As I sat in my office on election night in November and watched the returns roll in, it quickly became clear it would not be a fun night for Republicans. Aside from losing our majority, some of our best members and candidates running in swing districts would lose their races. Making matters even worse, many of them were women like Barbara Comstock, Mimi Walters and Young Kim.
When night turned to morning, the number of women in our GOP conference shrank considerably. Today, we just have 13 Republican women in the House – the lowest number in over 25 years.
Though among those 13 we have incredible leaders like Liz Cheney, Martha Roby and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, it’s time to get serious about adding to their ranks.
We have to do better. And we have to start now.
That’s why I’m proud to see a serious emphasis on not only recruiting, but also aggressively supporting women candidates, like the one started recently by Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.
It’s not enough to just get qualified women into the race, we need to have their backs.
Rep. Stefanik’s new PAC, and others like it, will not only help recruit candidates, but, more importantly, give them the resources and help to build the organizations they need to run winning campaigns, both in their primaries and general elections.
In 2018, as the NRCC recruiting chair – the first woman to ever hold the job – Rep. Stefanik did a phenomenal job recruiting female candidates across the country. It pains me that people like Young Kim, Maria Elvira Salazar and Lea Marquez Peterson aren’t walking the halls of Congress today. Not only would we have more women in our conference, but diverse ones from various backgrounds and parts of the country.
And those are just some of the names that made it to their general elections. Plenty more female veterans, leaders and small business owners never made it past their primaries. It’s my hope, with this effort, that will change.
And frankly, it better.
2018 was a wake-up call for the Republican Party. 60 percent of women across the country voted for Democrats. If you look exclusively at college-educated women, they broke for Democrats by 8 points more than they did in 2016.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised the alarm recently as well. In an interview with The New York Times he said the current path our party is on with women – namely suburban women – is “not a sustainable position, politically, if you want to be a competitive party.”
Some have written recently that while, yes, we need more women in Congress, they need to tow a particular ideological line. That recruiting women from swing seats isn’t as helpful to the cause as recruiting women from conservative seats, like Marsha Blackburn or Kristi Noam.
What these people fail to understand is that it’s not an either/or scenario. We need both Elise Stefaniks and Marsha Blackburns in Congress if we hope to hold the majority again.
It doesn’t matter whether a woman candidate is in a deep-red seat and only worries about a tough primary, or is in a competitive swing seat against a well-funded Democrat, or both. We need all of their voices.
Women candidates running need a cavalry standing shoulder to shoulder with them every step of the way.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that women candidates are the only cure to our party’s problems with women voters as a whole. It’s certainly broader than that. But we have to start somewhere. And until more women are in our conference and in the rooms where our policies are shaped, it’s harder for that to happen.
Diversity doesn’t happen by accident. We, as a party, need to work hard to attain it. Efforts like Rep. Stefanik’s and others go a long way in rebuilding our House GOP Conference to look more like the America our Republican House members represent.