GOP effort to elect more women to Congress fails first test in North Carolina

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'I vote for brains, not boobs,' scoffed the co-founder of Women for Trump, who opposed GOP efforts to promote Joan Perry's candidacy and elect more women to Congress.

The GOP effort to increase the number of women in Congress is off to an inauspicious start.

Despite a significant investment from the 13 Republican women in the House, as well as financial help from other Republican groups, pediatrician Joan Perry — the female candidate in a GOP runoff in a House special election in North Carolina — lost handily on Tuesday to state Rep. Greg Murphy.

Perry's loss is a bad sign for the GOP's effort to diversify its congressional conference.

Republican women in the House, as well as GOP groups that provide financial support to Republican women candidates, all touted Perry as a top-tier candidate.

"We all felt very strongly that she was the ideal candidate, and that working together, pooling our resources, and putting a woman's muscle behind this woman was really important," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, told National Journal ahead of Tuesday's runoff election. "We want this to be a proof of concept, and I believe that it will be."

However, Perry lost by almost 20 points on Tuesday — a sign that no matter how much is invested in GOP women candidates, many Republican voters are simply not inclined to back women at the ballot box.

Amy Kremer, who co-founded Women for Trump, made that clear in an interview with National Journal.

"If these women are saying that they should support women because they have the same body parts just for the sake of having more women in Congress, then they’re sexist," Kremer told National Journal, criticizing the GOP women-led effort to back Perry. "I’m smarter than that. I vote for brains, not boobs."

Those comments highlight the frustrations that other Republican women have voiced about their party's lack of commitment to gender diversity.

"We are so welcomed in the background to help volunteer, to help spread information, but when it comes time for a woman to really step up into the spotlight, I almost feel like it's crickets," Elana Doyle, a 26-year-old Republican mulling a bid for office, told the New York Times in an article published on Tuesday about the effort to get more Republican women elected. "I admire that about the Democrats, how they embrace women and they put them on a pedestal and they say, 'We need you.'"

Trump carried North Carolina's 3rd District by 24 points in 2016, meaning it would be a seriously uphill climb for a Democratic candidate to win the seat that's currently vacant due to the death of the late GOP Rep. Walter Jones.

If "brains not boobs" is the message coming from Republican women like Kremer, then the GOP effort to elect more women is really in trouble.

Published with permission of The American Independent.