Heard on the Hill

GOP Women Are Listening, and They're Talking

Rep. Elise Stefanik is participating in this week's Women2Women tour

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik is answering women's questions in the Empire State this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo file photo)

Before Donald Trump even entered the scene, one group of Republican women found it important to stay politically aware.

The Women2Women Conversations Tour was launched in 2014 as a place for women across the country, from the ages of roughly 35 to 55 years, to discuss their issues during an election.

The tour’s founder Sarah Chamberlain, the president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, invites some of the most influential women in the host state to be panelists and then invites everyday, average women to ask questions.

On Thursday, the tour visits Corning, New York, its first stop since the "Access Hollywood" video showing Donald Trump making lewd comments about women in 2005 was leaked, and since the subsequent allegations of sexual assault made against the GOP presidential nominee by several women.

The scandal could come up, but on previous tours, many questions were from mothers who were concerned about protecting their families.

“The women I meet [on the tour] believe deeply in America and its future,” Chamberlain said. “But they’re worried about the problems their families and communities face — including unemployment, slow economic growth, substance abuse, and mental illness — and they want to know what Congress is going to do about these issues."

[New York's Elise Stefanik Holds Wide Lead in GOP Poll]

In Corning, New York GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik and Heather Briccetti, president of the Business Council of New York State, will be answering questions.

After the leaked Trump video, Chamberlain called the Republican nominee’s comments “utterly appalling.”

“No man I respect would ever show such disrespect for women,” she said in a statement. “That sexism doesn’t represent the Republican Party I know and love, or the members of the Republican Main Street Partnership who are actively working to help women achieve equal representation and full participation in American life."

Shortly after, Chamberlain stressed the importance of a Republican House and Senate should Hillary Clinton be elected president.

[Republicans in Congress Against Trump]

“Supporting Donald Trump is no longer expected of Republicans this year, understandably,” she said in a statement. “A Republican Senate can protect the Supreme Court from a generation of liberal activism, and a Republican House can prevent overreach from another liberal administration.”

On previous tours, other panelists have included Republican Reps. Mimi Walters of California, Susan W. Brooks of Indiana and Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, who was ousted in her primary this year.

The conversation portion lasts an hour and is followed by a networking event.

Between 100 and 300 women attended earlier events, depending on the size of the venue. There have been 15 tours since the launch. This year, the tour hit Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Orange County, California.

[Trump on Assault Accusations: 'Pure Fiction and Outright Lies']

Women submit their questions beforehand and, time permitting, all are addressed.

"I always look forward to the questions I get on the Women2Women Conversations Tour, because when you work inside the Beltway you need that kind of reality check,” Chamberlain said.

Sarah Chamberlain founded the Women2Women Conversations Tour in 2014. (Courtesy Republican Main Street Partnership)
Sarah Chamberlain founded the Women2Women Conversations Tour in 2014. (Courtesy Republican Main Street Partnership)

The tours are marketed through social media and women’s groups, which is anything from book clubs and college groups to Republican groups and women’s chambers of commerce.

And, they generally sell out about three weeks after the invitations go out.

Earlier this month, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster became members of the Republican Main Street Partnership.

The group counts 74 representatives and five senators as members, all of whom support its mission of “conservative principles in economic and national security policy and believe in governing in a thoughtful and pragmatic manner.”

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