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GOP Ads Target Young Female Voters on Violence Against Women Act

Winning for Women is behind ads touting Comstock, McSally and Walters

GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock is running for a third term in Virginia’s 10th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock is running for a third term in Virginia’s 10th District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

An outside group dedicated to electing Republican women is launching digital ads urging three lawmakers to support reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which is set to expire in December.

The digital ads, obtained first by Roll Call, target Reps. Mimi Walters of California and Barbara Comstock of Virginia — both facing tough re-elections — and Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, who’s running for Senate.

All three are being challenged by Democratic women. In a year that’s seen high enthusiasm among female voters for Democratic candidates, especially in suburban districts, these issue ads try to highlight GOP lawmakers’ advocacy for women. Republicans are at risk of seeing the number of women in their House conference decline next year. 

Running on Facebook, Google, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Hulu, the ads are targeted to younger women, softer Republican voters and independents, and are backed by a six-figure digital buy across the three states. The ads are part of the MyRoar campaign, which is paid for by Winning for Women. The group’s PAC has endorsed all three women, who are also identified as “Lionesses” on the MyRoar website. 

One version of the ad begins by explaining the Violence Against Women Act. “What if there was a law that provided defense for victims of sexual assault?” the narrator asks.

“Well that law expires in just months,” the narrator continues. “But what if I told you you could help the efforts of women like Congresswoman Barbara Comstock to keep it alive when Congress returns?”

“What if I told you that you could be heard?” the narrator says, as the face of a young woman appears on screen.  

Another version of the ad opens with statistics about rape and sexual assault and the percentage of the offenders who see jail time. Things would be “a lot worse” without the Violence Against Women Act, the narrator says. 

“Congresswoman Mimi Walters has been working hard for women. Learn how to help Mimi keep working to pass a bigger, better Violence Against Women Act when Congress returns,” the narrator says.

The Violence Against Women Act was supposed to expire on Sept. 30, but it was extended under a stopgap spending bill in September. 

Led by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrats have introduced legislation to reauthorize the law with updates, including a provision that would prohibit those under protective order from possessing firearms. No Republicans have signed on to the Democratic proposal.

Flashback: Democrats Hope to Extend Violence Against Women Act

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GOP Reps. Elise Stefanik and John J. Faso of New York and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania introduced their own six-month reauthorization legislation in September. Walters is listed as a co-sponsor on that measure. Comstock and McSally are not.

Forty-six Republicans sent a letter to Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy last month asking for urgent action to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act before its Sept. 30 expiration. Comstock and Walters signed on to that letter. McSally did not. 

“In Congress, all three of these women have a strong track record of supporting legislation that promotes and empowers women. Each is a warrior. And we look forward to their continued commitment to the Violence Against Women Act and to victims of violence and sexual assault across the country,” Winning For Women Executive Director Rebecca Schuller said in a statement.  

Comstock is running for a third term in Virginia’s 10th District against Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Wexton. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates her race Tilts Democratic.

Walters faces Democrat Katie Porter, a law professor, in a Toss-up race in California’s 45th District.

McSally is running for the Senate seat of retiring Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. Her race against Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is rated a Toss-up.

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