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Against Equal Pay and Women's Health But For Greg Abbott: The GOP Cronies Behind RedState Women

by: Genevieve Cato

Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 09:00 AM CDT

In Texas, 2014 is the year of women. As voters and as candidates, women are at the center of the most exciting races in the state and are the group that Republicans and Democrats alike must turn out to secure victory in November. Many progressive organizations, like Annie's List, have been working to activate women voters and elect female candidates for over ten years now, but Republican efforts have lagged behind. Enter RedState Women: a new PAC focused on changing the conversation around women in the Republican party.

It is no secret that Wendy Davis' bid for governor relies on her ability to draw Republican women to her side in the general election. This is strategy that worked for her time and time again in Senate District 10, where Republican women in Fort Worth were a key contingent in those that turned out to vote for her against Republican Mark Shelton. RedState Women hopes to turn the tide of Wendy's bipartisan popularity by challenging the idea of the "War on Women." Executive Director Cari Christman, now of women are are "too busy" for equal pay fame, explained the vision of the new PAC to Politico, "We want to change, revolutionize, the way we communicate with women in this party. To stand up and say, 'Democrats don't corner the market on women.'" However, for a PAC focused on taking messaging to women in a new direction, the leadership is full of women (and one man) whose claim to legitimacy in the GOP power structure comes from connections to the old guard in the Texas GOP, as the Texas Observer reported. It seems unlikely that such a group will add anything new to the conversation.

More on the leadership of RedState Women below the jump.

Many of those behind RedState Women have an immediate connection to Republicans whose names are still familiar in Texas politics. Namely: Former House Speaker Tom Craddick. The first video in a series promoted on RedState Women's new website and designed to showcase a variety of experiences of women in the GOP features Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick. For a campaign designed to show diversity in the Republican Party, starting with a women whose father represents the Good Ol' Boy's Club of the Texas GOP may not have been the best idea.

The President of the Board at RedState Women is Lara Laneri Keel, a lobbyist whose clients include the private prison industry. Both Keel and her husband were "close associates" of Craddick, according to the Texas Observer. Another Craddick cronie is Cristen Wohlgemuth. Wohlgemuth was a lobbyist before becoming Chief of Staff for Craig Goldman, a Tea Party Republican out of Fort Worth.

Other members of the board have connections to powerful Republicans in the current GOP. Mia McCord is the current Chief of Staff for Kelly Hancock, a state senator from North Richland Hills who was the chairman of the Republican Policy Caucus in 2011.

Both Goldman and Hancock have a history in the legislature of voting in ways that are harmful to women, women's health, and women's access to equality in the workforce. Perhaps this isn't surprising, as this group of women is trying to sell the idea that voting against women's healthcare and equal pay does not a war on women make.

And this is where the challenge lies for the PAC, which will undoubtedly pour money into defeating the first statewide ballot to have two women at the top of the ticket. As the PAC attempts to "revolutionize" the way the Republican party messages to women in the state, they enter a public debate already in process. Proving that Wendy Davis, who garnered bipartisan support for her equal pay bill last session and whose stances on funding for public education and women's health have been central to her popularity with Republican women in her senate district, does not represent the best interests of the vast majority of women in Texas may be hard outside of right-wing conservative groups who Davis would never appeal to in the first place.

Can a group of women already mired the establishment of a sexist Republican Party, dead-set against funding women's health and public education, and permanently opposed to a legal process for women in regards to equal pay, deliver on their promise of new ideas for women in the Republican party? If Christman's wordy and befuddling response to the issues of equal pay is any indication, it doesn't seem likely. Until we hear more from RedState Women, women in this red state will have to wait and see.  

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