Christopher Hooks asks and answers a good question.
Who the heck are RedState Women? So far, they appear to be a motley collection of politically-connected lobbyists, ex-lobbyists and staffers of legislators who haven’t exactly distinguished themselves on women’s issues.
This morning, the Dallas Morning News‘ Wayne Slater noted the connection between RedState Women, Mike Toomey and Dave Carney—the latter two being longtime GOP insiders. But the RedState Women’s staff and board feature an even more eclectic crew.
There’s Lara Laneri Keel, the president of the group’s board, who writes in her bio that she’s “regarded as one of the top female lobbyist (sic) in Austin.” One of her clients: the private prison industry. Keel is a partner at the Texas Lobby Group, whose most prominent member is Toomey, a former Perry chief of staff and one of the governor’s closest associates. Keel is the cousin of Terry Keel, a former state representative and House parliamentarian, and wife of John Keel, former head of the Legislative Budget Board and current state auditor. Both Terry and John Keel were close associates of former House Speaker Tom Craddick.
There’s Cristen Wohlgemuth, a former lobbyist who now serves as chief of staff to state Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), a tea party rep who voted against last session’s equal pay bill and co-sponsored the sweeping abortion restrictions that passed the Lege last summer. Wohlgemuth, the daughter of former state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, worked for famously fundamentalist former state Rep. Warren Chisum before Goldman. Both Chisum and Arlene Wohlgemuth were top Craddick lieutenants. Arlene Wohlgemuth is now executive director of the corporate-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation.
And there’s Mia McCord, a former fundraiser with the state GOP who’s the current chief of staff for state Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills). As chairman of the Republican Policy Caucus in 2011, Hancock played an important role in decimating state funding for women’s health care programs.
Christman herself is the chief of staff to state Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) who was a key supporter of the effort to “defund Planned Parenthood” that ended up capsizing the whole system of women’s health care in the state.
Then there’s Tony Hernandez, the group’s treasurer, according to the only financial report. Hernandez is another lobbyist (he works with Keel at the Texas Lobby Group) and the only XY chromosome in the bunch. Hernandez has an even more eclectic past—before he came to Texas, he worked for Andrew Laming, the bro-tastic Australian politician, most famous for calling out Aborigines and Pacific Islanders for an addiction to “welfare on tap” and chugging beers while doing handstands for Australia Day this year. (“This is the way I chose to celebrate Australia Day,” Laming said, Australian-ly. “I chose to drink my beer upside down.”)
It’s a strange group—not the dream team you might have assembled for a Texas women’s advocacy group. But they’ve been earning a lot of headlines. RedState Women launched its website on Wednesday after giving Politico a sneak peek, and earned a cameo in a recent Wall Street Journal story about women voters. As a PAC, the group will presumably be raising and spending money on candidates. But the most important role RedState Women will play this election cycle, it seems, will be in messaging.
“Christman” is Cari Christman, of “ladies are too busy for equality” fame. Between that and the “ladies should learn to be better negotiators” claim, the more messaging we get from folks like this, the better. Be that as it may, the point here is that this isn’t some genuine movement by real people who feel their voices aren’t being heard. It’s the usual assortment of privileged and connected people claiming to speak for people whose interests they don’t actually represent. In the meantime, we still don’t know what Greg Abbott himself thinks about this; he’s been too busy to speak for himself. Keep trotting those surrogates out there, Greg, they’re doing a heck of a job for you. Daily Kos has more.