‘We Certainly Have Work To Do’ — Utah Republican Women Lawmakers Look To Change The Party’s Dismal Record On Electing Women
When Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, was thinking about running for office, she said she struggled to feel like she was the right person for the job.
“There's a mentality with a lot of women, right?” she said. “They feel like, ‘Oh, the man should do it,’ particularly in Utah. I feel like we always want to give this opportunity to the man because we belong in the home.”
But Birkeland said the informal mentorship she received from women in the state Legislature helped push her to run and eventually win.
“These women, they took me in and they made me feel like I belonged,” she said. “They let me know that my values, my ideas [and] my views — they were needed.”
Birkeland and eight other Republican women state representatives officially launched a political action committee Tuesday to formalize that type of mentorship. It’s called the Republican Women Lead PAC. Their goal is to get more GOP women elected by providing training, mentorship and money to their campaigns, as well as recruit women to run in the first place.
Utah Democrats have been doing a better job of getting women elected to office. Women make up 70% of Democratic state lawmakers, but just 11% of Republican state lawmakers are women.
“We have plenty of qualified, fantastic women who would make great candidates and policy makers,” state Rep. Candice Pierucci, R-Herriman. “We certainly have work to do.”
Pierucci said Republican women candidates have different needs than Democratic women, and they need support tailored to them.
“You've got to know as a candidate that you have to be able to talk about those values as a Republican and that's something you would train candidates totally different on,” she said. “In terms of fundraising, we don't have the same donor organization and network built in. And so we're connecting them to those resources because as we know, money is needed for a campaign.”
The work won’t just be at the state level, though. The PAC intends to target local elections as well. But they won’t be targeting the seats of Republican incumbents. Instead, they’ll focus on open seats and seats controlled by Democrats.
“Open seats [are] that low hanging fruit that we should be going after, that we aren't right now,” Pierucci said. “And obviously as Republicans, we want to continue to grow our conservative influence and so those blue seats would be what we'd be targeting.”