A group of female Democratic members of Congress wants to be a “major player” in closing the stubborn gender gap on Capitol Hill.
Seven Democratic representatives are forming Elect Democratic Women, a new PAC aiming to elect women to Congress, where today only 20 percent of members are women. The organization will make donations to female candidates and hopes in the future to spend money in their races as well.
“The need is very clear to every one of the women who are serving in Congress,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), one of the founding members of the group. “We want to be a major player. We’re not doing this to have a couple thousand bucks we can give out.”
The effort grew out of months of conversations between a group of female members of Congress about how to best support candidates during the so-called Year of the Woman, said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), who is chairing the new group. Though it is getting a late start this cycle, Frankel said the PAC hopes to help reinforce and further progress that women make in closing the gender gap in congressional representation this November.
“Even if we elect the next 30 women [to Congress], we’re still way under where we need to be,” Frankel said.
In addition to Frankel and Bustos, Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) are founding board members of the new PAC, and both male and female Democrats are being invited to participate.
The lawmakers founding the PAC say they’ll use their networks and fundraising prowess to raise money in a manner similar to PACs linked to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, which served as inspirations for the effort.
PACs affiliated with those caucuses have had banner fundraising years: CHC Bold PAC, which is affiliated with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, raised $8.7 million this cycle in part by embracing online fundraising — a strategy that Elect Democratic Women also plans to employ.
Elect Democratic Women has hired Mothership Strategies, a consulting firm founded by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee veterans, to help it build its online fundraising efforts, and it is working to hire a PAC director, Frankel said. Each founder is either contributing or raising $5,000 to help cover initial costs associated with starting the group.
Women are currently underrepresented in Congress, even more so on the Republican side of the aisle: There are 64 Democratic women in the House of Representatives and 25 Republican women, despite Republicans holding the majority in the 435-member chamber, according to the Congressional Research Service.
But in 2018, more than 600 women signed up to run for House, Senate and governor’s races, breaking records for all three levels of office. And 211 women have advanced through House primaries, according to POLITICO’s Women Rule candidate tracker.
“We really feel very strongly that better decisions will be made by government when it represents the diverse population it is supposed to represent,” Frankel said. “We think we’re going to have a much more responsive government if we can get more pro-choice, Democratic women into office.”