(WASHINGTON) — Making sure that more Republican women run for office and that they get the support they need is the focus of “Right Women, Right Now,” a new initiative by the Republican State Leadership Committee to encourage and mentor GOP women considering a run for office.
Ed Gillespie, chairman of the RSLC, said the goal of the program, which was started last year but relaunched Thursday, was to grow the Republican Party and “foster up-and-coming diverse voices, and to get new women to the table from the state level.”
“We believe one of the ways to grow our Republican Party is by creating a strong pipeline of diverse leaders to put some new voices and fresh faces on the escalator to higher office, and we believe the first step to that is some of these state offices,” he said.
Of course, that’s not all. With more female candidates, there might be less chance of some of the damaging incidents that hurt the Republican Party in 2012 by male candidates such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who made insensitive comments about rape and abortion.
Gillespie noted that “women candidates maybe have a better ear for how to talk about some of these issues and the right tone without compromising principles, for example, on the issue of life, but address them in a way that I think is more resonant with voters and less alienating of women.
“There have been times where how the issue was discussed had a negative impact on Republicans up and down the ballot, and I do believe that women candidates have demonstrated a greater ability to talk about the issue in a way that doesn’t alienate but is more persuasive and builds by attraction,” Gillespie said, answering a question raised during a conference call to relaunch “Right Women, Right Now” about how this initiative could possibly limit those kind of comments in the next election cycle.
The main backers of the initiative include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
Harwell said she “understands” the issue of abortion “is a very emotionally high-strung issue” and “it touches people’s personal lives directly,” but approaching the “issue with a great deal of kindness” is what “earns the respect of voters.”
“I will say that what I’ve found in the female candidates that are running for office…is that they hold firm to their own personal convictions because this is a value vote,” Harwell said.
Kleefisch had another view, saying the “war on women is alliteration and fits great on a masthead.”
“In reality, it is basically asking women to be transparent and one-dimensional and vote on a single issue, and I’ll tell you that women are a lot more complex than a single issue,” Kleefisch said. “We care about the war on unemployment and that’s the one that the women in this group are fighting, the war on poverty, the battle of making sure ends meet every day in this country.”
“I think it’s kind of insulting to say that women care only about a single issue and care about that most as opposed to making sure that their families are healthy and happy,” she continued, “and that they can pay their bills.”
Bondi, the first female attorney general of Florida, said the campaign would “spend unprecedented resources to elect a record number of women to state level offices.”
“We need to take upon ourselves to encourage other women to say yes to leadership and that’s not always an easy thing to do and you put yourself on the ballot and we know the challenges faced when you say yes to this commitment and it’s up to us to ensure that other women have the support and encouragement to do the same,” she said.
Kleefisch said the group was doing more than just encouraging more women to run at the state level and would actively mentor women and provide support to help with work and family-life balance, saying she knows that “sometimes you feel like your entire life is spent going back and forth between Lincoln Day dinners and carpool obligations, but that’s the life that many women who have chosen to step forward and serve in this way are looking at.”
One thing the group will not be doing is getting involved in primaries, even if it is a Republican woman who’s running. “We don’t engage in primaries as a rule,” Gillespie said, when asked about the number of Republican women who ran in 2010 but were defeated in their primaries by Republican men.
“One of the things we try to do is to work with the state party chairs and legislative caucus leaders and coordinate with them and try to identify qualified and quality women candidates and get them into the process,” Gillespie said. “We don’t want to recruit for women to run for seats where they can’t get the nomination [and] can’t win [or] have a credible chance at winning a general election for that matter.”
Republicans are not the only ones working to get more women to run. Earlier this month, Emily’s List, known for backing female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, launched its “Madam President” campaign to get an early start on electing a female president in 2016. It backed its first gubernatorial candidate of the 2014 election cycle Thursday, endorsing Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania.
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