A word with Elise Stefanik

After noting the strong women candidates who contributed to the Republican pickups in the House when I wrote about them this past weekend, I thought it might make sense to speak with Rep. Elise Stefanik. She had a hand in all those races and kindly gave me a telephone interview this afternoon. Indeed, she stayed on with me until she had answered all my questions. Do you have anything more, she asked as I wound up. I didn’t.

Rep. Stefanik was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she won her first election to represent New York’s 21st District in 2014. I had intended to ask her what made her think she could win that race in 2014, but most of my questions along that line were answered by my daughter Eliana’s 2014 NR story on her race just before she won her election that year.

Rep. Stefanik’s national profile was enhanced by her performance on the House Intelligence Committee during the impeachment proceedings. I contributed to her myself at the time and I wasn’t the only one. As the contributions came in, Rep. Stefanik set up E-PAC to support the election of strong conservative Republican women to Congress.

Stefanik told me she became intensely interested in assisting the election of good Republican women candidates to Congress following the 2018 mid-term elections. The ranks of Republican women were thinned to 13 after the mid-terms — the lowest since 1980. For background see the Rachael Bade/Sarah Ferris Politico story “‘I wasn’t asking for permission’: GOP women put leaders on notice.”

Stefanik must have a good eye for talent. E-PAC’s candidates went 19 for 20 in their primaries and E-PAC maxed out to all of them. Moreover, E-PAC supported all the Republican women in GOP pickups so far.

Rep. Stefanik thought that Claudia Tenney in NY-22 and Marianne Miller-Meeks in IA-2 would win their races as well. (She is also optimistic that David Valadao and Mike Garcia will win their races in CA-21 and CA-25, respectively.) She projects the final GOP House tally at 212-214.

I asked Rep. Stefanik whether singling out women candidates for support was a function of identity politics. She said the depleted ranks of Republican women in Congress did not reflect the party’s support by women voters. She looks for strong conservative Republican women candidates and stays out of races where they are lacking or where the Republican man is the superior candidate to a woman. She thinks that her emphasis on quality represents a recipe for success. “You can look at the proof,” she said, citing the number of seats flipped by outstanding women candidates in targeted races this year.

She gave President Trump “huge credit” for his work in broadening the Republican coalition and energizing voters of all stripes to turn out to vote this year, but pointed “number 1” to the quality of the candidates. She noted their fire in the belly and will to serve. She emphasized the sexist abuse directed at Republican women from the Pelosi PAC and others on the left as sexist smears are heaped on them.

Such smears are indulged on the left when aimed right, she said, and she was speaking from personal experience. She was the target of a smear campaign originated by George Conway during the impeachment proceedings. Conway called her “lying trash.” See the unedifying exchanges documented here by USA Today.

I’d like to save the rest of my notes for a concluding post tomorrow. Please check back for more in the morning.