RNC to tackle issue of anachronistic gender rule

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Before the next election for chair, the Republican National Committee will address the rule that requires that the chairman and the co-chairman be of different genders, a rule that many feel is antiquated and negatively affecting the current election for chairman.

RNC rules require that the chairman and co-chairman of the committee, elected on separate ballots, be of opposite genders. But with two women running for chair — former ambassador to Luxembourg Ann Wagner and political operative Maria Cino — and no male candidate having stepped forward for the co-chair position, the rule could cause some problems.

The RNC is currently holding its 2011 Winter Meeting in National Harbor, Maryland, during which time the members are conducting business and preparing to elect a committee chair. The vote will be held on Friday. In a meeting of the Standing Committee on Rules on Thursday, Enid Mickelson, the committeewoman from Utah, proposed the amendment to strike “of the opposite sex” from the rules governing who could serve as co-chair.

“As this race has evolved, I’ve been discouraged and distressed to see that some of my fellow members felt that the gender requirement…had an impact on who they could support,” Mickelson said.

Asked by The Daily Caller to clarify, Mickelson pointed to a statement made by Indiana Committeeman James Bopp in announcing his endorsement of Reince Priebus, that he felt “Ann has an insurmountable difficulty reaching a majority of the votes, because of our unfair gender requirement for co-chairman.”

Clarifying that statement to Ben Smith of Politico, Bopp explained:

Our rules require the co-chairman to be of a different sex than the chairman. If a woman is elected chairman, then it must be a man. Right now, 2 women are running for co-chair. Both are well-respected. They will be cut out if a woman is elected chairman. Thus, this puts pressure on the supporters of the two women candidates for co-chair to support a man for chairman, disadvantaging a woman for chairman, i.e. Ann and Maria.

Mickelson said she had heard this sentiment from other members in addition to Bopp.

She told TheDC that some women on the committee had told her they felt that some of the “good ol’ boys” on the committee were deliberately using the rule against women.

“I believe that this rule is an anachronism,” she continued, “and that this committee with its 168 members can be trusted to determine whether or not we need to have [a chairman and co-chairman] of opposite sexes.”

Gender, she said, she should not be a consideration. Instead, the chairman and co-chairman should be chosen on “merit.”

The rule, she told TheDC, “was intended to be a positive thing,” adding that it “served a good purpose” to help level the playing field. However, she pointed out, in the past there were very few women state party chairman, whereas now there are quite a few. As a result, she said, the rule now works against women.

Bopp concurred. “I do feel that this requirement, while laudatory in its purposes…has passed its time,” he said. However, he suggested that this issue was part of “a bundle of issues here that ought to be examined” regarding the specific role of the co-chairman, something that is not specified anywhere. He proposed, therefore, that a “subcommittee of members with diverse opinions on this question” be appointed to look at the whole issue, including the issue of gender.

This suggestion was ultimately accepted, leaving Arizona Committeeman Bruce Ash, chairman of the Standing Committee on Rules, to joke, “I’m still in trouble with my wife. She thinks this is a dumb rule. I’m still in trouble when I get home, when I tell her we didn’t change it.”

But, he said, it was a step in the right direction. Mickelson echoed that statement.

“I think when we get around to it, will repeal it,” she said.