Back on Wednesday, we looked at the efforts by New York Republican Elise Stefanik to recruit and support more female candidates during the 2020 congressional primaries. That plan seemed to at least mildly upset incoming NRCC chair Congressman Tom Emmer of Minnesota, but Stefanik is definitely plowing ahead anyway. But as of last night, she has a new ally in her cause. It’s none other than House Majority Whip (for now) Steve Scalise. (The Hill)
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) threw his support behind Rep. Elise Stefanik’s (R-N.Y.) push to help more Republican women win their primary races on Friday.
“Thank you for leading on this @EliseStefanik. We need more talented women like you in Congress. I’m proud to support your efforts,” he tweeted in response to the New York Republican warning the number of female GOP lawmakers in the House has reached “crisis levels.”
Just 13 Republican women are slated to serve in the lower chamber in the 116th Congress, down from 23.
Scalise’s comments come after Stefanik blasted newly-elected National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) for his remarks to Roll Call saying he believed it would be a “mistake” for her to intervene in primaries.
One of Emmer’s aides also went on record saying that the incoming NRCC chief and Stefanik were now “on the same page” and setting up meetings to get input from GOP women and figure out ways to recruit more female candidates and get them elected. So at least for the moment, it looks like the NY-21 congresswoman has won the battle.
So is that a win-win for the party or not? As I pointed out on Wednesday, they’re playing with a double edged sword here. I do believe that the party will generate more enthusiasm from women voters if they manage to even out some of the gender gap in the Republican caucus two years from now. If women feel shut out of the process (rightly or wrongly) that’s going to depress turnout.
But at the same time, I hope that this new-found enthusiasm for pushing outside cash toward specific candidates in the primaries doesn’t turn around and bite them. There’s a very valid reason the NRCC has traditionally stayed out of the primary fights. The voters in each district need to be the ones deciding who will represent them. If the NRCC is putting its thumb on the scale, that sort of interference doesn’t generally sit well with the natives.
Perhaps some sort of compromise could be found. Stefanik’s PAC could, for example, cover the costs associated with vetting any of the female candidates who express an interest in running and make sure that they’re viable in the general election. They might even be able to provide some staffing for them to make their initial entry into national politics a bit smoother and avoid rookie mistakes. But if we go much further than that and start buying up blocks of ad time for them… well, it just doesn’t sit well.