STATE GOP WOMEN AIM FOR OFFICE\Funding network would help rare political species proliferate.
Kate Squires wants a place at the policy table, and she's running for a state Assembly seat to get it.
In 1994, as an unknown Riverside businesswoman, she was trounced in a U.S. Senate bid in the Republican primary by a man with millions to spend: Rep. Michael Huffington.
This campaign, Squires and dozens of other Republican women candidates hope to avoid defeat through the efforts of an ambitious statewide fund-raising network launched by a new generation of GOP women.
The Seneca network aims to unite 2.5 million Republican women voters behind female candidates on both sides of the abortion issue, and address what has been called a growing crisis of women's support in the GOP's ranks.
"This is not about having lunch, or cocktail parties; this is about action. We have to quit talking, and do something," said Victoria Herrington, the state Republican Party communications chair and a founder of the Seneca network.
"Men can watch and stand by, but I'm going to be here collecting checks," she said.
Founders hope to raise $2 million this campaign to help elect more Republican women. Republicans account for only five of the 39 female legislators in California state and federal offices.
Herrington and the network's other co-founders said the idea is to link donors with women candidates, providing money and improving their election prospects. The creation of the network in California, a key state in the presidential elections, comes at a time when the Republican Party is under attack on a wide range of women's issues.
Charges that the GOP has become "the anti-women's party," in the words of prominent Republican political consultant Tanya Melich in her new book, "The Republican War Against Women: An Insider's Report From Behind the Lines." Melich maintains that party leadership has sold out to extremists and anti-abortion groups, rolled back women's gains and shut out moderates and feminists.
The gender gap, in which Democratic candidates consistently gain an edge with female voters.
A rebuff to moderate women who hoped to debate abortion at January's Republican National Committee meeting in San Diego. That increases the chance of a fight at the GOP presidential convention in San Diego in August, and renews questions about whether moderate women voters will see the party as intolerant.
The party's future may depend on addressing those concerns, say Seneca's founders: Sacramento political consultant Diann Rogers; Tiffany Franchetti, a trial attorney with offices in Marin and Sacramento; real estate executive Beth Rogers; and Herrington of Walnut Creek, the daughter of Reagan Cabinet member and now state GOP chairman John S. Herrington.
"The media tend to show Republican woman as only interested in their blue-haired luncheons," said Squires, running for the 8th Assembly District seat in Yolo County. "It's critical we send a message to the Republican Party that women can articulate issues and rally a cross-section of voters."
The group is named for Seneca Falls, N.Y., the place where the women's suffrage movement was born, a movement that Herrington pointedly reminds was first supported by the Republican Party.
Today, Republican women legislators in California are a lonely group: three of 80 Assembly members, one of 40 state senators, one of 52 members of the House of Representatives, and neither U.S. senator.
By contrast, Democrats have 19 women in the Assembly, five state senators, eight congresswomen, and both U.S. senators.
"There is a problem for many Republican women of the moderate stripe, especially in the presidential year when the rhetoric is so strident. They've found themselves in the most difficult position," says Daniel Wirls, associate professor of politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
But the Seneca group founders insist that supporting women as candidates has nothing to do with feminism or a power struggle.
"We're trying to make the pie bigger," Diann Rogers said, "and that's good for everyone."
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||Feb 11, 1996|
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