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North Carolina likely sending another white male Republican to Congress

Simone Pathé, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

"He's willing to fight for this president," Meadows said about Murphy in an interview with host Sean Hannity.

Most of the ads in the race were about each candidate proving they'd be the president's strongest ally and questioning the other's support for Trump.

Murphy and his allies seized on Perry's appearance in a 2012 spot for former North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre, a conservative Democrat who opposed abortion and was running for re-election with the backing of the National Rifle Association. An ad from House Freedom Action, for example, slammed Perry as "liberal" and accused her of helping a "Pelosi Democrat." (McIntyre did not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker after winning reelection.) Murphy's backers also knocked Perry for not being quick enough to support Trump's emergency declaration for the border wall.

The ads from Perry's backers questioned Murphy's loyalty to Trump. They went after his support for a version of Medicaid expansion. Anti-Murphy ads also tried to paint him as a supporter of the 2010 health care law, using part of his quote from a local TV interview to suggest he was praising "Obamacare."

Perry represented the GOP's best chance this year of adding another woman to its House conference, which is down from 23 women in the previous session of Congress.

Despite the party recruiting more than 100 women to run in 2018, just one new female Republican made it to the House in last fall's midterms. Many more GOP women have already come forward this year to express interest in running for Congress. But for Republicans who care about electing women, last year's failures highlighted a frequent trouble spot for GOP women: primaries.

Winning for Women, which was founded during the 2018 cycle, invested heavily for Perry. Its super PAC, WFW Action Fund, said it spent nearly $900,000 for Perry. That's significantly more than the group spent in primaries during the 2018 cycle, when it most often made five-figure digital buys for women in primaries.

Winning for Women and other Republicans who work to elect GOP women were hoping a victory in this race would send a positive message about the party's commitment to electing women in 2020. There was a special excitement about nominating a woman in a safe Republican seat, where Perry wouldn't be susceptible to partisan waves such as last year's, which knocked out many of the female GOP incumbents.

 

But New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who rebranded her leadership PAC after the 2018 midterms to play in primaries for women, has maintained that if Perry lost, this race would still have sent an important message to other GOP women considering running: "There is a cavalry," Stefanik said at a Winning for Women reception in Washington last month.

Still, the party's inability to elect a woman, despite significant outside spending, raises questions about the political durability of a party that no longer reflects the American electorate. And even though the House GOP campaign arm has an official policy of not playing in primaries, that's clearly something House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is thinking about.

"We will never be a majority party if we don't achieve this. We won't even come close," McCarthy said at the same Winning for Women reception, where the group rolled out its goal of electing 20 women in 2020. "Even if we achieve this, there's a chance we won't be a majority."

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