Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 9, 2016

Why Republicans Have Trouble Electing Women to Congress

Mia Love is a top GOP candidate in 2014. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Love is a top GOP candidate in 2014. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Fewer Republican women are running for Congress in 2014, compared to last cycle. That’s a fact. But what it means — or whether it says anything at all about the GOP — is entirely a different matter.

Unfortunately, not every attempt to explain the development is even-handed and analytic.

“What’s clear is that Republicans are coming up short in their bid to recruit more women to run for office,” according to a Time magazine piece in late February stemming from a study conducted by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

The study was the catalyst for two rounds of stories (examples here and here, along with the Time piece), which EMILY’s List and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee redistributed to mock Republicans for the lack of female House candidates.

According to the study and initial analysis by Time, only 73 Republican women, including 17 incumbents, have filed or are expected to file to run for a House seat in 2014 — a 33 percent decrease from 2012.

“The important question is to find out how hard the Party has tried,” Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, told Time. Lawless ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in Rhode Island’s 2nd District in 2006 and is on the advisory board of Emerge America, a Democratic recruitment group.

“It’s actually impossible not to be able to identify a qualified female candidate in every single district; we’re talking about 435 districts here,” she added.

The idea that Republicans ought to recruit women to run in every congressional district in the country is odd, given the relatively few number of competitive districts.

There are 177 congressional districts where President Barack Obama received at least 54 percent of the vote in 2012. Only two of those districts are currently held by Republicans. Both are in California (Reps. Gary G. Miller and David Valadao), and both had some unique circumstances that helped them win their races.

But according to the Time study and report, Republicans ought to be recruiting women in districts that are virtually unwinnable, simply to add numbers to a body count. In fact, recruiting GOP women in these districts might actually hurt the party’s cause.

How can party strategists credibly ask a woman to put her career and family on hold with full knowledge that she will likely lose? It’s not unreasonable to give Republicans a recruitment pass on those districts.

That leaves 258 districts where a GOP nomination should be of some value.

Of course, Republicans are near their modern day high in the House of Representatives, controlling 234 seats (including vacancies). That’s more than the 230 seats following the 1994 elections and the most since the GOP held 246 seats after President Harry Truman’s first midterm in 1946.

It’s difficult to believe that the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and Lawless believe and expect Republicans to recruit Republican women to run against Republican incumbents. Neither party does that.

This cycle in Illinois, GOP strategists were enthusiastic about the political future of Erika Harold, an African-American Harvard law school graduate who won the Miss America pageant in 2003. But they could not support her challenge to freshman GOP Rep. Rodney Davis in the 13th District.

In Texas earlier this month, tea party candidate Katrina Pierson challenged former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions in the Republican primary. She was a Republican woman running for Congress, but the party could not support her.

On the other side of aisle, Democrats don’t automatically defer to women in primaries either, even when there isn’t an incumbent in the race.

In California’s 31st District, Democrats in Washington, D.C., spent much of the cycle preferring Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar over attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes, even though she is an extremely credible candidate. And in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put Kevin Strouse on its Jump Start list last year, even though Shaughnessy Naughton is also running.

Realistically, then, there are just 26 potentially competitive seats currently held by Democrats where Republican recruitment matters.

Out of those 26 seats, Republicans really aren’t contesting two of them (Connecticut’s 5th District and Oregon’s 4th District) with a man or woman, leaving 24 districts. Out of those two dozen seats, Republicans have women running in eight (33 percent). Those women range from likely winners such as Mia Love in Utah’s 4th District to long-shots, such as Tootie Smith in Oregon’s 5th District.

In addition, there are 23 Republican open seats where a woman could run without having to challenge an incumbent. Two of those open seats are being left by women (Shelley Moore Capito’s 2nd District in West Virginia and Michele Bachmann’s 6th District in Minnesota). There are female Republican candidates in both races.

But in the 21 open seats left by Republican men, there is a Republican woman running in 11 of them. And at least one of them, state Sen. Mimi Walters, is a heavy favorite to succeed a man, in California’s 45th District.

Finally, as I’ve written before, some aspects of candidate recruitment are out of the party committees’ control, whether it be male or female candidates.

Republican strategists tried to recruit a Hispanic woman in Texas’ 23rd District, but she couldn’t tie up a couple of business deals in time. GOP strategists convinced state Rep. Kathleen M. Peters to run in the recent special election in Florida’s 13th District. But she had trouble gaining momentum in the primary while caring for her 84-year-old grandfather who has Parkinson’s and making funeral arrangements for her brother who died thousands of miles away during the campaign.

Most Republican strategists agree that the party needs more women to run for the House, and they would be happy to recruit “qualified” women who have a chance of winning. But there just aren’t as many opportunities as the Rutgers study and subsequent analysis suggests.

  • leftdailey

    It’s a little difficult to recruit women candidates when the GOP is telling every woman that they should stay home, raise children, stay out of politics because home, hearth and children should keep them too busy to do so. Then, when their families don’t have enough to eat, they are supposed to go work for unequal pay vis a vis men – and to work in an environment that criticizes them for working outside of the home. It’s a hard message to sell, and an impossible philosophy to live.

    • Clutch Cargo

      leftdailey is simply projecting the very stereotypes that he believes in his/her own mind. that is how leftist democrats operate. they accuse others of bias simply to assuage their own guilt.

      • leftdailey

        I don’t understand what guilt you believe I am assuaging.

        • Rob_Chapman

          Don’t worry about Clutch Chicago, he is the one trying to impose guilt in this conversation.

      • Beeker

        Actually there was a recent Heritage panel discussion featuring conservative women who hold jobs advocate that the woman should stay at home or the opposite of Sandberg “Lean Back” and the audience were mostly attended by men. When you have this: “Wow,” said John Hilboldt, Heritage’s lectures director, as he opened the session. “Where are all the ladies?”

        So what you see here is where the problem the GOP has.

      • Rob_Chapman

        The inability of the GOP to accomodate to the realities of marriage, family life and the work place in the 21st century is what has pushed women away from them even though the Dems are hardly enlightened.

        But the influx of women legislators, judges and other high officials that the Dems will facilitate will change the system and for the better.

  • Sally

    Regarding your last statement about the women who had family responsibilities and so couldn’t run: I dare you to find a male candidate who is caring for an aging parent or grandparent and puts anything on hold. I dare you to find a male who is concerned about a death in the family thousands of miles away. Seriously. Men will put everything aside for a position of power. Most women will still put family first. The RNC deep down does not trust or even like women. Any female candidate must have such anti-women’s issues beliefs to even run, that I don’t understand how they bring any female to the table. They do not like or respect us. Period.

    • leftdailey

      I wasn’t certain if you were responding to my post. If so, I was not writing clearly, because I completely agree with everything you have said. Thank you

  • Brynn Riley

    Women who value Reproductive Rights have been excluded by the Republican Party

    • Canbuhay

      I agree with reproductive rights. Abortion kills the offspring you reproduce and so can by no means be called reproductive or a right.

      • Rob_Chapman

        Hard to believe that anyone would express such ugly sentiments publicly as Canbuhay has here>

        But that appears to be what the GOP has become in our time.

        • Canbuhay

          Well, when an abortion advocate can’t argue, resort to name-calling.

          The only thing that’s ugly my friend, is abortion. Take a look at what that choice does to preborn human beings:

          Oh and I’m not a GOP voter – I’m Canadian.

  • becca33160

    As to the Rutgers University article, consider the source. This is the same university that recently had a movement within its professors to “disinvite” Condoleezza Rice as it’s graduation speaker. After that episode, I personally put little or no stock in anything that comes out of Rutgers, especially if it concerns politics.

    • Rob_Chapman

      God forbid that we should express disatisfaction with a national security advisor who missed the warning signs of the 9/11 attack or a secretary of state who invaded an Arab country to get their oil.

      Those eggheads at Rutgers are such wusses.

  • TM789

    Because women hate the GOP…..da

  • JG59

    The few votes, demographically speaking, that the Republican Party gets from the female constituency is largely from women in traditional marriages. They may work outside the home but they have the economic safety net of having a two-income household or a husband that earns enough that she needn’t be employed if she chooses not to be.
    But life happens. People die or divorce. Somebody loses a job or gives birth to a special needs child. An aging parent needs care so she quits her job.
    Women know that whether it be child or parent that domestic responsibilities, with some exceptions, usually fall on them. Sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity.
    But women know that a successful life is about more than making money. And if she goes it alone for whatever reason, there are few Republican policies that will offer her a temporary life raft should things take a horrible turn for the worse.

  • fasdfasd

    The liberal media crucifies conservative women, and that’s why you see so few of them in office.

    • leftdailey

      I think Clutch Cargo and fasdfasd misunderstand my meaning. Think about how adherence to Conservative proposals for women would actually play out in life. How can a woman be raising children, taking care of the house, elderly parents, church obligations, etc. In this economy, two-job marriages are often necessary to meet any of these important things. If men and women were paid equally, maybe there would be more money for extras, for fun, movies, children’s school supplies, etc. Even diapers are very expensive, let alone food. If a woman is doing even half of all this, it is inconceivable that she would also have time to organize a political campaign and to fundraise – let alone run for office. The demands of following Conservative dicta and running for office are absolutely contradictory – even forgetting that a woman candidate ipso facto is violating the obligation to stay at home, because the time required for running for office keeps the woman out of the house, and the acceptance of unequal pay for women additionally makes it impossible to provide for for children and childchare. In this economy, no one could do it. Men can run for office without guilt. What Conservative woman, what human could ever take this on?

      • Rob_Chapman

        Leftdaily, Chicago Clutch and fastfazed understand your positions.

        They are engaging in the typical conservative response of diverting attention from the facts and denigrating the speaker, or in this case the writer.

        I applaud your persistance and clarity and your positions. You have spoken out and presented the facts.

        The others have presented their arguments in response.

        • leftdailey

          Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

    • Rob_Chapman

      It never ceases to amaze me the extent of power which the GOP has invested the liberal media with for the past fifty years since Richard Nixon began that trope.

      It is almost enough to make one consider the possibliity that the liberal positions gain their strength from their validity.

  • Beatrice Pryor

    Since it is impossible for anyone to know what anyone else does best, the only ways to find out are through competitive processes that help us identify our individual skills and abilities.

  • Melissa Montana

    While liberty is compatible with restrictions upon certain actions, liberty is not present where authorization is required more than not.

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