Running Start hosted five phenomenal panelists on Wednesday, October 27, 2010, in conjunction with the Path to Politics 2010 seminar series, entitled “Out of Right Field: Understanding the Conservative Community.” Over thirty five women of varying political ideologies were in attendance to hear about the rapidly burgeoning conservative movement that is reaching new ground because of women, as well as learn how to run a successful campaign on a Republican platform. Even Martha Ann Alito, wife of associate Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, was at the lunch and spoke about her work with the Republican Women’s Forum. Each message bore testament to the need for women to refrain from shirking the lime-light. Kate Obenshain, Vice President of Young America’s Foundation, instructed young women to become knowledgeable and equipped with the proper skills to become confident, prolific leaders that are willing to put themselves out in the open for a party that greatly needs their presence. Although I may not identify with the conservative agenda, I found the dialogue influential. I emerged with more respect for Republican women are breaking down barriers to help the next generation of actively engaged women become a viable force in politics.
Andy Roth, Vice President of Government Affairs at Club for Growth, kicked off the event, discussing the goals of his pro-growth organization and the usefulness of the Club for Growth PAC for potential Congressional candidates. Separate from Club for Growth, the PAC provides financial funding to club members running for office who adhere to the positions articulated by the organization. They seek to invest in individuals who are on track to succeed, and the monetary assistance provided can be useful to defeat opposing candidates. Such a useful fundraising option would be extremely beneficial to conservative women; Sharron Angle approached the PAC and won in the primary because of their generous monetary offerings.
Kate Obenshain, Vice President of Young America’s Foundation, introduced herself by talking us back to her humble beginnings prior to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the conservative movement. Despite having four children and working as a stay at home mother, she accepted the call to work on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Then, in 2003, she became the Chairmen of the Virginia GOP, and soon after was identified as a rising star for her party and Republican women everywhere. She spoke fervently about engaging young people in politics and her strong belief that young conservatives have what is need to change the country. She is so dedicated to the cause of getting women politically active that she even created a public policy leadership training program for women, which she recommended to attendees of the lunch. Despite the criticism she has faced, Obenshain remains engaged and determined to help her party succeed which is truly admirable.
Katie Vlietstra, WUFPAC President and Former Federal Liaison to Governor Rick Perry, delivered an immensely passionate rebuttal to all those ruthlessly attacking Republican or Tea-Party identified women who are working to succeed in the current election. Although left winged women face criticism, the media continues to tear down conservative women, not because of their positions on issues, but rather superficial details pertaining to personal matters. What makes the situation worse is that women’s organizations refrain from coming to the aid of those being attacked, which is a problematic reality in today’s political climate. Vlietstra made an excellent point when stating that although she did not support Clinton’s views in the 2008 Presidential Primary, she was willing to appreciate the path she was creating for women who would seek to follow her footsteps. That being said, the same mentality is being ignored when it comes to Republican women who are trailblazing a predominantly male atmosphere. She suggested that conservative women remain a force to be reckoned with, staying strong in the face of adversity and not allowing hurtful remarks to infringe upon a young women’s desire to run.
Callin Smith and Bethany Nichols from the National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW) were the final speakers on the panel. Their message centered on the grassroots nature of their organization, which in turn promotes the principles of their party, helps elect Republican candidates, and convey the reality that women are integral to making the government effective. The NFRW works on local, state, and national levels to offer a wide range of programs to get women involved and properly prepare them if they seek to run for an elected position. Politically centered program offerings include campaign management schools, leadership development, and advocacy workshops. Such resources are beneficial to women who want to run but may believe they lack the tools to be successful, which is what Smith and Nichols stressed.
Having a strong foundation and faith in oneself can open up a multitude of opportunities.
Conservative women have the resources to represent their families, communities and themselves in politics, which Running Start’s lunch unveiled. Although they may require a push to move from behind the scenes to being front and center, which Kate Obenshain highlighted in her remarks, there are programs, fundraising opportunities, and individuals who can help Republican women thrive as politicians. Such a message is crucial, as every woman deserves a fair opportunity to run for office to represent their political beliefs, no matter where they fall on the spectrum.
– Amanda Kaster, Fall 2010 Intern