Twenty-five percent of women who voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election are now interested in running for office, according to the American Women’s Political Engagement Poll conducted in March.
Among them is Idaho’s Christy Perry, a Republican gun advocate and a small business owner who, in 2010, was unhappy with her state lawmakers and decided that she “could do better and represent the people better.”
She won that first race for the Idaho state legislature and has represented the 11th District for the last four terms, serving on the Health and Welfare Committee; Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee; Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee; and the Technology Committee.
This year, however, she realized that the frustration she felt in 2010 was returning — and this time she aimed her sights at Washington.
“A lot of what I’ve worked on at the state level, I wanted to do more with and was told that federal legislation would prevent me from doing so,” Perry told IJR. “So, I got frustrated and thought, ‘I’m gonna figure out how I can.'”
At first, that didn’t translate into running for the U.S. House of Representatives. That decision, she said, came after a lot of prayer and encouragement from her husband.
“I couldn’t imagine running this type of campaign,” she said. “I turned it down when I was asked back in August to consider running. I told my husband and he was shocked.
Perry continued: “I told him we had to decide if it was something we really wanted to do and face together. We prayed about it and reached a decision at the end of October.”
It isn’t surprising that Perry required a bit of convincing to run for office. Research has long shown that women are less confident in their ability to run — and win — than their male counterparts.
Brenda Major, a social psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, noted this phenomenon as far back as 2004.
Her research revealed that women not only tend to judge themselves and their abilities more harshly, but that they also tend to carry failures as more of a burden than men.
“So many competent, capable women are basically selecting themselves out of leadership positions and I think that we’ve all wrestled with this,” Major said. “I know it personally. I know it firsthand.”Screenshot/ChristyPerryForIdaho.com
Perry, for her part, said she believes that the Republican party — in particular — must do a better job of encouraging women to run for office if it wants to see more women at the top levels of government.
“Republican women are the least represented group in Congress by far and you would think the party itself would do a better job in supporting women,” she said, adding that she put together her own campaign largely without assistance from party leaders or organizations like Winning for Women, which supports conservative women running for federal office.
“I believe the Democratic party works harder at engaging their women and certainly offers them more resources, especially in terms of infrastructure,” Perry continued.
Even so, she believes her campaign will be a winning one — not only because she believes in her ability to be successful in Washington, but also because she knows and intimately understands the issues that people in Idaho care about and wants to better their lives.
“The only reason to run is because you want to serve others,” she said.
“That’s the advice I would give to any other woman who wants to run,” Perry said. “Don’t be afraid. Don’t look at the playing field and talk yourself out of it. Be courageous. Don’t be afraid of the odds. Be set in your heart that you’re doing the right thing for the right reason, and then do it.”
Her platform is set around that idea — serving the people in her district.
“About 67 percent of the land in the state of Idaho is federal land,” she said. “Most of it is also very rural.
“In our district, we face difficulty getting access to services like healthcare and broadband because it is so rural. That’s a huge problem,” Perry said. “As a gun advocate and former gun shop owner, I am also obviously committed to preserving recreational and sportsmen’s rights.”
“I’m also very concerned with protecting our right to manage our own land and water,” Perry added, noting that her experience fighting back against the federal government’s efforts to restrict access to Lake Lowell, in her district’s Canyon County, has prepared her to do the same in Washington.
“I am ready to fight for the people who need someone to fight for them and for the things they care about,” she continued. “I care about these people and this state and I want to see it succeed.”
This is the fourth installment of Madam Candidate, an IJR original series about women running for office in the 2018 midterms. Twice a month, the series will profile female candidates across the country with the hope of understanding what inspired an unprecedented number of women to put their names on the ballot this year. Click here to read more from Madam Candidate.