GOP Rep Who Recruits Women Candidates Doesn't Know Why Party Has A Problem

05/06/2014 01:15 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Republican congresswoman tasked with recruiting women candidates to run for the House couldn't identify a reason for why her party has recruited fewer women in 2014 than 2012.

When Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) was asked Monday by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch why Republicans have lagged in recruiting women, she answered, “I don’t know."

“All I know is that I can just move forward from here," Wagner added, according to the paper.

Wagner is co-chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee's Project GROW, which is "designed to promote the role of women" within the party by providing mentorship, campaign advice and strategy and polling support.

Just over one-third of the 196 women who have filed to run for the House are Republicans, though filing periods haven't yet closed in many states.

“There are 234 members in our [Republican] conference, and guess what? There are 19 women,” Wagner told the paper. “That is terrible. Women make up 54 percent of the electorate. We are on the front lines, know what it is like to make the spending decisions. ... Women are on the front lines of health care.”

Project GROW suffered two special election setbacks this cycle in Republican primaries in Florida when businessman Curt Clawson defeated former Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, and David Jolly bested former state Rep. Kathleen Peters. The organization is bullish, however, on electing former Saratoga Springs, Utah, Mayor Mia Love, who may become the first female black Republican in the House out of Utah's 4th District, as well as state Del. Barbara Comstock in Virginia's 10th District and retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally in Arizona's 2nd District.

The GOP's effort to recruit women is a multi-pronged effort, however: the party has hatched a number of different organizations to work on appealing to women voters, though some of those groups have had a rough start talking about issues such as equal pay.

It's unclear whether Republican men are getting the message: a New Hampshire state lawmaker said in April that women don't deserve equal pay because they're lazier, while a GOP Senate candidate in Iowa thinks "you have to connect with women on an emotional level."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has also noticed the difficulty his members have with women.

"[We're] trying to get them to be a little more sensitive," Boehner said of his fellow Republicans at a press conference in December. "You know, you look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democratic caucus than there are in the Republican conference. And some of our members just aren't as sensitive as they ought to be."

Some of the GOP's efforts involve telling their incumbents what to say -- or not to say -- to constituents in their races against women opponents.

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