The Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) Future Majority Project (FMP) identifies, recruits, trains, and supports candidates at the state level who better reflect the full diversity of our nation. Launched in 2011, FMP’s mission is to support men and women from diverse communities as they run to grow the economy, support job creators, and focus on ways to keep more money in the pockets of working families. We spoke with FMP’s Executive Director, Neri Martinez about “down ticket” races as a great opportunity for women and what they look for when recruiting candidates for these races.
The Future Majority Project has diversity built into its mission statement. Why is it important to the RSLC to have candidates that reflect the full diversity of our nation?
We feel strongly that it is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Having more engagement at these levels creates good policy and political strategy. Since 2011, we have helped elect almost 100 new diverse leaders and over 500 new women into office!
The RSLC focuses on lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state legislature, the judiciary and other “down ticket” races. Why is serving in these capacities a great opportunity for women?
Because the USA is a constitutional republic based on representative democracy, most of the policy that is being passed that directly affects people’s daily lives is enacted at the state legislative level. It also allows many citizens who are not career politicians to serve in public office at various levels and opens the door for many women who had not considered serving before. As of today, over 1,000 GOP women have filed to run for office for the 2018 midterm elections. We focus our recruitment efforts on the most competitive open and target seats and invest heavily in the election of these candidates. This effort is also building the bench of future statewide (like Governor) and federally elected candidates.
If you have an open seat coming up, maybe because the incumbent is retiring, how far in advance do you start recruiting people to run for the seat?
As the largest organization that supports state legislative seats, we enjoy a strong relationship with House and Senate leadership in mostly all 50 states. Once we have decided what our offensive and defensive targets are, we begin having conversations and/or traveling to these states at least one year before each state’s filing deadlines and continue to engage with the candidates throughout the year.
When identifying women in the community, particularly those from diverse communities, who would be good leaders in their state legislature, what qualities do you look for?
If an individual has exhibited leadership qualities in one area of their personal or professional life, they will likely make excellent leaders in public life as well. To succeed, authenticity is the most important quality a candidate can have, along with a heart for service, strong work ethic and the ability to learn.
Once you’ve identified these women leaders, how do you convince them to actually run for the seat?
Studies have shown that, on average, women are asked at least 7 times to run for public office. Many women don’t often decide to run initially for a variety of reasons which can include both logistical and psychological hurdles. Logistical issues could include, not legally allowed to run for office and keep their job or having to take care of an ill family member (or themselves) full time. Extenuating circumstances can sometimes make it difficult to pursue public office and women have many things they must prioritize at any given time. It is more likely the case that a woman doesn’t want to run because she doesn’t perceive herself as a candidate, doesn’t feel “ready” or “prepared,” or senses that “she doesn’t belong” or “has no business” running for office. Often psychological hurdles can be overcome because they tend to be based on a misconstrued mentality or external factors related to readiness. We have many conversations to address these concerns and help prepare the candidate for the race. Once we are effectively listening to these concerns, we can often provide easy solutions that put her at ease.
What can women who are interested in running for office do to get “on your radar?”
Any potential candidate can check us out at www.rslc.gop and look up the Future Majority Project and Right Women Right Now and reach me at NMartinez@rslc.gop or call my office at 202-448-7986.
Sometimes, women, particularly young women, can be seen outsiders to a political party. What advice do you have for young women interested in running for office, but have been told to “wait their turn”?
Once you have decided to run for office and have weighed out the risks and consequences of pursuing a public life, the two most important factors to consider for winning an election is location and timing. Regardless of party, it’s wisest to run for a seat that is politically feasible as it is often harder to run against a sitting incumbent from your own party. It’s also a good idea to seek out a political mentor in the process and support members of your own party while you assess the right timing and location of your campaign.
If a woman that the RSLC identified and supported ran for office, but didn’t win her race, how do you encourage her to stay engaged and possibly run for office again in the future?
Although we have been very successful in supporting candidates that go on to win their races, we don’t win them all. It’s critical for a losing candidate to assess the reason why she lost and consider what her next move is and whether she decides to stay engaged or not and at what level. We always connect with top candidates post-election if they lost and have conversations about what that might be. In some cases, it may make sense to run again for the same seat or consider another seat the following cycle. If neither of those are options, she might consider a municipal race or other local position. If she decides not to run for any political post, there may be an opportunity to stay engaged in the political process by helping win other elections as a state party official or serve the public in an appointed post.
Anything else you’d like to share with women in the Incubator program who are thinking about running for office?
Seek out a professional mentor, don’t fear your own ambition, and always be your most authentic self.