Women pose for a photo during the National Federation of Republican Women’s biennial convention on Friday in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Mindy Ragan Wood/Oklahoma Voice)
OKLAHOMA CITY — Conservative women from across the nation hugged, laughed and huddled together as they talked about national policy during the National Federation of Republican Women’s biennial convention.
The three-day event, which kicked off Friday, drew over 1,000 women from across the country. They gathered to network, to train for future leadership roles, and, of course, to talk politics.
The convention comes ahead of next year’s federal elections and a much-anticipated primary where the Republicans will select their presidential nominee who is expected to face off against Democrat Joe Biden.
While many women said they remained undecided about which GOP presidential candidate would get their vote, they spoke candidly about issues impacting their lives — the economy, national security, crime and education. Some said they’re looking for leaders who can navigate an increasingly contentious political environment.
Joanie Walsh traveled to the convention from Wayne, New Jersey. The 60-year-old, who works in sales, said the economy is a top concern.
“We’re getting killed in New Jersey,” Walsh said. “The cost of living is too much. We can’t survive. A bag of groceries costs $165 to $200.”
Walsh said she plans to vote for former President Donald Trump.
Other attendees, particularly those in younger voter demographics, said they were concerned about the divisiveness in politics, crime and the cost of higher education.
Germantown, Maryland, resident Maria Sofia, 29, said she wants to see more civil discourse that leads to better policy.
“How do we get away from divisive politics and how do we get back to common sense policy?” said Sofia, a government policy analyst.
Sofia said she is concerned about rising student debt.
“People my age, we talk a lot about student debt, being able to buy a house, paying off a car,” she said. “The expenses are huge.”
Sofia said she is considering voting for Nikki Haley, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.
Liliana Norkaitis, 19, of Fallston, Maryland, echoed the concern about civility. She said she is sometimes shunned by university classmates and clubs because she’s a Republican.
The university student also said gun rights are particularly important to her after she escaped an attempted assault.
“Crime, especially as a young person, as a woman, is something I think should drive young people to go Republican because Democrats really don’t have a solution to that,” she said.
Norkaitis said she hadn’t decided which presidential candidate would get her vote yet.
“There’s a lot of choices for candidates,” she said. “Whatever flavor of Republicanism is yours, it’s all there.”
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