A broad network of conservative operatives and Republican donors has been working the past year to build a conservative counterweight to EMILY’s List, the powerhouse organization that backs Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights.
The new effort, dubbed Winning for Women, quietly began soliciting members and funneling support to candidates about six weeks ago. The group now includes nearly 30,000 people who have provided their names and email addresses online, though it doesn’t yet have a website and hasn’t officially launched.
Winning for Women arose from a series of joint fundraising committees set up over the past two cycles and supported by some of the Republican Party’s biggest donors, including Linda McMahon, Betsy DeVos, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and his son, Todd, and the hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer. The group hopes to swell its ranks to 400,000 by November 2018, according to a source familiar with the organization’s plans.
The joint fundraising committees delivered millions to female Republican candidates including New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who in 2014 became the youngest woman elected to Congress, and Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, a retired Air Force Colonel who was the first American woman to fly combat operations.
The organization is seeking to address the yawning gap between the number of GOP women and the number of Democratic women in office. Among female lawmakers on the federal level, Democrats outnumber Republicans by about three to one. Of the 21 female senators now serving, 16 are Democrats while just five are Republicans. In the House, there are 84 female representatives — 62 Democrats and 22 Republicans.