GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona believes one reason the number of Republican women in the House of Representatives shrank by nearly half during the last election cycle is because the Democrats specifically went after them to further the false liberal narrative about being the party for women.
“We believe that the Democrats are specifically targeting Republican women because they don’t want us to have Republican women,” Lesko told The Western Journal. “They want to be able to continue to use the talking point that (the Republican Party) is all old white men.”
“The Democrats put lots of money into attacking Republican women,” she added, pointing to the examples of former Reps. Mimi Walters in California and Karen Handel in Georgia.
Lesko — a former state senator and representative — gained her seat in the 8th congressional district on the north side of Phoenix in a special election last spring by first prevailing in a crowded Republican primary field in which she was the only woman.
However, Lesko increased her margin in the midterms topping Tipirneni in a rematch, 55 to 45 percent, and in the process bucked the trend of many Republican incumbents going down in defeat.
Axios reported, in all, 30 House Republicans lost their seats during the midterms, but 19 of those losses came in districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
Among the female GOP members of Congress who fell were Walters, Handel, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, and Mia Love of Utah.
Other open seats that were held by Republican women, but slid over into the “D” column, included those of Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida and Martha McSally in Arizona.
In all, the Republican women’s ranks in the House shrank from 23 to 13 in the current Congress, with just one new GOP female joining the chamber.
Meanwhile, NBC News reported that Democrats elected 35 new women to the House, and of the over 100 women serving in the chamber, 90 of them are Democrats. On the Senate side the numbers are better for the GOP, eight senators compared to 17 Democrats.
Hadley Heath Manning, policy director with the Independent Women’s Voice, noted that it was not all gloom and doom for Republican women during the 2018 midterms.
“Yes – It’s clear that many celebrations of newly elected women in Congress are meant to fete Democrat women only,” she told The Western Journal. “There were several GOP women who shattered glass ceilings in 2018, like Marsha Blackburn, Kristi Noem, Kim Reynolds, Young Kim, and Yvette Herrell, but you won’t hear as much about these trailblazers in the media as you do their Democrat counterparts because their success doesn’t fit the narrative pushed by the left (with help from the media).”
Blackburn became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee; Noem, the first female governor of South Dakota; and Reynolds, the first woman elected as governor of Iowa.
Kim was narrowly defeated in her California congressional race, but had she won she would have been the first Korean American woman elected to the House. Herrell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, also lost a close contest in New Mexico to her Democrat opponent, who was also Native American.
All these examples work against the Democrat narrative that the GOP is made up of “old white men.”
Manning contended many of the policies promoted by the liberal politicians run contrary to women’s interests.
“While the left tries to brand itself as pro-woman, a closer look at the progressive policy agenda shows it is anything but,” she observed. “Higher taxes, government-controlled health care, a one-size-fits-none education system, and increased red tape on our economy… these policies harm women, not help. To be truly pro-woman, we must welcome all perspectives and allow women to have the freedom to direct their own lives.”
Lesko said one issue that the GOP must study is why women moved toward the Democrat Party in the midterms.
Exit polling by the research firm SSRS for CNN found 59 percent or women said they supported the Democratic candidate versus 47 percent of men.
CNN reported the Democrat Party’s advantage among women was the largest in exit polling history (dating back to 1976 for the House). Further, for the first time since 1984, Democrats won control of the House without winning the male vote.
Lesko believes part of countering the Democrats’ narrative of being the party for women is having Republican women lawmakers front and center working on women’s issues.
The Arizonan was recently elected co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Women’s Caucus, where she will serve along side Democrat Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Michigan.
Lesko cited issues like the rising maternal mortality rate in the U.S. and domestic violence as instances where Republicans and Democrats will be able to find common ground.
In general, “On things we agree on, I do want to work with the Democrats to get some legislation done,” she explained.
That said, Lesko — who serves on the House Judiciary, Homeland Security and House Rules committees — intends to speak out when she disagrees.
“Part of my job is to communicate to the public why the Democrats’ policies are bad policies, so that in two years from now hopefully the public will be more educated on what the Democrats stand for,” Lesko stated.
The representative is a member of the Republican Study Committee tasked with setting the GOP’s legislative priorities.
Healthcare is an issue on which she plans to zero in. Lesko believes the Republicans need to come up with a viable alternative to Obamacare or the most recent Democrat push for Medicare for all.
Exit polling showed healthcare was the top voter issue in the 2018 midterms for the first time in a decade, according to CNBC. Forty-one percent of those polled identified it as their No. 1 issue, followed by immigration at 23 percent.
“Roughly 70 percent of all voters, Democrat and Republican, said the U.S. health-care system needs ‘major changes,’ while only 4 percent said it needed no changes at all,” CNBC reported.
An issue some would argue works against the Republican Party garnering more support among women is abortion, though interestingly men’s and women’s views on when it should be legal are similar according to the Pew Research Center.
Sixty percent of women said it should be legal in all or most cases, while 57 percent of men held the same belief. Similarly, Gallup found 31 percent of women support keeping abortion legal in all circumstances, while 26 percent of men share that view.
The topic is particularly timely, given New York State’s new law, which legalizes abortion up to the time of birth in many cases.
Lesko is pro-life, but she told The Western Journal that was not always the case. Her change of heart came while she was working the Republican Party’s booth at the Arizona State Fair years ago.
The Arizona Right to Life was set up nearby, where the group had on display the baby forming in the womb at different stages of development.
“That’s not a clump of tissue,” she remembered thinking. “‘That looks like a little baby.’ Now I am very strong pro-life. These women are being lied to. I think it’s very important to speak out because life is a fundamental human right.”
“I don’t believe it is a choice to kill another human being,” she added. “I don’t condemn the women (who have had an abortion), because I just believe that they have been lied to.”
Asked what drew her into public office in 2008 when she first successfully ran for the state house, Lesko recounted that she has always been civically minded, starting with volunteering in her children’s schools and later at the local Republican Party level.
“I think overall probably God drew me here,” she said. “God has me on a mission here.”
“I believe that God is in control of everything,” Lesko explained. “If I’m here, it’s because God wants me to be here.”
The Western Journal has reached out to the Democratic National Committee for comment, but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.
Gabe Joseph contributed to this report.
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