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GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates

GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates

House Republicans are accelerating efforts to recruit more female candidates as the party looks to claw back some of the suburban districts they lost to Democrats during the midterm election cycle.

The recruitment push comes after Democrats elected a record 35 women to the House last year, many in suburban districts, which analysts saw as a big factor in why the party took over the chamber.

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By contrast, Republicans elected only one female lawmaker, Rep. Carol MillerCarol Devine MillerSix ways to visualize a divided America House GOP campaign arm rolls out new leadership team READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (R-W.V.), while the number of female GOP representatives shrunk from 23 to 13.

Though many of the lost seats were blamed on Trump's low favorability numbers in suburban districts, some members argue the lack of female candidates and the failure to promote policies that appeal to women played a significant role in their loss of the chamber — a misstep they're looking to avoid in 2020.

“The road back to the majority is through the suburbs, and the road through the suburbs is going to be with strong female candidates,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerDemocrats confront difficult prospects for midterms House GOP campaign arm adds to target list Minnesota takes joy in beating New York for last House seat MORE (R-Minn.) told The Hill. “And we're going to have it.”

The NRCC has already spoken to 157 women interested in running in 2020, with 42 having declared their candidacies, according to statistics provided by NRCC Recruitment Chair Rep. Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksBold leadership is necessary to curb violence against youth Here are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act Bottom line MORE (R-Ind.).

Emmer added he’s met with a number of potential candidates, including New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who is running for the Staten Island seat currently occupied by freshman Max RoseMax RoseOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Austin sworn in as nation's first Black Pentagon chief We lost in November — we're proud we didn't take corporate PAC money MORE (D).

He also pointed to Iowa state Rep. Ashley Hinson, who has launched a bid against first-term Rep. Abby FinkenauerAbby Lea FinkenauerGOP hammers Democrats over Iowa Democrat's election challenge Chamber of Commerce slams GOP effort to challenge Biden's win Iowa losses underscore Democrats' struggles with attracting rural voters MORE (D) in the states’s first district as another candidate to watch out for as the next campaign cycle heats up.

Democrats in 2018 were successful in attracting a wide crop of diverse candidates, including  Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarYang's tweet in support of Israel draws praise from conservatives There will be no new immigration law under Biden, unless he changes course Free Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech MORE (D-Minn.), Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathLawmakers brace for battles with colleagues as redistricting kicks off On The Trail: Census data kicks off the biggest redistricting fight in American history Giffords group unveils gun violence memorial on National Mall MORE (D-Ga.) and Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillMaher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' Former Obama official named NFL senior VP of communications Republicans fret over divisive candidates MORE (D-Calif.), as well as others who beat incumbents in primaries like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez hits Yang over scrapped Eid event: 'Utterly shameful' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel The Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel MORE (D-N.Y.) or Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyWarren says she'll run for reelection to Senate Bush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy Genetic material from 1993 killing revealed years after another man executed for crime, groups say MORE (D-Mass.)

And they successfully painted Republicans as being unfriendly to women while spotlighting issues that especially appeal to suburban moms, like health care. 

Democrats are again looking to put Republicans on the defensive in 2020 after a string of GOP legislatures passed a number of actions restricting abortions, including in Alabama where the procedure was banned under almost all circumstances.

It is a lesson that Republicans have absorbed this year, as they look to prove they are a big tent party and look to dispel the notion it’s the party of old white men.

Brooks told The Hill she’s working to draft a diverse crop of candidates that represent a range of backgrounds, experience, and ideologies — going as far as to say she wouldn’t rule out a candidate that supports abortion rights or gay marriage.

“No, I wouldn't say that that is a requirement [being pro-life or pro-traditional marriage], it's not a requirement that I have certainly had,” she said, “and I don't believe that it has been for [Rep.] Elise [Stefanik] (R-N.Y.) as well.”

Stefanik has been making strides to recruit and elect more Republican women to Congress through her leadership political action committee, which is looking to support female candidates in primaries.

Brooks said her focus is also on finding qualified candidates that can win in key battlegrounds, which means candidates who know their district, and have the drive to fundraise and assemble competent teams.

“I wouldn't say there's a demographic, I wouldn't say there is an age group, I wouldn't say even that there is any requirement to have any elected experience,” she said.  

“We're really trying to find out more about their roots in the community, their depth of knowledge about their community, their ability, and interest and willingness to fundraise and their ability to kind of put together teams and grassroots efforts.”

Brooks said the process of hunting for recruits has largely consisted of working with delegations from the states and local party apparatuses, and talking to people reaching out to the NRCC expressing an interest in running.

The Indiana Republican added that PACs like Stefanik’s or others like Value in Electing Women (VIEW) PAC and Winning for Women have also been instrumental during the recruiting process, with the organizations referring candidates to the NRCC and vice versa.

Stefanik, who served as the NRCC recruitment chair during the last campaign cycle, is looking to make her impact at the primary level, even as the NRCC maintains a policy of not getting involved at that stage.

Stefanik relaunched her leadership PAC in January, stating that the party has reached a “crisis level of GOP women in Congress.”

The New York Republican — who won a competitive primary race before taking office in 2014 — is hoping her PAC can help candidates strategize during primaries in open races in addition to recruiting them.

“There's a number of candidates who are announcing in Q2. We intend to do an official slate in early fall of our top tier candidates the first round," she told The Hill.

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Stefanik mentioned Joan Perry, a pediatrician who's running in her first race and will face off against state Rep. Greg Murphy in the GOP run-off in North Carolina's 3rd District in July. The winner would be widely tipped to win in the heavily Republican district, replacing the late  former Rep. Walter JonesWalter JonesHillary Clinton brings up 'Freedom Fries' to mock 'cancel culture' Georgia officials open inquiry into Trump efforts to overturn election results Supreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising MORE

"You know, we're really excited about the Joan Perry candidacy and the outside support that came in for her,” she told The Hill, adding all the Republican women were supporting the candidate.

“We have 140 women who have reached out to run, that's a historic number and I think it's going to really pay dividends when we get to the general election.”

In addition to recruitment efforts, Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - House GOP drama intensifies; BIden sets new vax goal Gender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Can Cheney defy the odds and survive again? MORE (R-Mo.), who launched the Suburban Caucus earlier this year, is looking to craft and promote legislation on policy topics that resonate with suburban areas and women, including on flexible work time and childcare.

“We have a duty to put together a policy program and issue set, a platform so to speak, that is our contract with the suburbs — something that will support them,” she told The Hill.  

“I hope many of the issues should be bipartisan," she added. "But if not, at least we'll be on the record as having put forth legislation that is specific to some of those quality of life, kitchen table, things that are good for their families, their communities in our growing suburbia.”