Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is focusing on women candidates to boost her party's efforts to retake control of the House, predicting that the number of Republican women in the House will jump next year.
“We are building towards 50,” Stefanik said in a briefing Wednesday about the successes of her Elevate PAC, or E-PAC, that endorses female candidates, predicting that the number of House GOP women will “blow past 40 this cycle.”
The number of Republican women in the House dwindled to just 13 after the 2018 election. But that number more than doubled after the 2020 election, when 32 female Republican representatives won seats, plus two nonvoting delegates. In that cycle, 11 of the 15 seats that Republicans flipped were E-PAC endorsed candidates.
Democrats have 91 women in their House caucus, nearly three times as many as the GOP.
This cycle, Stefanik’s E-PAC has 23 endorsed candidates who are running in open races or challenging a Democratic incumbent. Those range from women in safe Republican seats, like Harriet Hageman, who defeated Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in a primary last month, to those seeking seats that will be harder for Republicans to win.
While some of the endorsees had broad support from outside Republicans in primaries, others had to put up more of a fight. Karoline Leavitt, a former staff member in the White House press office under former President Trump and then in Stefanik’s congressional office, recently defeated Matt Mowers in a New Hampshire primary race, despite a PAC aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) spending more than $1.5 million in support of Mowers.
“Congresswoman Stefanik was instrumental in my decision to run. And in that early support, it really helped propel us in our primary to be victorious,” Leavitt said.
Stefanik announced last week that she will seek another term as House Republican Conference chairwoman, shutting down months of speculation that she might join the field of three candidates for House majority whip if the House flips to Republican control next year.
But her focus on E-PAC shows that she still has big ambitions, even if she would slide down from the third- to fourth-ranking House Republican in a majority.
Stefanik said experience helping lead Trump’s defense during his first impeachment, which shot up her national profile, helped her build up a national donor list. That helps her boost the E-PAC candidates — the group says it has helped raise more $1 million directly to GOP women candidates this cycle.
Stefanik’s post-2018 election decision to step back from a role at the National Republican Congressional Committee in order to try to elevate female candidates in primaries was met with some pushback at the time. She defiantly responded that she “wasn’t asking for permission.”
But now, Stefanik says, she has strong support for her cause from her male colleagues, including McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
It is not just financial support that E-PAC brings. Stefanik lamented that while Democratic women get “outsized coverage in the media” and “magazine covers,” Republican women don’t get the same.
“They deserve glossy magazines as well,” Stefanik said, adding that E-PAC has booked more than 100 interviews for its candidates.
Increasing the number of Republican women in the House GOP, Stefanik noted, does not necessarily mean that the conference will move in any particular ideological direction. Women are prominent in both the conservative House Freedom Caucus and the more moderate Republican Governance Group.
As the number of women in the conference has grown, Stefanik said they are having “a significant impact” on “both policymaking and policy proposals.”
Republican women have been outspoken on education issues, child care and the baby formula shortage, she said. And those GOP members are also hoping to see more Republican women voices next year.
“Getting more women in our Republican conference is critically important, and Elise is leading the way to make that happen. I know I’m here in Congress because of fellow GOP women like Elise who backed me from day one,” Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.), who was elected to Congress in 2020, said in a statement.
“The road to take back the House has a lot of Republican women on it.”