Senators Lydia Chassaniol, Nancy Collins, Rita Parks, and I recently attended the “Right Women, Right Now” Summit in Nashville, hosted by Tennessee Speaker Beth Harwell and Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. “Right Women, Right Now” is a project of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) with the stated purpose of “identifying, recruiting, supporting and electing” new women candidates to state level offices across the country.
In Nashville, the RSLC announced the commitment of 6 million dollars for “Right Women, Right Now” to recruit 300 new female Republican candidates and successfully elect 150. In the last cycle, “Right Women, Right Now” supported 185 new Republican women candidates from 36 states, including Mississippi, resulting in 84 new Republican women being elected in 2012.
The RSLC’s overall mission is to elect down-ballot, state-level Republican officeholders. During the last cycle, RSLC efforts for both male and female candidates led to six new legislative majorities, a net gain in over 30 chambers, created or expanded 16 Republican supermajorities and picked up two new attorneys general.
The Republican emphasis on female candidates comes as Mississippi Democrats are reaching out to women across the State well in advance of the 2015 elections. Former Democratic State Senator Gloria Williamson recently spoke in Simpson County to recruit women candidates and shore up support for a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run. Williamson’s goal is to mobilize 3,000 Democratic women at the next Mississippi Federation for Democratic Women convention in March. Williamson was joined by Atlee Breeland, organizer of “Parents Against MS 26,” who led a successful grassroots campaign in 2011 against a proposed constitutional amendment defining life as beginning at conception.
Although Mississippians have never elected a woman at the federal level, the 2011 election of Treasurer Lynn Fitch and Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde-Smith proves that women can win statewide. Women make up 17% of the Mississippi Legislature, broken out as follows:
Total Members 52
Democratic Women 2
Republican Women 6
Mississippi House of Representatives
Total Members 122
Democratic Women 15
Republican Women 6
At the Nashville Summit I spent time with Sharon Day, Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee. Mrs. Day spreads this message to Republican women across the nation, “If not you – who? If not now – when?”
Her message is one that many Mississippi Republican women should ponder.