Lifelong Republicans Jennifer Pierotti Lim and Meghan Milloy both grew up in conservative Bible Belt families, campaigned for George W. Bush, and endorse fiscal policies that lower taxes to boost the economy. But they admit to feeling abandoned by their party in 2016, when Donald Trump clinched the GOP’s presidential nomination. “We weren’t OK at all with what Trump was saying about women and minorities,” says Lim, the former director of health policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So she and Milloy founded Republican Women for Hillary, a volunteer group that amplified the voices of like-minded moderates and campaigned for Hillary Clinton.
Post-election, the duo continued to speak out against Trump’s rhetoric by launching the nonprofit Republican Women for Progress (RWFP), an incubator for GOP candidates. Milloy, a financial-policy and law expert, says, “We believe if more women were adequately equipped to run for office in 2016, we certainly wouldn’t be where we are now.”
What they do In addition to helping candidates develop their platforms and media strategies, RWFP hosts networking and issue-driven events for potential and current female GOP candidates. “We look for women who will work across the aisle and lead independently instead of rubber-stamping everything that comes out of the current administration,” Lim says.
Seeing red Milloy says she, like many candidates RWFP supports, does not fully agree with the administration’s stance on issues such as immigration and foreign relations. Then why stick around? “I think we have more credibility if we criticize our party from within as opposed to yelling from the outside, ‘I don’t want anything to do with y’all, but you should be doing X,Y, and Z,’ ” she says.
Midterm madness Both women are concerned that GOP candidates could be in a lose-lose scenario at the polls this year, in part due to an outmoded stance on women’s issues, which Lim is not afraid to call out. “We have become much more comfortable saying what we think and are not afraid to piss people off,” Lim says. “The Republican Party has abdicated leadership on any issues that affect women.” Milloy agrees, saying, “We really have something to fight for. It’s empowering to be our breed of Republican, fighting to bring the party back to days of decency.”
The win For now, RWFP wants change, preferring candidates on the ballot who would serve as a check on the Trump administration over candidates who would blindly fall in line with it, even if that means a Democratic stronghold in Congress come November. “Frankly, we’re never going to advance in either party or as a country if it’s just the same group of middle-aged white dudes running for office and winning these seats,” Milloy says.
Up next “Our five-to-10-year plan is to be the Emily’s List for moderate Republican women,” Milloy says, referring to the well-known political action committee for pro-choice Democratic women. “We’re sticking around to empower women to be more involved in politics,” she adds. “Which is a need that will extend beyond whatever happens to the GOP in the next two years.”