The Hill: GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates

The Hill: GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates

BY JulieGrace Brufke – 05/25/19 08:58 PM EDT

House Republicans are accelerating efforts to recruit more female candidates as the party looks to claw back some of the suburban districts they lost to Democrats during the midterm election cycle.

The recruitment push comes after Democrats elected a record 35 women to the House last year, many in suburban districts, which analysts saw as a big factor in why the party took over the chamber.

By contrast, Republicans elected only one female lawmaker, Rep. Carol Miller (R-W.V.), while the number of female GOP representatives shrunk from 23 to 13.

Though many of the lost seats were blamed on Trump’s low favorability numbers in suburban districts, some members argue the lack of female candidates and the failure to promote policies that appeal to women played a significant role in their loss of the chamber — a misstep they’re looking to avoid in 2020.

“The road back to the majority is through the suburbs, and the road through the suburbs is going to be with strong female candidates,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) told The Hill. “And we’re going to have it.”

The NRCC has already spoken to 157 women interested in running in 2020, with 42 having declared their candidacies, according to statistics provided by NRCC Recruitment Chair Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.).

Emmer added he’s met with a number of potential candidates, including New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who is running for the Staten Island seat currently occupied by freshman Max Rose (D).

He also pointed to Iowa state Rep. Ashley Hinson, who has launched a bid against first-term Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) in the states’s first district as another candidate to watch out for as the next campaign cycle heats up.

Democrats in 2018 were successful in attracting a wide crop of diverse candidates, including  Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) and Katie Hill (D-Calif.), as well as others who beat incumbents in primaries like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) or Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)

And they successfully painted Republicans as being unfriendly to women while spotlighting issues that especially appeal to suburban moms, like health care. 

Democrats are again looking to put Republicans on the defensive in 2020 after a string of GOP legislatures passed a number of actions restricting abortions, including in Alabama where the procedure was banned under almost all circumstances.

It is a lesson that Republicans have absorbed this year, as they look to prove they are a big tent party and look to dispel the notion it’s the party of old white men.

Brooks told The Hill she’s working to draft a diverse crop of candidates that represent a range of backgrounds, experience, and ideologies — going as far as to say she wouldn’t rule out a candidate that supports abortion rights or gay marriage.

“No, I wouldn’t say that that is a requirement [being pro-life or pro-traditional marriage], it’s not a requirement that I have certainly had,” she said, “and I don’t believe that it has been for [Rep.] Elise [Stefanik] (R-N.Y.) as well.”

Stefanik has been making strides to recruit and elect more Republican women to Congress through her leadership political action committee, which is looking to support female candidates in primaries.

Brooks said her focus is also on finding qualified candidates that can win in key battlegrounds, which means candidates who know their district, and have the drive to fundraise and assemble competent teams.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a demographic, I wouldn’t say there is an age group, I wouldn’t say even that there is any requirement to have any elected experience,” she said.  

“We’re really trying to find out more about their roots in the community, their depth of knowledge about their community, their ability, and interest and willingness to fundraise and their ability to kind of put together teams and grassroots efforts.”

Brooks said the process of hunting for recruits has largely consisted of working with delegations from the states and local party apparatuses, and talking to people reaching out to the NRCC expressing an interest in running.

The Indiana Republican added that PACs like Stefanik’s or others like Value in Electing Women (VIEW) PAC and Winning for Women have also been instrumental during the recruiting process, with the organizations referring candidates to the NRCC and vice versa.

Stefanik, who served as the NRCC recruitment chair during the last campaign cycle, is looking to make her impact at the primary level, even as the NRCC maintains a policy of not getting involved at that stage.

Stefanik relaunched her leadership PAC in January, stating that the party has reached a “crisis level of GOP women in Congress.”

The New York Republican — who won a competitive primary race before taking office in 2014 — is hoping her PAC can help candidates strategize during primaries in open races in addition to recruiting them.

“There’s a number of candidates who are announcing in Q2. We intend to do an official slate in early fall of our top tier candidates the first round,” she told The Hill.

Stefanik mentioned Joan Perry, a pediatrician who’s running in her first race and will face off against state Rep. Greg Murphy in the GOP run-off in North Carolina’s 3rd District in July. The winner would be widely tipped to win in the heavily Republican district, replacing the late  former Rep. Walter Jones

“You know, we’re really excited about the Joan Perry candidacy and the outside support that came in for her,” she told The Hill, adding all the Republican women were supporting the candidate.

“We have 140 women who have reached out to run, that’s a historic number and I think it’s going to really pay dividends when we get to the general election.”

In addition to recruitment efforts, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), who launched the Suburban Caucus earlier this year, is looking to craft and promote legislation on policy topics that resonate with suburban areas and women, including on flexible work time and childcare.

“We have a duty to put together a policy program and issue set, a platform so to speak, that is our contract with the suburbs — something that will support them,” she told The Hill.  

“I hope many of the issues should be bipartisan,” she added. “But if not, at least we’ll be on the record as having put forth legislation that is specific to some of those quality of life, kitchen table, things that are good for their families, their communities in our growing suburbia.”

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