As a young woman working in both Republican politics and the environmental space, I’ve heard time and time again that the GOP supports neither women nor climate action. Yet, in my decade of working in the conservative movement, I’ve found the GOP increasingly disproves this and other stereotypes. In fact, just this week, Maggie’s List, a PAC founded specifically to elect conservative women, announced 2022 endorsements that showcase a GOP fueled by powerful, intelligent women.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the record number of GOP women winning seats and inspiring future women in leadership positions. A total of 31 Republican women were elected to the 117th Congress in 2020, and the year also boasted the highest number of women in the House of Representatives, with 13 of them being Republican women. Experts predicted a “blue wave” in November of last year, but that didn’t happen because Republicans leaned into issues that young people care about, such as the environment, and ran diverse candidates like the aforementioned women.
In the post-Trump era, Republican women are quickly becoming the strongest and most influential voices in the party, beginning with Rep. Elise Stefanik of Albany, New York, who is no stranger to breaking narratives. As the newly elected GOP Conference Chair, she is currently the highest ranked Republican woman in Congress, and is spearheading a movement to empower GOP women through the launch of Elevate PAC after the 2018 midterms in order to elect more Republican women to Congress. Her efforts have paid off, as all 13 women backed by Stefanik won their 2020 elections.
Currently serving alongside Stefanik, we see rising stars Nancy Mace, Young Kim, Michelle Steel, Maria Elvira Salazar, Kat Cammack, and more. With their bold leadership, we see yet another break with, or perhaps a return to, tradition. These representatives have ushered in a new kind of environmental stewardship for the Republican Party, one reminiscent of the GOP that founded the National Parks Service, established the Environmental Protection Agency, and signed the Montreal Protocol.
Stefanik has shown her commitment to the environment from early on in her congressional career. She is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, the leader of the House Republican Climate Resolution, the Co-Chair of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus and the Co-Chair of the House Invasive Species Caucus. Stefanik’s legislative accomplishments include a bill aimed at invasive species and a resolution expressing a commitment to conservative environmental solutions. Her congressional track record relating to the environment is extensive, and shows this issue is no longer a monopoly belonging to the left.
Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar has shown a commitment to protecting Florida’s coastline as she pledged to join the Climate Solutions Caucus and has also spoken about her support for private sector leadership on reducing CO2 emissions. Rep. Nancy Mace of Charleston, South Carolina has received a 100% rating with conservation voters in her home state. In fact, during her first week in office she filed an anti-offshore drilling measure. The conversation on climate change and the environment has long been dominated by the left, but Republican women in Congress have quickly changed this narrative.
Many of these women are reshaping what we think politicians look like or what kind of advantageous background you must have in order to run for, let alone win, a seat in Congress. Doctors, journalists, small business owners, and servers – often while raising families of their own – are just a handful of the diverse career paths that have led to the new class of GOP women in Congress.
Looking forward to the 2022 midterms, the Republican Party should build upon the work done by these women to reclaim the House and Senate. If the GOP wants to make an effort to reclaim the House, Senate, or even the White House, the party should take some cues on what issues have led to winning women and will eventually lead to a winning party as well.
Danielle Butcher is the executive vice president of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC) and a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF).