I am asked this question quite often, so I am just going to take the plunge and try to answer it to the best of my ability.
As the ONLY Republican woman in Texas to make it to the Primary Runoff ballot in 2018 for Congress, I believe I have something to say concerning the subject.
First, here are the facts:
In the U.S. House during the last election cycle, we had 35 new Democrat women elected to the House of Representatives which raised their party’s totals to 89 women.
The number of GOP women in the U.S. House dwindled from 23 to 13, with only one new Republican woman being elected in November 2018, Rep. Carol Miller (R- W.Va.). We now have only 13 Republican women out of 435 Members of Congress.
In the U.S. Senate, there are 23 women out of 100 Senators. Only 7 of those women in the Senate are Republicans. We gained only two new GOP women U.S Senators this last election cycle. Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was elected and Senator Martha McSally in Arizona was appointed to fill an open Senate seat.
When I saw this picture of the U.S. House GOP freshman class, I have to say - I was sad.
Now let me be frank, I helped to elect a few of these good men, and they are my heroes and friends. I want to make clear from the onset that I am not saying those standing in this picture shouldn’t be there, that they are not qualified or that they won’t represent us well. I am sure most of them will.
My question for all of us in the Republican Party is this - when our party was losing suburban women to the Democrat Party left and right in 2018, where were our voices represented as women?
Where were the college-educated business women and entrepreneurs who should have been standing up there with those principled men? We are fighters for liberty, too.
Out of all the conservative Republican women in the United States, couldn’t we recruit any to run for Congress?
Women bring different life experiences to the table and different leadership styles to our national conversation. Many women are excellent administrators and long-term strategic thinkers. Women tend to work sometimes better than men in a bi-partisan manner because they seek common ground and are problem solvers. Women communicate many times with more empathy on life experiences and we are good story tellers which open conversations to distinctly different people to think about our ideas and our values.
In 2018, I was the only Republican woman in Texas to make it to the Primary Runoff in six open seats.
Only 5 of us were women, and only I alone made the runoff ballot.
In Texas, we only have 6 GOP women in the Texas House and 6 in the Texas Senate.
Why are these numbers so sparse in our Grand Ole Party?
Based on years of research on the disparity between women and men running for public office, we have seen several key deterrents that surface for women of both parties.
First, women are more worried about their qualifications to run than men. They worry that their resumes don’t match up.
Secondly, they are also less likely to be recruited by political players or by national parties.
And I believe the biggest deterrent or challenge is their family responsibilities intervene in their desires or thoughts of running for office.
When we get down to the Republican Party and our obstacles, then we have a whole other list that I feel like we need to identify and talk about.
First, Republicans really want the best person for the job, period.
As conservatives, we don’t buy into identity politics, quotas, or affirmative action, so why would we think we need one gender of representation over another?
We look at people’s resumes, their conservative credentials, their ability to communicate, their longevity in standing up for our values, and base our vote on that, not on the gender of the candidate.
Because of that, I think Republican women tend to talk themselves out of going for something that might put them front and center above someone else. We look at someone else’s resume (i.e. a man’s resume) and say, “They have the ability to serve, so I will let them. I can support them.” Not realizing that we have similar qualifications and at the same time not realizing our state and our nation might need our voices to be heard.
Because of this bent in our party, we tend to downplay our womanhood instead of celebrating it.
When I ran for Congress, we hadn’t had a female freshman elected to Congress out of Texas in 22 years. That was a long time. The Democrat women who were running for different Congressional seats around the state celebrated that they were women and asked people to vote for them to help them break that drought.
For me, running in East Dallas County and six rural counties in East Texas, I had to downplay that I was a woman. When the Texas Tribune asked me for a quote, I said, “I am a conservative who happens to be a woman, not a conservative running as a woman, and I’m honored by the overwhelming support I’ve earned across all 7 counties.....”
True - but it was frustrating for me that I couldn’t celebrate that I was a strong Republican woman in our party with one of the best chances of winning a Congressional seat.
Secondly, Republican women are not wired the same as men & we HONOR men.
Many of the women I have talked to that ran for office are in these three camps.
As a political consultant, the men I talk to who run for office are motivated completely differently. Most of them are extremely confident that they deserve a seat at the table. They believe they are the best person to run regardless of anyone’s feedback, they plan out fifteen years of their lives and careers to run for office, or they have a bucket list that they just won’t finish if they don’t run.
So how do we get more Republican women to run?
We need to ask them.
We need to tell them they are the best person to serve.
We need to encourage them to stand up for their convictions.
Here is a big one for our party - We need to not crucify women if they spend time away from their families, get help raising their children, or work hard and long hours to build a business or career.
I have heard Republican women say they won’t support another conservative woman in serving her state or nation because it would take away from her service to her family.
While running for Congress, I had to make a point of saying in all of my political speeches that my boys were grown. The point was - they don’t need me anymore, folks. Our campaign had to make sure that men or most importantly other women didn’t vote against me because they thought my husband or children needed me more than my nation.
As Republicans, we don’t give the same weight to building successful women role models for our children in whatever they are called to do in their lives. Most of us believe that women can be fulfilled and should be celebrated in the home; which is so TRUE, but at the same time, do we encourage conservative women to take on their dreams even if it is in business, politics, ministry or education?
|In the rain in Dallas County at the polls (2018)|
These are the tough questions that I believe we need to ask ourselves as a Republican party.
I believe the answer is YES.
As women who might run for office in the future, do we need to change some of our attitudes and hindrances in our own minds about our worth and our value to our nation?
I believe the answer is YES.
Do we, as voters in the Republican primary electorate, need to change our minds about professional executive leaders who are women and see them as viable representatives of our values?
I believe the answer for the future of our party has to be YES.
*Note: Bunni Pounds is doing candidate recruitment as a volunteer in North Texas as part of the efforts of the Texas GOP and Dallas GOP.