EDITOR'S NOTE: The National Federation of Republican Women met in Charleston last week. Post and Courier reporter Robert Behre interviewed federation President Sue Lynch, a Wisconsin resident and former chief of staff and office manager to three members of Congress.
Q: South Carolina has ranked last in the nation in terms of the percentage of women serving in its state Legislature, largely because fewer women run for those seats. What can this state do to change that?
A: Since I assumed this position in January, I've been to 23 states, and the No. 1 discussion that comes up is: Why aren't there more women running? Well, you know what? We need to ask them. I do believe there's a wealth of knowledgeable and resourceful women out there who can do a great job representing all of us.
Q: A goal of the National Federation is to "increase the effectiveness of women in the cause of good government." How do you do that?
A: We've been around for almost 72 years now, and we're a grass-roots advocacy group of women. I believe the educational component is something we really need to work toward, to help educate people on the difference between the Republicans and Democrats.
Q: How has the federation evolved in recent years? Has your membership grown, shrunk or remained consistent?
A: We're running pretty steady. We toppled the 70,000 mark of women across the United States. We have state federations in all but two states, North Dakota and Vermont. We were able to bring back Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico came back strong.
Q: Aside from the obvious political differences, how is the Republican Federation different from the National Federation of Democratic Women?
A: I have no idea what their philosophy is or whether or not there is such an organization. I don't know. I always thought NOW (the National Organization for Women) was the counterpart to us. But we really focus on electing Republicans at all levels of government.
Q: Does the political outlook of Republican women vary much from that of Republican men?
A: That's an interesting question because I hear so many times behind every successful man there is a strong woman. Well, let me tell you behind every strong woman is a successful man as well. ... I think women speak more to the pocketbook issues in this country because we're the ones who have to juggle all that. In my circle of friends, the women are the ones who run the household on the economic side. Also, with health care and education. With our children, I just believe we have a better handle on how we could get things accomplished.
Q: The League of Women Voters has male members. Does the federation allow male members and, if not, has there been any talk of changing that?
A: Our bylaws specifically state that men hold no vote or no voice. However, if you'd like to be an associate member, which is a contribution to either the local club, the state organization or at the national level, we have that available. We are strictly a women's organization, and we've been that way for 72 years. I don't see that changing.
Q: Why not? What's the advantage of keeping it that way?
A: From a standpoint of really understanding what was established 72 years ago, with the grass-roots advocacy and sticking to the principles and philosophy of the Republican Party, the women have always stayed true to that mission statement. Men, I think, sometimes have a tendency that, "If it feels good, maybe we need to change it." We are not that way.
I don't want to sound like I'm being a feminist because I'm not. My husband and I work together hand in hand. We have a wonderful relationship. I've been married 27 years, but sometimes I think I can be a little bit more discreet and aggressive on issues that really affect the family. You know, what we're seeing is how these issues are affecting the family. Women are willing to stand up and speak out. Ninety years ago, we got the right to vote, but in 2010, our voices are going to be heard loud and clear.
Q: On a national level, are we seeing more Republican women in Congress and governor's mansions or fewer?
A: I think that will largely be determined in November. ... I think there is going to be a wave of Republican women who are going to be elected in November.