s to help them be the best member of Congress possible so that next time it’s easier to get them elected.”
Nick Gay2020-11-05T15:06:54+00:00November 5th, 2020|
“Republicans should be thanking their lucky stars for the women that are running this cycle.”
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty
It’s still unclear whether Donald Trump will pull off the kind of poll-defying, frenzy-inducing victory he did in 2016. But this year’s election results hold another surprise victory—this time, for Republican women.
While Republicans were largely left out of 2018’s “Year of the Woman,” when 126 Democratic women and just 20 GOP women were elected to Congress, they are on track for a record-breaking year in 2020. Twenty-three Republican women have already won their races so far—including six who flipped their districts from blue to red—setting them up to blow past their previous record for number of GOP women in Congress.
“Republicans should be thanking their lucky stars for the women that are running this cycle,” said Rosalyn Cooperman, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington. “The inroads that were made by Republicans in 2020 on the House side were made by women, and they would be well-served to remember that.”
“For the majority of our women coming in, they will want to get things done, and the only way you get things down in a legislative body is to reach aside the aisle and work with the other side.”
Whether the GOP women victors will legislate any differently than their male counterparts remains to be seen. There is a joke that if progressive feminists say we should abolish prisons, moderate feminists say we should hire more female police officers; it’s unclear whether the incoming GOP women will be reformers or simply officers enforcing their party’s anti-woman policies.
Of the Republican women who flipped their seats on Tuesday, all six are vocally anti-abortion, and one even introduced a bill that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks. Two of the women winners are vocal supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
But Julie Conway, executive director of VIEW Pac, which supports Republican women running for office, says she believes these women will be more likely to work with the historic number of Democratic women who preceded them.
“For the majority of our women coming in, they will want to get things done, and the only way you get things down in a legislative body is to reach aside the aisle and work with the other side,” she said. “And I think that’s what our women are going to do.”
The Republican women’s sweep to victory is, if not unexpected, slightly confusing. The GOP has no multi-million-dollar womens’ fundraising group, and seemingly little concern for the number of women in their ranks overall. (A 2018 poll of GOP primary voters found that 71 percent said they were not concerned about the measly 13 Republican women in the House that year.) In a party like this, in a year when suburban women were reportedly turning away from the party of Trump in droves, how did so many Republican women come out victorious?
The answer, in some part, could be that these women were just in the right place at the right time; running in historically red districts where they were perfectly situated to take advantage of the country’s unexpected rightward swing. Many of the women—María Elvira Salazar in Florida, Nancy Mace in South Carolina, and Yvette Herrell in New Mexico, to name a few—were running in districts that Democrats had only recently won in 2018, poised to take them back at the soonest possible opportunity.
But experts say that, for Republican women, being in the right place is a victory in and of itself. Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics, pointed out that while Republicans made significant gains in 2010, they failed to increase the percentage of women in their midst, largely because of a lack of female candidates.
“Republican women can’t win if they’re not on the ballot,” Dittmar said. “To me, the story for women is that the only way you take advantage of opportune environments, especially when they’re somewhat unexpected, is by being there—being on the ballot.”
“In all of these races where we thought we could be competitive, even if there was a guy who may have raised his hand … we didn’t stop there.”
This year, GOP women seemed to take that message to heart. A record 227 Republican women filed to run for the House of Representatives in 2020 and 94 became their party’s nominee, compared to a previous record of just 53. A number of GOP operatives who spoke to The Daily Beast pointed to a surprising source for this surge of women candidates: The blue wave of 2018.
After seeing the successes of more than 100 Democratic women, some of them with little to no political experience, “a lot of conservative women started to think to themselves, ‘You know what, I can do this too,” said Kodiak Hill-Davis, political director of conservative women’s group Women for Progress.
In 2018, she added, “there were more Gregs and Mikes in the Republican House conference than there were women. You can’t see a stat like that and think to yourself, ‘Well, we’ll just keep doing what we’ve always done and it’ll eventually come out in the wash.’”
That year was a turning point for many conservative women’s groups, too. In December of 2018, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) announced that she was leaving the NRCC to build her own group, Elevate PAC, to help Republican women win their primaries. When NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer told a reporter he thought it was a “mistake,” Stefanik replied: “NEWSFLASH: I wasn’t asking for permission.”
Republican women as a whole, Hill-Davis said, “were so frustrated after seeing what happened in 2016 and what happened in 2018, we realized that we just had to be willing to do it, and not ask for permission.”
Conway, the executive director of VIEW Pac, agreed. While groups like hers have generally taken a back seat during primary campaigns, she said, this year, they dove in head-first.
“In all of these races where we thought we could be competitive, even if there was a guy who may have raised his hand … we didn’t stop there,” she said. “There was an eye to looking to see if there was a woman who might be a great candidate in this district also.”
She added: “If we thought she was a better match-up, we went all in for that woman.”
That tactic wasn’t always appreciated by the rest of the party. In some instances, Conway said, other conservative groups actively worked against VIEW Pac’s primary contenders. (The Club for Growth, for example, spent nearly $1 million supporting the primary challenger to Stephanie Bice, who flipped Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District red on Tuesday night.)
In other primary races, women’s groups are working against the candidate preferred by party leadership. Hill-Davis’s group, Women for Progress, even publicly slammed a member of the RNC who told Republicans not to donate to their primary candidate, saying it was “embarrassing” for party leadership that “we can’t even listen to our own advice on outreach to women.” (Of the party leadership, Hill-Davis said diplomatically, “I think we frustrate them at times.”)
But Conway said she believed that all this turmoil is building toward something greater.
“We’ve been doing this since 1997,” she said. “With the action of other groups in the last couple of cycles, and Elise doing what she’s doing, there’s been a lot of tilling of the ground, and we’ve been building on this foundation.”
She added: “Women, all of a sudden, we’re not waiting our turn anymore. And that has made a huge difference.”
Republican women in Congress sounded the alarm over their dwindling ranks after the 2018 midterms. Now, with most 2020 primaries in the rear view, they appear poised to boost their numbers in the House next year, but only slightly — while the Senate could see fewer Republican women.
A record number of GOP women ran for federal office this cycle, a promising sign for those in the party who want to boost Republican female representation from the current 13 in the House and nine in the Senate. But primaries and fundraising still proved to be obstacles.
But not all of them are in winnable seats. Even in some of the best-case scenarios for Republicans, women would make up just 10 percent of GOP lawmakers in the House and the Senate next year.
“We’re going to have to rebuild, and we know that,” Indiana GOP Rep. Susan W. Brooks said in a Tuesday phone interview.
“All of the new women who come to Congress, new Republican women, are just going to be part of the path to rebuilding and trying to just change the dynamic for the future,” Brooks said.
By the numbers
Brooks, who led the National Republican Congressional Committee’s recruitment effort this cycle, viewed enlisting record numbers of women and candidates of color as a success.
But the number of GOP women who could actually join the House varies when taking into account their prospects in competitive races. To start with, Brooks herself and Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama are both not running again, so just maintaining the status quo in the House would require electing two more women.
Of the 11 Republican women in the House who are running for reelection, two of them — Ann Wagner of Missouri and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington — are in races that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates as competitive. That leaves nine women in races rated Solid Republican who are expected to return.
Another five women won GOP primaries for open House races rated Solid Republican, so they are also likely to come to Congress. One open seat that won’t choose a nominee until November at the earliest, Louisiana’s 5th District, backed President Donald Trump by 30 points in 2016. But none of the top fundraisers in that race is a woman.
So if Wagner, Herrera Beutler and every female GOP candidate in a competitive race were to lose in November, the House roster of Republican women could still slightly increase from 13 to 14.
But if Wagner, Herrera Beutler and all GOP women in targeted and competitive races were to win in November, the number of female Republicans in the House would triple.
Of the 55 Democratic seats the NRCC is targeting, 22 have female GOP nominees. Three other Republican women are running in competitive open seats where the GOP incumbent is retiring or was defeated in a primary.
And if they all win, the next Congress could include 41 GOP women in the House. That scenario is unlikely, however, as the political environment has shifted away from Republicans. Some of the NRCC targets featuring GOP women include districts Trump lost, such as Virginia’s 10th, where Marine veteran Aliscia Andrews is taking on freshman Democrat Jennifer Wexton. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Democratic.
Of the 22 women taking on targeted Democrats, just 14 are in races Inside Elections rates as competitive. Some GOP strategists expect the number of Republican women in the House next year to ultimately be in the low to mid-20s.
Julie Conway, executive director of VIEW PAC, which is dedicated to electing more GOP women, noted that all five of the most vulnerable House Democrats are being challenged by Republican women.
“That has never happened,” she said, later adding, “All eyes are on those five seats.”
The Senate could have fewer GOP women after November, since Martha McSally of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia are all locked in competitive races. Though former Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis did win the GOP Senate primary to replace retiring Republican Michael B. Enzi in deep-red Wyoming, so she is expected to come to the chamber next year.
In the worst case scenario, where all four GOP women in tough races lose, the number of Republican women in the Senate would likely decrease to six. If they all win, that number would increase to 10.
So even in some of the best case scenarios, GOP women would make up just 10 percent of each chamber, compared with 20 percent for female Democrats.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to have a Congress that reflects America. At this moment, the number of Republican women in office and the number of Republican women who are going to be up in the general [election] doesn’t reflect that,” said Olivia Perez-Cubas, a spokeswoman for Winning for Women, which supports female GOP candidates.
While convincing GOP women to run has traditionally been a challenge, Brooks said this year Republicans have “broken through most of the obstacles in recruitment.”
Republican women were moved to run to counter Democratic women who found success in 2018, Brooks said. Losing the House majority also presented more opportunities to run in competitive districts, with challengers taking on first-term Democrats instead of a sitting Republican in a primary.
Still, some obstacles remain. Brooks and other Republicans listed fundraising as a persistent issue for female candidates. Another, despite the record number of female nominees this year, is primaries.
“We still have a challenge in getting women through primaries. We take a lot of ‘friendly fire,’” said Conway, referring to other outside groups such as the Club for Growth or the political arm of the House Freedom Caucus spending heavily in primaries, sometimes backing a male candidate over a female one.
The NRCC does not take sides in primaries, but Brooks noted that GOP leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, did weigh in on primaries this cycle, many times supporting female Republican candidates. For some, having party leaders acknowledge the lack of women as a problem was a victory in itself.
“Look how far we’ve come from when Elise said, ‘I’m not asking for permission,’” Perez-Cubas said.
This week, the group’s super PAC launched its first TV ads of the general election, supporting Oklahoma state Sen. Stephanie Bice, who’s taking on Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn, and attacking Iowa Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who faces GOP state Rep. Ashley Hinson.
But boosting candidates in top targeted races isn’t the only challenge. Increasing the number of women in Congress also involves elevating female candidates in safe Republican open seats who are likely to come to Congress if they win the GOP primary.
GOP House candidate and South Carolina state Rep. Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, smiles after being recognized by Vice President Mike Pence during a speech at the The Citadel on Feb. 13, 2020. Meg Kinnard/AP
By Susan Davis
June 17, 20205:00 AM ET
A familiar tale is unfolding in American politics in 2020: women are once again setting records as candidates for Congress. While the 2018 midterms saw a historic wave of Democratic candidates and general election winners, this time the surge in candidates is among Republican women running for the House.
When the dust settled after the 2018 Democratic wave, the ranks of Republican women had been decimated. Just 13 were left standing. “It was really such a kick to all of the Republican women,” Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., told NPR, “We were really not expecting to lose as many as we lost.”
Brooks, who is not seeking reelection, was tapped to serve as candidate recruitment chair for the House GOP’s campaign operation. Along with Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, they set out to recruit more women to run this year.
It’s paid off.
“This year we’re seeing more Republican women running than ever,” said Professor Kelly Dittmar with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. CAWP counts at least 217 Republican women who have filed to run for the House, with more state filing deadlines still to come. That’s already close to doubling the previous record of 133 filed Republican women candidates a decade ago.
Dittmar says better recruiting is part of it, but also says many women were motivated to run because of what happened in 2018. “I do think there were some women who may have seen the narrative from the last cycle — which was really the attention to Democratic women’s success and Republican women’s decline in 2018 — and sort of wanted to change the narrative to say: ‘The Republican Party isn’t bad for women.'”
South Carolina Republican candidate Nancy Mace is one of those women. She is a state representative and a single mother of two. She told NPR her daughter was the first to encourage her to run after a Democrat won her local congressional district for a seat President Trump carried by double-digits. “She turned to me the day after the November 2018 election and said, ‘Hey mommy, when are we going to take out [Democratic Rep.] Joe Cunningham?'”
Mace recently won her primary and will face Cunningham this November. She is one of many GOP women candidates with politically compelling biographies who are running this year, which also helped Mace earn the early endorsement of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “I was the first woman to graduate form the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina, and could be the first Republican woman elected to Congress from the state of South Carolina,” she said.
The party’s candidates are also more diverse. Right now, 45 Republican women have cleared their primaries, putting the party on track to beat their previous record of 53 general election nominees back in 2004. Of those 45, nearly half are women of color. California Republican Michelle Steel, a first generation Asian-American is challenging a Democratic incumbent for an Orange County-based district. Steel currently serves in local office on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and she last won reelection with 63% of the vote, a cross-party appeal model she thinks she can replicate this November. “You know what? They see me with this accent, they see me, I’m a first generation. They all voted for me.”
Often women candidates say they don’t want the focus to be just on their gender. And that resonates with Texas Republican nominee Beth Van Duyne, who is running in an open-seat race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Kenny Marchant. “I think sometimes it’s a cop out if we concentrate on a trait rather than a whole person, and I like to think we see beyond gender and we see beyond the things that divide us but we really look at what the best things are in all of us,” she told NPR.
The gender divide is one of the starkest among key demographics in American politics right now under President Trump. According to the latest NPR/PBS/Marist poll, former Vice President Joe Biden has an 18 percentage point advantage among women over Trump — even greater than the 13 percentage point advantage that Hillary Clinton saw in 2016. In order to win in competitive and suburban races, Republican women candidates will have to convince women voters who oppose Trump to vote for them — a tricky path in a nationalized election climate.
It remains to be seen how many GOP women will ultimately win their races this November, especially when Democrats are heavily favored to maintain control of the House. Even if this is a record-breaking year for candidates, Republican women still have a longer way to go to find gender parity in their party in the House. Dittmar points out that women make up about 7% of House Republicans, compared to 38% of House Democrats. “It’s not to rain on the parade, it’s to say ok this is a start and let’s continue and see if this momentum also continues not only through the general election but also in to future cycles,” she said.
The record number of Republican women to ever serve at one time is 25. Republicans would need to net at least 15 seats to break that record this November.
Rosemary Becchi will drop her bid for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district and instead challenge Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) in the next-door 11th district, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Becchi will switch from a challenge to Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) — and a primary against Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) – for what is increasingly looking like a clear path to the GOP nomination against Sherrill.
Her entrance into the race provides Sherrill with the kind of well-financed opponent that Republicans had been searching for.
So far, the only Republican to emerge as a challenger to Sherrill is Larry Casha, a former Kinnelon councilman and GOP state committeeman.
Some GOP county chairs have reached out to Casha, who appears willing to drop his House bid.
”I’m still digesting the entire thing right now,” Casha told the New Jersey Globe.
A potential self-funder, trucking company executive Jerry Langer, had explored a race against Sherrill but has not taken any steps to run.
She has not yet released her 4th quarter 2019 fundraising numbers but Becchi had raised $387,712 as of September 30, her Federal Election Commission reports show.
Sherrill has raised more than $2.6 million for her re-election campaign, including $747,000 in the last quarter, and has $2.2 million cash-on-hand.
So far, the only Republican to file is Robert Crook, an accountant who won less than 1% as an independent in 2018.
“The partisan impeachment process in Congress has been eye opening to all of America. It shows clearly that Republicans must take back the House of Representatives,” Becchi said. “Democrat Mikie Sherrill, just like Tom Malinowski, have focused their efforts on destroying a Presidency, not fighting for solutions that we in New Jersey desperately need.
“For that reason, and after being approached by and speaking with multiple Republican leaders in NJ, I have decided to consider running for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District,” Becchi said. “I will make a decision early this week.”
She has told party leaders that she is all-in for the race against Sherrill.
Becchi’s hometown, Millburn, is in the 7th, but she lives just two miles outside the 11th district.
Carpetbagging won’t be an issue for Becchi, since Sherill lives outside her own district in the part of Montclair represented by Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-Newark).
A former tax counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Becchi entered the race against Malinowski last July. Kean, the son of former Gov. Tom Kean and a legislator since 2001, entered the race in April and had raised about $1 million as of his last report.
Kean, the clear front runner, had dominated local GOP endorsements in the 7th district and had the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
With Becchi out, Kean has now essentially cleared the field for his race against Malinowski, a freshman who ousted Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) in 2018.
The other two candidates seeking the Republican nomination, human resources executive Tom Phillips and businessman Rob Trugman, are not serious contenders.
Before going to work for the U.S. Senate, the 53-year-old Becchi was a staff attorney in the office of the chief counsel of the Internal Revenue Service. She later worked for a top accounting firm, for Citigroup and Fidelity Investments, and has been a partner at two major law firms. She now works for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a Washington, D.C law and lobbying firm.
Becchi is the founder of Jersey First, a grass roots economic advocacy group.
Sherrill raised almost $8.5 million in her bid to flip New Jersey’s 11th district in 2018 and outspent her Republican opponent by an almost 5-1 margin for a seat that Republicans had held since 1984.
It was Sherrill’s early fundraising prowess – she had raised more than $1.2 million by the end of 2017 – that helped frighten twelve-term incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen out of the race. With a warchest of under $1.2 million, Frelinghuysen announced his retirement weeks after Sherrill announced her own fundraising numbers.
She won her House race by 46,262 votes, 57%-42%, against Republican assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) in 2018.
The 11th district has 1,500 more Republicans than Democrats and Donald Trump won it by 1% in 2016 — down from 24,176 when the district was drawn after the 2010 census.
This story was updated with comment from Becchi and Casha.
Hinson Raises Nearly $1.1 Million in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District Race
Nick Gay2020-01-10T18:23:00+00:00January 10th, 2020|
State Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, a candidate for the Republican nomination in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, announced that she raised nearly $1.1 million for her campaign since she announced in May 2019. This amount includes more than $430,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Iowa donors made up for 78 percent of her fundraising haul and the fourth quarter is her strongest fundraising quarter to date. She begins 2020 with more than $734,000 on hand.
“I am honored and humbled by the outpouring of support for my campaign,” said Hinson. “It’s clear that our message of bringing Iowa common sense to Washington is resonating with voters across Iowa.”
“We are excited by the momentum that continues to build for Ashley’s campaign,” said Hinson campaign manager Jimmy Peacock. “Voters know that it’s time for the 1st district to have a representative who puts people before politics and knows how to get results.”
Hinson’s financial supporters include Ernst Victory Iowa PAC (U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst), Majority Committee PAC (Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy), Eye of the Tiger PAC (U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise), Cowboy PAC (U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney), E-PAC (U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik), CMR PAC (U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers), Susan PAC (U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks), Cut the Bull PAC (U.S. Rep. Carol Miller), Martha PAC (U.S. Rep. Martha Roby), The Freedom Project (Former Speaker John Boehner), ANN PAC (U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner) and VIEW PAC.
National political forecasters believe the 1st congressional district will be one of the most competitive races in 2020. The Cook Political Report has rated IA-01 as “Toss Up”.
Hinson has a record of winning tough elections. She won in 2018 in a swing district to help hold the Iowa House majority and outperformed the Republican ticket by 5-8 points across Iowa House District 67. She won 9 of 13 precincts in her district despite Democratic outside groups outspending Republican outside groups.
An Iowa native, Hinson is the first woman to represent Iowa’s 67th House District, which covers Hiawatha, Robins, Cedar Rapids and Marion. Prior to serving in the Iowa House, Hinson was an award-winning reporter and anchor for KCRG-TV9 in Cedar Rapids. She currently lives in Marion with her husband Matt and their two sons.