Sen. Joni Ernst and Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) Co-Chair Linda Upmeyer participated in a virtual discussion event organized by RPI and the Republican National Committee (RNC) in recognition of Women’s History Month.
Ernst and Upmeyer discussed their trailblazing careers – Ernst is the first woman to represent Iowa and the first female combat veteran in Congress; Upmeyer was the first woman Speaker of the Iowa House – and shared some insights for women who are interested in getting involved in politics.
Both women, for instance, underscored the importance of formal and informal networks to recruit, train, and mentor female candidates.
“There are informal groups that we have just supporting other women and encouraging women to run for office as well,” Ernst said. “It’s so great to have those informal networks too, because sometimes they can lend just more personal support.”
Upmeyer similarly reflected on her experience recruiting female candidates to run for the Iowa Statehouse when she was speaker, stressing the importance of other women’s involvement to encouraging newcomers to toss their hat into the ring.
“It was kind of enlightening to me perhaps that that year we recruited more women to put on the ballot and I think that was largely simply because there was a woman sitting at their kitchen table and they could see, you know, that it’s possible, that anyone can do this,” Upmeyer explained.
Ernst and Upmeyer both acknowledged the uphill climb that women face when considering running for office for the first time. “It’s just kind of an intimidating thing,” Upmeyer said.
Especially in light of the record number of women who ran for office during the 2018 midterms in which Republicans took a beating, Republican officials at the national, state, and local levels have made concerted efforts to recruit more women into the GOP fold. Upmeyer, for example, has been spearheading RPI’s “Build the Bench” program to empower more conservative women to run for office, Iowa Field Report reported last year.
At the national level, the RNC has similarly made efforts to reach out to female voters and recruit female candidates under Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
RNC, RPI, and other efforts have been described as instrumental for the GOP’s success in the 2020 congressional elections, when the GOP nearly tripled the size of its female House delegation.
Iowa Republicans’ efforts to add more women to their ranks will be tested this November when both Republican congresswomen from Iowa – Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson – as well as Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican Attorney General candidate Brenna Bird, will be on the ballot.
Republican officials expressed optimism about their prospects in November and stressed their continued commitment to back their female candidates up-and-down the ballot.
“From Terrace Hill to Capitol Hill, Republican women are leading Iowa to new heights,” RNC Spokesman Kush Desai told Iowa Field Report in a statement. “Under Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, the Republican Party at every level remains committed to empowering women to lead in their communities as precinct captains, school board members, and even members of Congress.”