Ripon Society Shines a Spotlight on Women in Republican Politics

Capito, Molinari, Pryce, Cino & Clarke headline discussion that focused, among other things, on the number of GOP women candidates and the likelihood there will be more GOP women in Congress in 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Ripon Society, a 48-year old centrist policy organization dedicated to broadening the Republican Party’s base, held a breakfast discussion yesterday morning focusing on one important way the party can achieve that goal – by increasing the number of women who join, run for office, and play a leadership role in the GOP.

The discussion featured five women who have done just that: Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, who has represented West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District since 2001; Susan Molinari, who represented New York’s 13th Congressional District from 1990-1997; Deborah Pryce, who represented Ohio’s 15th District from 1993-2009; Maria Cino, who served as Chief Executive Officer of the Republican National Convention in 2008; and Torie Clarke, who served as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Pentagon from 2001-2003.

In the discussion, which featured an appearance and brief remarks by House Republican Leader John Boehner as well, the five women talked about their experiences in politics and offered advice for young women who are either contemplating or just starting similar careers today. They also discussed the importance of increasing the number of GOP women on Capitol Hill, and expressed optimism that the ranks of Republican women in both the House of Representatives and the Senate will grow in 2011 as a result of the candidates the party has on the ballot this year.

“I think we’re all confident that there will be more Republican women in Congress next year,” stated Cino, who served as moderator of the event and, prior to being named the first woman to serve as CEO of a Republican National Convention, served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation from 2005-2007. “We’ve got five very, very good candidates running for the U.S. Senate, which is almost a record and ties [the number we had running in] ’92. With regard to the House, we’ve had 109 women running this year, 18 to 24 of whom are running in competitive races today.”

Capito shared Cino’s optimism, and also shared her own thoughts on why women candidates may be well received by the Nation’s electorate this year. “One thing that I think Republican women can be especially good at — and I think it’s something that the American people are really crying out for — is somebody who’s actually going to listen to them. I think women candidates in general have an advantage, because I think women are perceived to be better listeners and hear more what people are saying.” In that regard, Capito added, “I think there’s not enough listening in Washington.”

The West Virginia Congresswoman, who also serves as the Ranking Republican on the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, also offered a dose of reality – and encouragement — to those women who may be thinking about running for office or considering a political career. “It’s not something you take on on a whim,” she observed. “It’s something you have to believe in and feel in your heart and your gut. And if you stay true to yourself, you can be successful.”

In her remarks, Molinari discussed the role women played in determining the outcome of the 2008 election, noting that 56 percent of women voted for Barack Obama, while 43 percent voted for John McCain. “Fifty-three percent of the electorate is women,” she noted, “and that’s a number that continues to grow every year. So we can’t ignore the fact that women are a majority of voters.” 

Looking ahead to next month’s mid-terms and the agenda Republicans may focus on next year, Molinari added: “The women’s vote is going to be very critical as we wrap up the next election and Republicans take the mantle of leadership.  People are watching the issues that we talk about, the way we talk about these issues and the candidates we put forth.  The people that Leader Boehner and others in the Republican Party leadership decide to showcase and put out there will be very important to reflect the reality that … there’s a place for smart young women in the Republican Party.”

Pryce, who headed the House Republican Conference from 2003-2007 and currently serves as Honorary Chairwoman of the Value in Electing Woman Political Action Committee (VIEWPAC), picked up on this theme in her remarks.  “Our leadership team really needs to have women upfront, talking and being the policymakers, and sharing the committees and doing the oversight that needs done and being the players that we have the talent to be,” she said, adding that:  “I think our new speaker [John Boehner] will make that happen.”

Noting that many in the media called 1992 the “Year of the Woman” because of the number of Democratic women candidates elected that year, Pryce also remarked:  “Let’s see what they call it this year when we have so many Republican women elected.  And look at these women who we’re going to elect.  They’re no shrinking violets.  These women are going to be household names.  There are no Patty Murrays by any stretch of the imagination.  These women are strong and willful and they will have a presence and they will make that presence known.  And it will be terrific to watch that!”

One woman who has been at the forefront for the Republican Party — and the Nation — is Torie Clarke, who was not only the first woman to serve as official spokesperson for the Pentagon, but did so during one of the most challenging times in our history: during the attacks of 9/11 and the first months of the Iraq War. In addition to offering up some career advice to those in attendance, she also offered her observations of the mood of the country heading into the election.

“They don’t want change for change’s sake,” she said, referring to the American people. “They want change because they want people to do things differently. And I think it’s a very, very real and very strong appeal to say we do want a smaller, smarter government, we do want taxes to stop crushing us, we do want smart, logical, long-term thinking on national security. I hear plenty of people out there saying, ‘At this point, I don’t care if it’s a Republican or a Democrat. I want someone who will truly do things differently.’ So I hope – and I take a lot of hope from what I’ve heard this morning – that we won’t just be taking over more seats. We’ll be doing things differently.”



The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 — Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s past success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.