Red State Returns Spotlight To Women, Backbone Of Texas GOP

Originally published on April 9, 2014 6:48 pm

Republican women have always played an important role in Texas politics, but this year, the GOP finds itself on the defensive in the campaign for women's votes. As KUT's Ben Phillpott reports, there's a new group to help address the issue: Red State Women.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Pocketbook issues are at the heart of the Democrats' campaign to draw women, especially single women, to the polls this fall. The unanimous Republican vote in the Senate today to block a pay equity bill is now talking point number one for Democrats. But Republicans are pushing back and, in many parts of the country, women are leading the way.

Ben Philpott, of member station KUT in Austin, has this story about how the fight is playing out in Texas.

BEN PHILPOTT, BYLINE: Republican women have been the backbone of the Texas GOP for decades, from get-out-the-vote efforts to lobbying on legislation. With the face of that group coming in the form of a red coat wearing brigade called the Texas Federation of Republican Women.

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PHILPOTT: The group has multiple videos directing those troops to show up at different events where their uniforms make them easy to see, letting politicians know they're being watched.

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PHILPOTT: That's State Senator Wendy Davis. She and another female state senator are running for governor and lieutenant governor respectively. Their campaigns aren't dominated by women's issues but it's certainly a theme, a theme now being countered by Red State Women and executive director Christman.

: I believe Republican women want that voice. We are tired of Democrats standing up and telling us what they think women believe in or what their values are in Texas.

PHILPOTT: Providing a female perspective is the kind of messenger diversity the Republican National Committee has been pushing since the release of its 2012 presidential election post mortem. But, at least initially, Red State Women have stumbled in their rebuttals to the veto of the equal pay lawsuit bill. Here's Christman being interviewed on the ABC affiliate in Dallas.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What's the solution then, do you think, for equal pay then, Cari?

: Well, if you look at it, women are extremely busy. We lead busy lives, whether working professionally, whether we're working from home and times are extremely busy. It's just that it's a busy cycle for women and we've got a lot to juggle and so...

PHILPOTT: And until that answer gets better, Red State women will be busy deflecting Democratic attacks instead of promoting their own message of what it means to be a Republican. For NPR News, I'm Ben Philpott in Austin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.