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‘Every issue is a women’s issue’ — Why these Republican women are running for office

Seventy-five women are running for office in the Indiana state legislature, double the number that did in 2014, and the number of GOP women running for office has risen from 15 to 23. In a deep red state where women occupy five of seven statewide offices, this election reflects the tension between the party’s moderate and more conservative wings. Megan Thompson reports.

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  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I can see him. He’s working in the kitchen. My name’s Corrie Meyer, I’m running for state senate.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    On a recent cold and rainy afternoon, Corrie Meyer walked door to door in Zionsville, a suburb of Indianapolis.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I’m a first-time candidate. I’m a small business owner.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Meyer is an urban planner and runs a consulting business. She’s worked in city government, but has never held elected office.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I want to focus the policies that I work on, on workforce and economic legislation.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Meyer wants a seat in the Indiana State Senate, which will decide the state budget next year and could reform the way congressional districts are drawn. She’s running in the May 8th Republican primary against Mike Delph, a 12-year incumbent who’s never had a primary challenge. Meyer says knocking on doors is her favorite part of campaigning.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I’d love to have your support on May 8th.

  • MAN:

    That sounds cool. Thanks for coming by in the rain.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    MEYER Yeah. No problem.

  • MAN:

    Good luck.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Nice to see you.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    You are a Republican challenging a Republican incumbent.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Yeah.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Why did you decide to run?

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I got frustrated with our age of turbulent politics, and I decided that I was gonna get in the game

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    We will leave him a note saying, sorry to meet you.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Meyer is one of 75 women running for the Indiana state legislature, double the number of four years ago. As in the rest of the country, this surge of women is mostly on the Democratic side, but the number of Republican women running here is up, too. 23 compared to 15 in 2014.

  • JENNIFER HALLOWELL:

    We’re fortunate to have five of our seven statewide offices held by women, Republican women.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    GOP strategist Jennifer Hallowell says it’s a point of pride that Republican women hold so many state offices here – lieutenant governor, auditor, secretary of state, treasurer and schools superintendent.

  • JENNIFER HALLOWELL:

    Also, the two women who serve Indiana in the congressional delegation are Republican women. And so we’re well represented in a lotta ways. But we need to keep striving for more women to run for office.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    So what motivates Republican women to run for office?

  • JENNIFER HALLOWELL:

    I think that women are motivated by issues similar to men. You know, whether it’s taxes, or the economy, jobs. I reject this whole notion of women’s issues. Because every issue is a women’s issue.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Similarly, Corrie Meyer, a 40-year-old mother of two, says she doesn’t feel the need to emphasize the fact that she’s a woman when she’s campaigning door-to-door.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I figure my face would tell ’em that. (LAUGHTER) But believe it or not– they bring it up to me. I have had– 70-year-old men– say to me, “You’re a woman, the women are gonna make the difference, they’re gonna create change, and I’ll vote for you because you are a woman.” So while I don’t necessary carry that banner, the voters are carrying that banner.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Why don’t you necessarily carry that banner?

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Because I’m qualified for this position. And I think that regardless of my gender, I know that I can succeed.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Laura Wilson is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis.

  • LAURA WILSON:

    The gendered aspect, especially for the more conservative women, isn’t going to play the same kind of role that it would elsewhere, or certainly for a more liberal woman. And really with voters, I’m not sure that that would really resonate with your average Hoosier voter.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    With the Republican primary just a few weeks away, Corrie Meyer is focused on raising money. She spends several hours a week making calls with the help of a professional fundraiser.

  • MEYER:

    How much do I ask him for?

  • FUNDRAISER:

    $500.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Hi Nate, this is Corrie Meyer calling. Would you consider supporting the campaign at $500?

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    There are no polls on this local race, but Meyer’s picked up some big endorsements. Two firefighters unions, the district’s four Republican mayors and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce all support her. And she’s attending fundraisers across the district, which covers a portion of Indianapolis and its suburbs.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Hi, Corrie Meyer. Nice to see you. Corrie Meyer. Very nice to meet you. Can we put a sign in your yard?

  • MAN:

    I’d be happy to do that.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    About 30 supporters gathered recently at this fundraiser in Carmel, where Meyer lives, to hand over checks and hear her pitch.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I am running for effective workforce and economic legislation.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    As of the last campaign finance filing in January, Meyer’s opponent had $200,000 on hand. Meyer had $60,000 but says she’s doubled that since.

    Her opponent Mike Delph is a lawyer and a major in the Army Reserve. He’s developed a reputation in the local media as a socially conservative and sometimes controversial Republican. He’s known for a bill to crack down on illegal immigration – aspects of which some in his own party opposed. And he pushed contentious bills requiring abortion doctors to tell women that life begins at conception and a fetus may feel pain.

    In 2014 Delph led a controversial fight to ban gay marriage in Indiana. When the bill didn’t pass, he launched an overnight Twitter barrage that made headlines.

    In a statement to NewsHour Weekend, Delph said his focus “has always been to apply conservative principles” to his work. He highlighted his work to cap property taxes, pass an income tax cut and an initiative to raise money for veterans. And, he said, he’s taking his primary challenge “very seriously.”

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Well I’ll just close with one question that I get a lot is, what makes you different. How are you different from Senator Delph.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Corrie Meyer doesn’t attack her opponent on the issues but she does draw a contrast.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I would use three words to differentiate myself. Effectiveness. Collaboration – that’s just in my soul. And then inclusion.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    And Meyer is pointedly not focusing on the hot-button social issues that have been divisive in Indiana and across the nation. In her literature, she touts herself as a pro-life conservative, but…

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    My focus will really be on business issues, and it will not focus on abortion.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    She’s a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but…

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    There’s a balance between having the right to own the gun and creating a safe environment.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    And she’s turned off by efforts to ban gay marriage.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I think that– our obligation as a society is to love on each other, and not to place judgment.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    This isn’t surprising to Professor Laura Wilson. She says while Republican women fall all along the philosophical spectrum – for many, social issues aren’t what drives them.

  • LAURA WILSON:

    A number of them, you know, really do stand in– in the more moderate wings of the Republican Party. And I see them as, kind of, the new, the new Republicans. Where they, they may have been involved in the party for a really long time, but they’re looking at economic, fiscal responsibility.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Wilson says gender aside, the Mike Delph, Corrie Meyer race is also a case study of the wider battle within the Republican party, between its more conservative and moderate wings.

  • LAURA WILSON:

    Where you have someone like Delph who’s more extreme, more outspoken within the party, even in Indiana. And then you have someone like Meyer who’s a new voice.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Yet another issue at play here: President Trump lost this district in 2016. All across the nation, Democrats are targeting Republican incumbents in moderate districts like this. Looking to pick up seats in both the U.S. House and state legislatures. GOP insiders in Indiana fear that if the more-moderate Corrie Meyer loses the primary, this seat could flip Democratic in November. So how do Republican candidates talk about President Trump in districts he lost? It turns out, not easily.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Hi! My name’s Corrie Meyer. I’m running for state senate.

  • MAN:

    You are? Are you a Trump supporter?

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I believe — well I respect Mr. Trump, he’s our president.

  • MAN:

    Are you a Trump supporter?

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Well, he’s done a lot of good things. He’s done our –

  • MAN:

    Wait a minute, are you a Trump supporter?

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Ok … yes, I like the policies, no I don’t like his – no I don’t like this Twitter.

  • MAN:

    You don’t like his mannerisms.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Yes, I —

  • MAN:

    But you like the results.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Yes.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    While Meyer’s negotiating her public position on Trump, she’s also personally conflicted – on one hand, there are all the issues with women, from the alleged affairs to the Access Hollywood tape.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    How do you view all that?

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    That is disturbing to me, as a woman. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that type of behavior.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    But, there’s a lot she likes, too.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I think that he’s made some strong business decisions for the United States. I think that he’s taking a hard stance on North Korea and I think that, you know, that’s probably a great decision.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    And she took a lesson from his improbable win.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    He was a candidate that had never run for office before and he won. He bucked the system.

  • MAN:

    Well, I gotta give you credit. Anybody who’d come out on a lousy day like this deserves to be voted for.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    Well, thanks.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    And so Meyer continues going door to door, asking for votes…

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    I can count him as a vote.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Hoping she, too, can buck the system.

  • CORRIE MEYER:

    See ya later, buddy.

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