GOP is hunting for women candidates

  • Article by: CHUCK RAASCH , St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Updated: May 10, 2014 - 9:30 PM

Of 234 Republican members of the U.S. House, just 19 are women.

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Utah Republican congressional candidate Mia Love, who locked up her party’s nomination in April, is making a repeat bid to replace Democrat Jim Matheson in Congress. She is favored to become the first black female Republican in the House.

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– Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri, who is co-chairing an effort to recruit more Republican women to run for the House of Representatives, has seen mixed results.

A half-dozen GOP women have navigated through GOP primaries or nominating conventions. Among them is Mia Love, who easily won a nominating convention in Utah and is favored to become the first black female Republican in the House.

But more have lost, and overall numbers of women recruits in both political parties are lagging behind 2012, a record year for women running for and winning seats in what has long been dubbed the People’s House.

With filing periods still open in many states, 196 women have filed for the House, 68 of them Republicans, according to the Center for American Woman and Politics at Rutgers ­University, or CAWP.

Eleven women have won nominations among Democrats, as have six Republican women. But nine Republican women have lost nominations to run in November general elections, compared with just three Democrats.

Both parties have a way to go to top 2012, a record year for women running for Congress. According to CAWP, 298 women filed for office in 2012 — 190 Democrats and 108 Republicans. Of them, 118 Democrats won primaries, while 48 Republicans did.

Of those 166 who survived to run in the November elections, 76 won House seats in 2012. But only 20 were Republicans, and the resignation of former Missouri Rep. Jo Ann ­Emerson reduced that by one.

Gender imbalance unacceptable

Wagner said that when she first walked into the Republican caucus shortly after arriving in Congress last year, the gender imbalance struck her.

“There are 234 members in our [Republican] conference, and guess what? There are 19 women,” Wagner said. “That is terrible. Women make up 54 percent of the electorate. We are on the front lines, know what it is like to make the spending decisions.”

Why have Republicans lagged in recruiting and electing women? “I don’t know,” said Wagner, who also recruited women as co-chair of the Republican National Committee from 1999-2005. “All I know is that I can just move forward from here.”

Democrats say GOP opposition to abortion rights and President Obama’s health care law hurt them with women. Democrats have in recent elections charged Republicans with waging a “war” on women.

Wagner says Republican economic policies should appeal to women of all backgrounds. Those who complain about downsides of Obama’s health care law are most likely to be women in charge of family budgets.

Analysts who study voters and primary campaigns say that Republican women have an especially hard time getting through their party primaries because of who votes in them.

“Republicans are likely to see a small uptick in their number of women in 2014, but it’s still a gradual change,” said David Wasserman, an analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “Part of the problem for Wagner and her allies is shepherding women through tough primaries.”

GOP “primary voters are less likely than Democratic primary voters to be women,” he said, “and are less likely to value gender parity in Congress as a motivator in their votes.”

Disappointing losses

Along with Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., Wagner is helping the National Republican Congressional Committee recruit Republican women to run for the House this fall.

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