Congresswomen jockeying for House GOP leadership positions

Four congresswomen are seeking House leadership positions this week following the GOP’s disappointing performance among female voters in the 2012 election.

Should they fare well, there will be more women at the House GOP leadership table than ever before.

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Republicans acknowledge they need to broaden their party’s appeal to women and Latinos, and part of their strategy is to give female and Hispanic lawmakers a louder voice within the party.

The positions of House GOP Conference chairman, vice chairman and secretary all have GOP female lawmakers vying for a leadership role.

Current House GOP Conference Vice Chairwoman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) is running to succeed outgoing Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas). Reps. Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) and Martha Roby (Ala.) are running for the vice chairmanship, and Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.) is campaigning to succeed Rep. John Carter (Texas) as secretary.

Jenkins and Roby are the only contenders running to succeed McMorris Rodgers, so there will be at least one House GOP leadership seat filled by a woman in the 113th Congress.

The other two races, however, are more difficult to handicap, according to sources tracking the House GOP contests, which are set to be decided on Wednesday.

The most closely watched leadership battle is between McMorris Rodgers and current GOP Policy Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) to become the next GOP Conference chairman.

Supporters of McMorris Rodgers say the two-term conference vice chairwoman has been groomed over the past four years to lead the conference.

A supporter of McMorris Rodgers, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) disputes the notion that gender politics is at play.

“I reject any idea that one of them is going to have an advantage because we are going to try and elect tokens or symbols,” the former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman told The Hill.

Yet other backers of McMorris Rodgers say the lack of diversity at the leadership table, which is dominated by white men, will help her win the fourth-highest-ranking spot in the conference.

“Members will likely feel inclined to elect [McMorris Rodgers] not only because she’s good at her job but to show diversity in the leadership ranks, no question about it,” a GOP source familiar with the internal battle said.

According to an exit poll conducted by the Gallup organization, President Obama carried the female vote by 12 percentage points, 56 percent to 44, over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Foxx, meanwhile, has a tough fight on her hands.

The North Carolina lawmaker, known for making blunt assessments in the Rules Committee, is running for the sixth-ranking position against Mississippi Rep. Gregg Harper and California Rep. Jeff Denham.

Denham, who survived a tough reelection, will likely have the backing of many lawmakers from the class of 2010, as well as members from California.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are all running unopposed.

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