PAC will work to put more Republican women in office
By Salena Zito
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Christine Toretti says it's time for conservative women to play a stronger role in Republican politics.
The Western Pennsylvania businesswoman, who co-chaired the Republican National Committee's finance committee in 2012, on Monday formally registered with the Federal Election Commission a SuperPAC founded and operated by women.
Toretti, 56, of Indiana, Pa., will chair Women Lead PAC, which will work to raise money for women candidates across the country in next year's elections and beyond. She took the lead by making the first donation of $25,000, with an ambitious goal of raising $1 million to $10 million by next year.
“This has never been done, so I don't know what is possible. For all we know, it could be even more,” she told the Tribune-Review. “The network of support women can provide for other women can be more powerful than folks understand.”
Republicans have had a “women problem” since the Democratic Party placed Geraldine Ferarro on the presidential ticket with Walter Mondale in 1984, said Lara Brown, associate professor and program director at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.
“The ticket lost the election but it eventually led to the 1992 ‘Year of the Woman' election cycle that brought a record number of Democratic women” in Congress, Brown said.
Republicans have dragged with getting conservative women elected — and with earning their votes.
“Last year, they lost women voters by 11 percentage points in the presidential election,” Brown said.
The 112th Congress has 94 women: 77 in the House (53 Democrats and 24 Republicans) and 17 in the Senate (12 Democrats and 5 Republicans). Pennsylvania has no Republican women in Congress. The Democrats' sole congresswoman, Allyson Schwartz of suburban Philadelphia, will run for governor in 2014.
“Women tend to wait to be asked to run,” Brown said. “... There is an ambition gap in politics. If they know there is support out there, they will be more apt to get involved.”
Toretti said she wants to ensure there is a specific place for donations that go directly toward female candidates for federal office.
“Men get wrapped up in male races and they don't focus on women's races, for whatever reason,” she said. “Women really want to have a voice, so it seems natural that politics can provide that voice. There have been many missed opportunities in the past, and it is time to change that.”
Toretti is chairman and CEO of S.W. Jack Drilling Co., the largest privately held land-based drilling company in the United States. She has been a high-profile player in the Republican Party statewide and nationally for more than 20 years.
Since 2001, she has run the Anne B. Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series, a training program for Republican women who want to run for office.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said Toretti is the perfect person to take on the project.
“She's been in this fight a long time, empowering and growing the number of women in public office,” he said.
A Pew Research Center survey released last week showed that more than 50 percent of Republicans nationwide think the party would be better if it nominated more women.
Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at email@example.com.
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