The effort to recruit more women to run for office on a Republican ticket is finding that it doesn't have a lot of room to grow for the 2016 election cycle.
Project GROW (Growing Republican Opportunities for Women) was started in 2013 with the goal of recruiting and electing more female candidates for office. Now that the GOP has a historic majority in Congress, that means that growth options are limited, Roll Call is reporting.
In its first election cycle, Project GROW helped six Republican women get elected to the House, but 2016 is shaping up to be a much different election.
"It’s a great project, but I think because we’re looking to the 2016 election, we’re trying to see how we can change it," said North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers, one of the Project GROW founders.
"We’re just taking in input from members now on how we might be able to improve it. We want it to be a long-term project," Ellmers added.
There are four open seats available in 2016, with only one leaning Republican. The others are toss-ups. By comparison, in 2014, there were 12 open seats that were competitive and six favored Republicans, two were toss-ups, and the remaining four leaned Democrat.
Besides not having very many open competitive seats to work with, Republicans have more seats to defend in 2016 than they did in 2014.
National Republican Congressional Committee Recruitment Chairman Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina told Roll Call that NRCC's Young Guns program will likely merge with Project GROW.
"The goal now is not to just go find female candidates and throw money at them, but to bring female candidates into the Young Guns program, so that we’re helping them to develop as candidates so they can be more successful," Hudson told Roll Call.
"[Project GROW] was just running parallel to Young Guns, and now we want to run it with Young Guns," he said. "The end goal being we want successful candidates. We want to help these candidates develop."
The GOP will need to focus on keeping female candidates in office in 2016. There are two who may be vulnerable next election cycle — Reps. Martha McSally of Arizona and Barbara Comstock of Virginia, although both districts lean Republican.
"It’s more of an idea that we have to protect the ones that are elected, the ones that we have in office now, and then also, where we see the opportunity to have a woman run, we want to be reaching out to that woman," Ellmers added.
Even though there may not be as many open seats this election cycle, the recruitment effort will continue.
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who won her seat in 2014 and is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, told Roll Call that she's optimistic about the GOP efforts to recruit women in 2016.
"There’s always seats that we can go on offense on and there will be open seats. Campaign cycles are long, I learned that in my campaign. I got in the race against a sitting incumbent, it became an open race when he decided to retire. That happens every single cycle," Stefanik said.
"The process is ongoing. The cycle is certainly not settled," she added.
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