October 4, 2013

After recent GOP losses among women, Ripon Society hosts breakfast meeting on what can be done to reverse that trend
Reps. Ellmers, Blackburn, Black & Roby headline discussion

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After recent GOP losses among women, The Ripon Society hosted a breakfast meeting yesterday morning to discuss what can be done to reverse that trend. The discussion featured four members of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee, who are spearheading an effort to not only recruit more women to run for office as Republicans, but to make sure the message the party is communicating does not turn women away.

The members included Reps. Martha Roby (AL-2), Diane Black (TN-6), Marsha Blackburn (TN-7), and Renee Ellmers (NC-2), who chairs the RWCP and opened the discussion by talking about the challenges before them. “The Republican Party as a whole has got to do a better job reaching out to women,” Ellmers stated. “There are only 19 of us in the Republican Conference. We’re only 8 percent of our conference, and we need to get more women here. That’s one of our objectives. Whether it’s Project GROW or the Republican Women’s Policy Committee, we’re highlighting all of the work that our colleagues are doing every day, working on important issues.”

Ellmers, who worked as a nurse for more than two decades prior to her election, is serving her second term in the House. In addition to her role as Chair of the RWCP, she also oversees Project GROW, an effort launched by National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden to recruit more Republican women candidates, and one which Ellmers also discussed. “We’re working hard to get more women elected,” she said. “Recruitment is a big part of that. But we also need to make sure that we’re going out and meeting with women and helping them understand that it’s not just about birth control and abortions. Women are worried about how they’re paying the bills, why gas prices are so high, and the price of groceries, milk, eggs when you go to the grocery store.”

Blackburn – who is serving her 6th term in office and helped co-found the RWCP last year -- echoed this sentiment and pointed to a set of statistics that helped bolster her case. She also pointed out that the group’s purpose is not only to help GOP women, but GOP men.

“When you look at what’s happening in society,” the Tennessee lawmaker stated, “women are now 53 percent of the electorate. Women hold 52 percent of all jobs. Forty-seven percent of all households are headed by female breadwinners. Women make 54 percent of all car purchases. Most importantly, when you look at who pays the family bills, 75 percent of all households report that the checkbook is managed by the mom. And 80 percent of all health care decisions are made by women. So it is imperative that we continue to help and assist -- through the Republican Women’s Policy Committee and Project GROW -- our male colleagues who are seeking to get a footing with how they appropriately communicate in a current, concise, succinct method with all of those women, their female constituents.”

Black – who was elected in 2010 and also helped cofound the RWCP last year – expanded on the importance of finding qualified Republican women to run for office, describing it as an effort that not only requires persistence, but may also take a few years.

“We are trying to recruit good female candidates,” she stated. “And as Renee has always reminded me, women have to be asked. Not like males who will make that decision on their own. Women want to be asked. We know that, and we want to ask the right women to come and join us to fight on the Hill. But the other thing we are doing is not giving up when we find a good woman who says the time is just not right. Because they do make decisions differently. If I have kids that are 10 and 13, even though their husband says, ‘Go and do it honey -- I can take care of it,’ I’ve had them say to me, ‘It’s not that everything won’t be okay without me being there -- it’s what I will miss that will make the difference.’

“What we are trying to do is keep those women engaged, so that when the time is right, we will have already cultivated them. They are who we are. We keep in contact with them. We ask them to help us in their communities to help identify other women who the time is right for. We’ve got to do that, so we don’t come up on every election and go, ‘Oh boy, who are we going to call this time?’ We need to cultivate those women, so when the time is right, they can come and join this fight.”

Roby – who also was elected in 2010 and served on the Montgomery City Council prior to her election to the House – discussed the pitch she makes to prospective candidates, as well as some of the personal joys – and considerations -- that must be made.

“What I tell young ladies is that you don’t have to wait your turn,” the Alabama Republican stated. “You don’t have to sit down and take a number and wait until somebody else tells you it’s your turn. It’s not a DMV line. We’ve got to encourage young women to laugh in the face of the adversity and the good old boys network and say, ‘No, I’m going to do this. It is my turn and I don’t have to ask permission from anybody.’ But the other thing is the balance that comes from women believing in their minds that they have to choose between running for office and being a mom and a mother. You don’t have to choose. You can do both, and it’s hard.

“Margaret, my 8 year old daughter -- on her own, without any influence from her mother directly -- decided that she’s running for student council today, and she’s giving a speech today in front of the entire student body. She practiced for me over FaceTime last night, while her brother was in his Spiderman costume running around. You know, it’s hard, and being away from your kids is tough. But the fact that my daughter -- on her own -- wanted to be a leader in her classroom, in the third grade at Forest Avenue Elementary, means we must be doing something right. So when I speak to young women, the message is that you don’t have to choose. You got to have a good support network -- here and back home. You’ve got to have people that will help you. Hillary Clinton got it right when she said it takes a village. But choose your village. Make sure you’ve got people around you that you want.”

Roby concluded by talking about three lessons she believed that all Republicans should take away from the last election.

“We have to start listening,” she said. “I don’t think we spend enough time listening to the people we are trying to draw in to our party and our beliefs. We’ve got to listen. Number two, we have to stop blaming the other side. We have to be the party that we are -- that is, the party of ideas and solutions. When we go out there and say Obamacare is wrong, we have to say what’s right. And we have to make sure it resonates with the American people. Lastly, I believe we have to preach beyond the choir. We all thought we were going to win the election. At least I did. And I think part of the reason we lost is that we only hear each other. We’re not speaking to the people in the grocery store line that may have different political views than us. So we need to engage in that conversation.”

Yesterday’s breakfast meeting was the third discussion The Ripon Society has held in recent years that focused on broadening the base of the Republican Party by increasing the number of women who join, run for office, and play a leadership role in the GOP. Additional information on these previous discussions can be found here and here.

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.

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