Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst, who is competing in the state Republican primary to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D), received the endorsement of RightNOW Women PAC on Tuesday. She is the second of five female candidates that the group will endorse this week.
RightNOW was created by Marlene Colucci, a former aide to George W. Bush, and was launched earlier this year to recruit young women to get involved in the Republican Party. Virginia state Del. Barbara Comstock, who is running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) was endorsed by the group Monday.
Brittany Thune, a founder of the PAC and daughter of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), said that in previous election cycles women did not have opportunities to get involved and support the issues they cared about, such as jobs, education and a strong national defense.
“We want to support qualified and smart women,” she said. “The right candidates. We haven’t always had the right candidates.”
The election of women who can inspire and motivate, Thune said, will only attract more women who can identify with those lawmakers to the movement. “We want to support candidates we can relate to,” she said. “Someone smart, who knows what she’s talking about.”
Members watched a promotional video for the group at a meeting Monday night, that featured Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Kristie Noem (R-S.D.) praising the group’s efforts.
“They are putting their money where their mouth is,” Blackburn said in the video. “Saving our Republican Party and saving freedom is going to be done by women.”
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But not too much money. The group’s first event, which drew more than 400 people, mostly young women, cost $25 a person – an intentionally lower figure to attract younger voters who aren’t financially able to “max out” to candidates.
While the group is just getting started, Thune said, but members hope to not only play in the 2014 election but to build their network ahead of the 2016 election.
Republicans of all stripes have been working to attract more women to their ranks and escape the “war on women” narrative that Democrats successfully used against them in 2012.