The Washington Post
December 5, 2018
By: Jacqueline Alemany
On The Hill
THE HOUSE GOP’S ONE WOMAN CHANGE AGENT: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is tackling the GOP’s woman problem head on — and isn’t asking for permission to do so.
It’s a refrain she tweeted on Tuesday after the new chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), told Roll Call he thought it was “a mistake” for Stefanik to “play big in primaries” through her leadership PAC by elevating and supporting women and “nontraditional” candidates.
The leader of recruitment during the 2018 cycle at the NRCC, Stefanik responded during an interview with Power Up on Tuesday afternoon: “When I ran for Congress, I didn’t ask for permission,” Stefanik told us. “The NRCC tried to recruit people against me when I ran in that primary . . . I think I’ve earned the support and encouragement from a lot of my colleagues. But I’m not going to start asking for permission now.”
Stefanik thinks Republicans haven’t spent enough time thinking about why they lost nearly 40 House seats in 2018 — and only elected one female freshman compared to 35 new Democratic women. She wants the NRCC to conduct a formal autopsy of the midterms and to fix what she calls the party’s “suburban women problem.”
- “We need to do better”: “It’s quite stark and quite obvious as you look around the GOP conference that it’s not reflective of the American public,” Stefanik told us of the party’s problem with women. “It was particularly stark when they lined up all of the newly elected members.” The numbers mirror the image — only 13 GOP women will be serving in the next Congress, down from 23. “We need to do better,” Stefanik said.
- An autopsy report is necessary: Stefanik called for a “formal autopsy” to be conducted at the NRCC to better prepare for 2020. “One way we can do that is to learn lessons from people that did not get across the finish line,” Stefanik, who helped with the 2012 autopsy report crafted by the Republican National Committee, told us.
- Primary problem: The NRCC didn’t pick sides in primaries, unlike the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Stefanik thinks that’s a mistake and is forming her leadership PAC to take “a step back to really engage and help elevate women early on in the. process,” she said.
- “I want to help them, not just with fundraising but with running effective campaigns that will win in the primary and general election to try to change the overall makeup of the GOP conference and move us in the direction that’s more reflective of the general public,” she said.
- It’s not about Trump: Stefanik scoffed at the media’s laser focus on the president and said congressional candidates need to focus on local issues. “I have a district that supported Trump and women voters supported him … if we want to be a governing majority in the House, we have to do better with suburban women and I think the House Republican leadership needs to be an important voice in putting forth policies and rethinking how we communicate our policies so that we can win back those voters,” she said.
- Advice to Emmers: “We need a lot of lessons learned at the NRCC and I hope that’s where the focus is: to make sure that the NRCC has the staffing, strategy, data investment, fundraising capacity to win in 2020 . . . I hope the NRCC chair is respectful and welcoming of all of the other members who are working hard for their leadership PACS.”
Stefanik believes elevating female voices shines a light on policy issues disproportionately impacting women. Stefanik encouraged the House GOP to study the approach of female lawmakers like Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), “an incredible voice on issues like maternal health,” or Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), “an incredible voice on children with special needs.”
Rep. Ann Wagner (R- Missouri), who Stefanik supported for a bid for NRCC chair before she dropped out, represents a very suburban district and “has been a leader on human trafficking,” she told us. “These voices need to be elevated between now and 2020. And they need to be looked to as role models as how to win in tough districts in this environment.”