Tags: Republican | women | elected | House

Republican Women Make Big Election-Year Strides

Wednesday, 26 November 2014 09:23 PM Current | Bio | Archive

One of the little-told but very significant side stories of the Republican "wave" elections of 2014 is the ascent to elective office of Republicans who happen to be women.

In a year when numerous Democratic campaigns charged that GOP candidates were waging a "war on women" because of their pro-life positions on abortion, Republicans elected four new House members and may have elected a fifth if Martha McSally survives a recount in Arizona's 2nd Congressional District.

As of Friday, Air Force veteran McSally, the first woman combat pilot, was clinging to a 131-vote lead over Democratic Rep. Ron Barber and a recount had begun.

(Most Republicans on Capitol Hill insist there are already five Republicans, counting Amata Radewagen as the fifth. Radewagen was elected as American Samoa's territorial delegate, defeating Democratic incumbent Eni Faleomavaega. The position has non-voting status in the full House, but its holders sit on committees and are included in party conferences).

Not including McSally, there will be 87 female representatives in the 114th Congress — 65 Democrats and 22 Republicans.

In the Senate, the results are even more dramatic for Republican women. The victories of Sens.-elect Joni Ernst in Iowa and Shelly Moore Capito in West Virginia mean that, for the first time since 1954, two female Republicans will come to the Senate in the same year.

(The next Senate will include 20 women, 21 if Democrat Mary Landrieu wins an upset in Louisiana's runoff Dec. 6. Not including Landrieu, the breakdown is 14 Democrats to six Republicans.)

Republican women also made major strides at the state level. All three Republican governors who are women — Susanna Martinez of New Mexico, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, and Nikki Haley of South Carolina — were handily re-elected.

In addition, the number of Republican women attorneys general tripled. Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida was re-elected, and Leslie Rutledge, onetime legal counsel to Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign, was elected attorney general of Arkansas. In Colorado, Cynthia Coffman, former deputy state attorney general and wife of Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Col.), was handily elected as the Centennial State's top law enforcer.

According to the National Council of State Legislators, there will be roughly 1,755 female state legislators in 2015 — 1,058 Democrats (60.6 percent) and 683 Republicans (39.1 per cent), along with four third-party and 10 nonpartisan lawmakers (the 10 being in Nebraska's nonpartisan, unicameral legislature). These figures represent a major leap forward for the GOP's female legislators from 2008, when Democrats dwarfed Republicans by 68.8 per cent to 30.8 per cent.

"When I got elected to the House back in 1989, there were not many women here," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R.-Fla.), senior Republican woman in Congress, told Newsmax. "Now look at all the company I have!"

Speaking of her four just-elected colleagues in the House, Ros-Lehtinen pointed out that "Mia Love [Utah] is the first black female Republican in Congress, and Elise Stefanik [New York] is, at 30, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. "

Ros-Lehtinen also said that U.S. Rep.-elect and current state Sen. Mimi Walters of California is the freshman class representative to the House GOP leadership as well as president of the freshman Republican class in the 114th Congress.

"And Barbara Comstock will just hit the ground running," said Ros-Lehtinen, referring to the lawyer, former Justice Department official, and Mitt Romney campaign strategist who won an open House seat in northern Virginia.

Recalling how Republican women in Congress have been dwarfed in modern times by Democrats, Ros-Lehtinen blamed this on her party's "doing a bad job of encouraging women to run when they had the opportunity. There's got to be some encouragement and then helping them along."

The Floridian offered considerable credit to House GOP Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R.-Wash.) for encouraging GOP women to run and helping them get elected. In her words, "Cathy is great at bringing diverse groups together. She invited some people from Cosmo and Glamour Magazine to meet with Republican congresswomen. I think they felt they were going to meet some women from 'The Stepford Wives' and were pleasantly surprised by us."

But, she quickly added, "the party can't encourage a woman to run simply because she's a woman. So what? I don't want to be electing women for the sake of gender politics who don't stand for anything. I want them to stand for things that our party does — limited government, less taxation, less regulation, and adherence to the Constitution."

(All four Republican women elected to the House are considered strong conservatives and hold conservative positions on most cultural issues, notably abortion and the right to keep and bear arms. As for the senators, Iowa's Ernst is a strong pro-lifer and ran TV spots showing her firing her pistol at a target range. West Virginia's Capito is conservative on most issues but takes the pro-choice position on abortion).

As much as Ros-Lehtinen finds "gender politics" distasteful, she did concede to Newsmax that "it would sure help [Republicans] in 2016 if a woman was on our ticket, especially if Hillary Clinton is on the other ticket."

Her GOP vice presidential choice is New Mexico's Gov. Susana Martinez, granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and a strong conservative. But, the congresswoman quickly added, "she's not the only possibility. Our bench is deep."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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One of the little-told but very significant side stories of the Republican "wave" elections of 2014 is the ascent to elective office of Republicans who happen to be women.
Republican, women, elected, House
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 09:23 PM
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