Rep. Fajardo starts effort to get businesswomen involved in politics - RISE New Mexico
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Rep. Fajardo starts effort to get businesswomen involved in politics

Rep. Fajardo starts effort to get businesswomen involved in politics

Santa Fe New Mexican  By Andrew Oxford |

The New Mexico Republican Party was dealt one blow after another Tuesday in a general election that became a Democratic sweep, even in some areas that have long been GOP strongholds.

Many of the successful Democratic candidates were women recruited, trained and supported by Emerge New Mexico, a nonprofit political organization that set out a dozen years ago to dramatically increase the number of women in elected office.

State Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, says the state’s Republican Party has been slow to embrace a similar approach for recruiting and supporting female candidates.

The party has made some effort in recent years to recruit women and people of color. In 2011, for instance, the Republican State Leadership Committee, an arm of the national party that supports candidates at the state level, launched an initiative to recruit a diverse slate of candidates for legislative seats.

Gov. Susana Martinez was part of its initial board, and it backed several state House candidates who would go on to win in areas carried by Democratic President Barack Obama.

Fajardo is behind a new effort to get women involved in politics, either as a candidate or as an advocate on public policy. Just over a year ago, she helped start Rise New Mexico, an organization that focuses on women from the business community.

The group eschews a partisan label. But it does seek to recruit centrists with a pro-business viewpoint.

“I don’t want to knock them,” Fajardo says of Emerge. “Getting women involved in politics is amazing. But they’re a very left group. The majority of the population, the majority of women are center-left, center-right. And there’s no place for them.”

So, Fajardo said, the group reached out to businesswomen for what was first planned as a dinner to talk about politics. It turned in to a summit, with a guest list that grew from 50 to 70.

The group aims to provide mentorship, networking and support to women getting involved in politics.

For some, the biggest obstacle to running for office is realizing that you can, Fajardo says.

“If you’re not involved with the party,” she says, “if you didn’t study political science in college, if you’re not in that group, you may not think you can.”