New GOP women's group makes first endorsements

Simone Pathé, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Democratic women outnumber GOP women in Congress three-to-one. But a new group supporting conservative women is hoping to change that imbalance.

Winning for Women, Inc., is making its first endorsements and announcing its key staff on Thursday. The initial round of endorsements, shared first with Roll Call, includes 12 women running for Senate or re-election to the House.

Winning for Women was founded in November. As Politico reported last fall, it came together from several existing joint fundraising committees that had the backing of major GOP donors including Paul Singer, Robert and Rebekah Mercer and Joe and Todd Ricketts, who's expected to become the new finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

The group's goal is to inform the public about "national security and free-market policy" that it thinks will benefit the lives of women, organize women who share the same policy vision and help them succeed in leadership, which includes winning elected office.

Without an organization like EMILY's List, Republicans have struggled to get female candidates through primaries. The network of existing groups dedicated to electing GOP women is more fragmented on the right. Most groups don't have a litmus test that energizes activists and donors as much as abortion rights does for EMILY's List.

Winning for Women's PAC will give each endorsed candidate $5,000 and introduce each of them to its national member network.

The group is making three endorsements for Senate: Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, who's running for the GOP nomination for the state's open seat; Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who's running for the nomination for her state's open seat, and Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, who's running for a second term. Former White House adviser Steve Bannon threatened to primary every senator, except Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but Fischer doesn't face an immediate threat.

All nine of the PAC's first House endorsements are incumbents: Alabama Rep. Martha Roby; California Rep. Mimi Walters, Georgia Rep. Karen Handel; New York Reps. Claudia Tenney and Elise Stefanik, Utah Rep. Mia Love, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, Washington Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. All nine women are Democratic targets in November. Tenney and Comstock are among the top 10 most vulnerable incumbents in the House.

"Winning For Women has carefully considered all of the elements of each race, including competitiveness, national attention, and strength of candidate," communications director Katherine Cresto said in a statement.

"These women have records of excellence and service, and Winning For Women looks forward to elevating leaders of their caliber and potential," she added.

Winning for Women will make non-incumbent endorsements in the coming weeks. GOP strategists are excited about viable recruits in a number of competitive races. Stefanik is the first female head of recruitment for the NRCC this cycle. Republicans also have an opportunity to increase the number of GOP women in Congress by supporting female candidates in solid Republican open seats.

Five GOP women serve in the Senate, compared to 17 Democratic women. Twenty-two GOP women serve in the House, compared to 62 Democratic women. Nearly a quarter of the women in the House GOP conference have already announced they're not running for re-election.

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"Simply put, there are not enough right-of-center women seated at the table. It's our goal to change that," Executive Director Rebecca Schuller said in a statement.

Schuller recently launched and directed the Women's Initiative, a project of America Rising that tried to help Republicans communicate with independent women voters. She's a veteran of Capitol Hill and the Massachusetts State House who's also worked as a lawyer for Mintz Levin.

Danielle Barrow will serve as operations director. She was previously director of operations for the Foreign Policy Initiative. She's worked on Capitol Hill and in the Virginia General Assembly.

Communications director Katherine Cresto joins Winning for Women from Edelman. She's a veteran of the Financial Serves Roundtable, Purple Strategies and Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.

Amanda Iovino will direct research and analytics. She's joining from The Women's Initiative and is a veteran of America Rising and Public Opinion Strategies.

Micah Yousefi will serve has political and policy director. She was in charge of women's engagement for the NRCC during the 2016 cycle and managed Handel's special election campaign in Georgia's 6th District.

Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Hudson Institute chairwoman Sarah May Stern are joining the board of directors.

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