WASHINGTON–Calling it a “historic commitment” the Republican National Committee and five other GOP committees launched several new initiatives Friday aimed at recruiting more female candidates and courting more women to join the party.
“We are not a coalition, we are not an outreach group,” RNC co-chair Sharon Day said at a press conference announcing the push. “We are the majority of the voters out there, we are 53 percent of the voters and this party understands this.”
Day pledged to “do more to make sure our representation and our party…looks like what our country looks like.”
The RNC, joined by the National Republican Congressional Committee, Republican Governors Association, National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Republican State Leadership Conference, and the College Republican National Committee, launched “Women on the Right Unite” which will oversee two other initiatives announced to encourage conservative women to run for higher office and nurture them once they are there, as well as getting more women involved in conservative politics.
The National Republican Congressional Committee announced “Project GROW” (Growing Republican Opportunities for Women), which is focused on recruitment and campaigns, while the Republican State Leadership Committee launched “Right Women, Right Now,” which pledges to recruit 300 new candidates, with the goal of electing 150 women at the state level.
At the event at RNC headquarters ten female members of congress spoke and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said “as a party we are here to support those who stand up to run and we are going to work hard to get more women to make that decision.”
“For the first time ever all six committees are coming together to show you that we recognize America needs more women involved in political leadership and to show our commitment as a party to developing better relationships with women voters,” Priebus said. “We recognize that getting more women into politics means offering support and training for women of all ages from staff to to those seeking elected office and simply asking more women to run.”
In the RNC’s post-2012 “autopsy” in March they also pledged to increase outreach to women, as well as African-American, Asian, Hispanic and gay voters. President Obama won the female vote 55 percent to 44 percent last year.
New Hampshire state Rep. Marilinda Garcia promised the new initiatives would create a “culture of support for female candidates at all levels of government for the first time.”
“State House members to senators to governor to president, Republican women should definitely be encouraged to run, supported throughout the process and highlighted as key messengers for our party,” Garcia said, adding that their goal is to “build the farm team for the future of the Republican Party.”
Democrats lead Republicans when it comes to electing women. They have three times as many women in the House, 75 of the 98 women are Democrats, and four times as many women serving in the Senate.
In governor’s mansions across the country, Republicans actually lead. There are only five female governors, but four are Republicans.
Democrats have consistently accused Republicans of waging a “war on women” and point to congressional and state wide efforts to restrict abortion rights. Just this week, Texas State. Sen. Wendy Davis waged an 11 hour filibuster to prevent the passage of a sweeping anti-abortion bill supported by prominent Republicans.
Emily’s List, a group with the goal of electing female candidates who support abortion rights, is the most direct opponent on the other side of this new initiative. They start recruiting possible candidates from the city council level onwards, supporting female politicians throughout their career, something these new GOP initiatives will try to do as well, but Emily’s List has been working on since 2001.
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) said they will focus not only on recruitment, but also polling, training, mentoring, fundraising, and digital initiatives including more aggressive social media outreach, something also mentioned as a goal of the RNC after the 2012 losses.
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-NC) didn’t go into details of recruitment, but said they were talking to all different types of women including mayors, veterans, businesswomen, doctors, teachers, and more.
“Up and down the line we are walking the walk and making sure we grow our majority not just in the House but our majority among women,” Wagner said.
Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) acknowledged “Republicans haven’t always been good with a clear message to women,” but said “that’s about to change.”
“The fact is that President Obama’s policies are really and truly the war on women,” Black said. “We are going to fight back against that.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said they did not consider just launching one centralized initiative to woo female candidates and voters because “there is strength in numbers.”
“If we were to do something that was single focus from the top down that was very centralized we would miss so many fabulous women who are all across the nation so by bringing everybody in it gives us the opportunity to see women rise to the top, that’s what we want to do,” Blackburn said.
Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock actually sent out a memo to “pre-but” the GOP event writing “Democrats are doing all of the heavy lifting” of working to get more women elected to office.
“Achieving gender parity in Congress is a huge undertaking, and it would happen a lot faster if Republicans were doing their fair share when it comes to recruiting and training women, Schriock said. “But the truth is that GOP attempts to bring more women in to the fold are hollow, because the Party platform is to still hostile to policies that actually work for women.”
Schriock added that the Republican “conducted a thorough autopsy of their failure to attract women voters during the last election cycle, and has concluded that their messaging, and not the very substance of their anti-woman policies, is the problem.