Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Kicks Off "˜Women Lead'

Leading women: Frankel hopes to enlist more female candidates. (AP/J Pat Carter) (National Journal)

Reps. Chellie Pingree and Lois Frankel will lead a group to recruit and support female candidates for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in an effort to bolster the party's already-prodigious edge among women, the political committee will announce Wednesday.

Pingree, from Maine, and Frankel, from Florida, will cochair the effort called "Women Lead," which, according to a release obtained by National Journal Daily, DCCC bills as an effort to "recruit more female candidates, protect women's rights, expand opportunities and stop the Republican War on Women."

The "War on Women" was a theme of last year's election. Democrats depicted Republicans as indifferent or hostile to women's issues because of their opposition to abortion rights and support for defunding Planned Parenthood. Several GOP candidates, including then-Rep. Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, also embarrassed the party with a series of statements about rape.

Democrats are continuing to make that argument in the new political cycle, arguing that tea-party Republicans in the House want to roll back women's rights.

"When it comes to women, the gulf between Democrats and Republicans is staggering — women and minorities make up more than half of our caucus, while 90 percent of Republicans are white men," Pingree said in a statement. "Democrats will elect more women to the House on the simple message that we're fighting for equal pay for equal work and health care rights — and that in our party, there's no such thing as legitimate rape."

Both Pingree and Frankel are still relatively new to Congress: Pingree took office in 2009, while Frankel was elected last year.

The GOP does have reason to worry about the women's vote — particularly young, single women who vote heavily Democratic. Fifty-five percent of women backed Democratic House candidates last year, according to national exit polls.

House Republicans have also said that recruiting female candidates for 2014 will be a priority. In January, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington had joined the group's coalitions department, slated to help the GOP attract female candidates to run for office.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described a DCCC effort to recruit and promote female candidates as new. DCCC has had such an effort before.