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Upstart PAC takes off by backing conservative women

Voices of Conservative Women, a PAC that endorses only women candidates, elected two-thirds of its endorsed state and local candidates and won 87 percent of its targeted races last year.

Jennifer DeJournett
Courtesy of Jennifer DeJournett
Jennifer DeJournett

Speaking to the woman of the house has put Minnesota women in the House (and the Senate, county and school boards).

In 2010, Voices of Conservative Women, a nonpartisan political action committee that endorses only women candidates, elected two-thirds of its endorsed state and local candidates and won 87 percent of its targeted races. Barely a year old, it was the first women’s political action committee in Minnesota to conduct an independent expenditure campaign.

Under the direction of Jennifer DeJournett, VoicesPAC has put women in the center of the political bulls-eye. Women out-vote men in this country by 5 percentage points, she says, so “we specifically message to women voters and that’s not usually what conservatives do.” On the more than 110,000 pieces of mail that VoicesPac sent out, the addressee was a woman.

“When we made phone calls, we asked for the women,” she said. “When we door-knocked, we asked for the woman of the house.” DeJournett maintains there was virtually no opposition from traditional conservative groups.  

With last year’s track record of legislative and local government victories, DeJournett should be thrilled but instead, “I was bummed. We should have gotten 100 percent with such smart candidates.”

DeJournett is a civil engineer and mother of four young children who, along with fellow VoicesPac board members, has little time for “coulda, woulda, shoulda.” This self-described baby PAC has just spun off a nonprofit think tank, is screening candidates for the 2011 local elections, sponsors candidate training sessions, and will be in Washington next month for the conservative mother lode, CPAC, the American Conservative Union’s annual conference.

As VoicesPac enters its second election cycle, the group remains firmly committed to its guiding principle: to endorse women candidates at the state and local level based on fiscal issues only. “We just insist on it. It’s the line in the sand,” says DeJournett. “When you talk about money I don’t think the walls go up. I think if you are talking about social policy everyone has different life experiences. I think our message is right.”

In reality, VoicesPac’s endorsed legislative candidates are Republican women who for the most part are strongly pro-life, like Gretchen Hoffman, first term state senator from the 10th district along the North Dakota border.

‘Economics, taxes, regulation and freedom’
“Voices saw my literature and they know who I am,” says Hoffman who didn’t run as the “woman candidate” and who touts her fiscal conservatism. “Voices really helped shine a light that men’s issues and women’s issues are the same. Women are equally concerned about economics, taxes, regulation and freedom.”

There is no gender gap in the donor list. The PAC raised more than $87,000 dollars last year with donations from women and men, including Stanley Hubbard, chair of Hubbard Broadcasting, and Robert Ulrich, former CEO of Target Corporation.

Will VoicesPac move on to endorse both men and women? “It was one of our biggest discussions,” DeJournett says. But the board decided “to do one thing really, really well.”

By all evidence, it has and VoicesPac has become a role model. DeJournett says that at the state level, PACs that support conservative women are non-existent. “We have been contacted now by other groups that are interested in how did we do it and how can we replicate,” she said. “The truth is we are just really good mimics of the liberal ladies groups.”

Another sign of VoicesPAC’s success is the 501C4 nonprofit which will focus on advocacy, outreach and education. “The education component is huge,” according to Hoffman. “They’re not just coming at from a political standpoint. Why do we need independent, conservative voices? At the end of the day you need to educate people.”

VoicesPac is looking for strength in numbers, not just to enlarge the ranks of conservative women lawmakers but to give perspective to conservative politicians like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin who polarize even some of their supports. “They’re not polarizing,” DeJournett insists. “They’re just so few of us. They just stand out because they are alone.”