New York Rep. Elise Stefanik has made it her mission to increase the number of Republican women in the House by playing in primaries. On Tuesday, she’s unveiling the first 11 candidates who have the full backing of her recently rebranded leadership PAC.
Stefanik will announce her slate of “Rising Star” candidates, obtained first by CQ Roll Call, at the House GOP’s conference meeting Tuesday morning.
The PAC cannot donate more than $10,000 to a candidate, or $5,000 in the primary and $5,000 in the general election. But Stefanik’s backing could be a signal to others concerned about gender diversity in the party — including fellow House members with their own leadership PACs — that these are candidates worth supporting. The 197-member House Republican Conference is down to 13 women, from 23 during the previous Congress. And two of the 13 have already announced they’re not running for reelection next year.
Each candidate had to meet a set of metrics to earn Stefanik’s backing. They needed to have raised at least $250,000 during the first three months of their candidacies, assembled a campaign team and demonstrated a path to victory.
“I worked with each of these candidates to ensure they are building strong, competitive campaigns, and I’m proud to endorse them today,” Stefanik said in a statement.
Her political action committee, E-PAC, has already contributed $5,000 to each candidate. Here are the 11 endorsed hopefuls, along with the race rating for their contests, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales:
- Genevieve Collins in Texas’ 32nd District (Leans Democratic)
- Maria Elvira Salazar in Florida’s 27th District (Solid Democratic)
- Ashley Hinson in Iowa’s 1st District (Tilts Democratic)
- Michelle Steel in California’s 48th District (Leans Democratic)
- Young Kim in California’s 39th District (Likely Democratic)
- former Rep. Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th District (Tilts Democratic)
- Nicole Malliotakis in New York’s 11th District (Toss-up)
- Chele Farley in New York’s 18th’s District (Solid Democratic)
- Beth Van Duyne in Texas’ 24th District (Tilts Republican)
- Nancy Mace in South Carolina’s 1st District (Toss-up)
- Amanda Makki in Florida’s 13th District (Solid Democratic)
E-PAC, which had about $273,000 in its coffers on Sept. 30, also has a “Candidate watch list” for those who have not yet earned the full endorsement. The PAC will be making additional endorsements next year. Since the goal is to increase the number of GOP women in the House, it could eventually give its full endorsement to multiple women in the same district.
The women on the watch list include:
- Tiffany Shedd in Arizona’s 1st District (Likely Democratic)
- Lisa Sparks in California’s 45th District (Likely Democratic)
- Irina Vilariño in Florida’s 26th District (Solid Democratic)
- Lynne Homrich and Renee Unterman in Georgia’s 7th District (Toss-up)
- Catalina Lauf and Sue Rezin in Illinois’ 14th District (Toss-up)
- Esther Joy King in Illinois’ 17th District (Solid Democratic)
- Sara Hart Weir and Amanda Adkins in Kansas’ 3rd District (Leans Democratic)
- Michelle Fischbach in Minnesota’s 7th District (Leans Democratic)
- Rosemary Becchi in New Jersey’s 7th District (Leans Democratic)
- Claire Chase and Yvette Herrell in New Mexico’s 2nd District (Tilts Democratic)
- Lisa Scheller in Pennsylvania's 7th District (Solid Democratic)
- Stephanie Bice and Terry Neese in Oklahoma’s 5th District (Toss-up)
- Kathleen Anderson in Utah’s 4th District (Toss-up)
As the first female head of recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Stefanik helped recruit more than 100 women to run for the House in the 2018 cycle. But only one of them, West Virginia Rep. Carol Miller, made it to Congress.
GOP women have traditionally struggled to get through primaries. The NRCC does not back candidates in primaries, so Stefanik stepped down from her role at the campaign committee at the end of last cycle to relaunch her leadership PAC. She’s working to recruit candidates, mentor them and help them attract earned media attention to raise their profiles.
Earlier this year, Stefanik and all the other Republican women in the House backed pediatrician Joan Perry in a primary for a safe Republican seat in North Carolina’s 3rd District. The contest divided Republicans in D.C. Perry’s opponent in the runoff, urologic surgeon Greg Murphy, used the backing of Freedom Caucus members to claim a greater allegiance to President Donald Trump — a key litmus test in a GOP primary — and benefited from greater name recognition as a state legislator.
Outside groups supporting GOP women, such as the super PAC Winning for Women, spent heavily to boost Perry, but that wasn’t enough to overcome Murphy’s name ID. Stefanik’s support was also used against Perry in the conservative district. GOP groups dedicated to electing women maintained that helping Perry, who was making her first bid for office, advance into a runoff from the 17-person primary field was a victory for their movement.
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