Capito, Myrick, Emerson, Granger and Wilson Discuss the Importance of Broadening the GOP’s Base by Reaching Out to Women

WASHINGTON, DC – The Ripon Society, a 49-year old centrist policy organization dedicated to broadening the Republican Party’s base, hosted 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 leaders who have done just that.

These leaders included: Representative Shelley Moore Capito (WV-2), who Chairs the Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit; Representative Sue Myrick (NC-9), who serves as Vice Chairwoman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce; Representative Jo Ann Emerson (MO-8), who Chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government; Representative Kay Granger (TX-12), who serves as the Chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs; and former Representative Heather Wilson (NM-1), who served in the House from 1998 to 2009 and is now a candidate for the United States Senate.

This is the second time in less than a year that The Ripon Society has hosted a discussion on this topic. Capito, who also participated in the previous event, moderated yesterday’s discussion and, in her opening remarks, made clear why she believes broadening the base of the GOP by reaching out to women is so important.

“I think women and Republican are two words that go together very well,” Capito stated. “There are a lot of women Republicans across this country. There are a lot of women independents who vote Republican, which is how somebody like me gets elected. These are the women I think we really need to touch in 2012. And I think the policies we have brought forth in terms of job creation and economic sanity and fiscal responsibility are the things that women sit down at their kitchen table and try to figure out every day. There are a lot of women like me. I’m a sort of brand-new grandmother, but I’m also taking care of my parents at the same time. And we’re getting squeezed like nobody’s business trying to figure out how to serve all the different people in our lives. This is I think what Republicans really need to emphasize or look at when we’re thinking about how we can formulate policies that really hit the middle America woman and family – because women are the decision makers.”

In her remarks, Myrick, who served as the first and only female Mayor of Charlotte, NC prior to her election to Congress in 1994, talked about some of the hurdles women face when they run for office, and how she overcame them in her own career. “When you’re talking about a glass ceiling for women today running for Congress, that glass ceiling usually is money,” she stated. “Because women have a tougher time starting out raising money. That’s why we always try to nurture women to run for local offices, whether it be a city council or county commission or a statehouse seat or something. Something where they can get involved and start to build a reputation and get involved in the community and then have a base to work from if they decide they want to move on. A lot of women are afraid to do that, because there’s kind of this stigma that still exists out there that there is this glass ceiling. And I will say – in my opinion – in business there still is a glass ceiling for a lot of women, because it’s hard for some to move up that ladder. But I don’t feel that way in Congress and in politics in the sense that we all feel — most of us, anyway – literally that we’re as qualified as the next guy.

“When I first started out – no offense to you guys – but I’d have someone who was beating me up or a you had a tough opponent, and I’d think: ‘You know, they just get up and put on their pants one leg at a time every day. They’re no different than anybody else – no different than we are. Accept the fact that you’re operating in a man’s world.’ But I don’t think it is like that anymore – especially here in Congress. I know when I came – I was in that Republican Revolution as they called it at the time – Newt Gingrich was very, very, very welcoming to all of us who were women. I mean he really just pushed us out front and literally helped in a lot of ways for us to feel comfortable operating in the process, and he put us on committees that women weren’t normally put on. To Newt’s credit, he did a great job with that and it really helped a lot of us to find our bearings as we were starting into the job. But there still aren’t enough women committee chairmen, of course.”

Congresswoman Emerson echoed Myrick’s comments about the former House Speaker from Georgia, saying: “I do want to attribute my position on Appropriations to Newt Gingrich… The Republicans did not have women on Appropriations until that time.” She also discussed a key ingredient of her own success, and the success of the other women in the room. “One of the things that I think has made all of us as females successful – and we do all either chair subcommittees or are vice chairmen of a big committee – is that I think we probably work a lot harder than the men. And I hate to say that. But I know that’s one of the things that has surprised me. Being at press conferences with some of our male colleagues and knowing all the details of what it is I’m going to talk about, but nobody else — you know, you can talk rhetoric, but when you get asked the tough question, who comes up? Us, to describe the bill … The bottom line is – I think all of us work very, very hard.”


In her remarks, Granger – who was an entrepreneur and the Mayor of Fort Worth prior to her election to Congress in 1996 — also credited Gingrich for his effort to elevate GOP women to leadership roles, and discussed why it is important for Republicans to continue those efforts today. “We’ve all talked about Newt,” she stated, “but he was the one who said immediately, ‘We’re going to put women in the chair. We’re going to put women on committees.’ He said, ‘You would be a good appropriator.’ He did do that. And let me tell you, in this next election, the independents – we have got to keep them. And a majority of them are women. For us to speak to women is just incredibly important. And when you talk to women, you don’t just talk education and child care. You talk workforce issues and tax issues. We’re making the majority of the decisions. We make them in our families. We’re the sandwich generation. I took care of my mother and my children, so we do make these decisions and we also run businesses … I started my business in my living room with $2,500 because no one would lend me any money. In fact, one banker I went to said, ‘Honey, you just need to get married.’ Every time I did something, I sent that banker a note that said, ‘Hey, by the way, I’m still not married, but I just won this award.’”

Wilson, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and a Rhodes Scholar who ran her own small business before entering the political arena, opened her remarks by recounting her first campaign for Congress in 1998, a bruising contest that culminated not just in victory, but with her son looking at her at one point and saying: “You are one tough mother.” Picking up on this observation, Wilson offered some advice to the women in attendance at the Ripon Society event. “You do need to be a little tough,” she stated.

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 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.