CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There were two reasons why former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley stopped in Charleston on Monday.
The first: An event with West Virginia Girls Rise Up, a program U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., introduced to encourage young girls to be more outgoing.
The second: A fundraiser benefitting Capito’s reelection campaign.
Haley’s presence in West Virginia is one of the many actions she has regarding the next election cycle; she will help kick off Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s campaign later this month and has already helped fundraise for Capito, Ernst, Arizona’s Marth McSally and Maine’s Susan Collins.
“When you see people who are really fighting hard to get immigration reform and trying to keep the economy doing well — you look at coal country here and the way Shelley’s fought for it — those things matter,” Haley told reporters. “For me, this is all about going to help good people get elected again.”
The fundraiser was closed to the press.
Haley, who left her position in December, was seen as a rising star in Republican politics before taking a spot in the Trump administration; she was the first female governor of South Carolina, a position she held from January 2011 to January 2017. She is also the second Indian American to become governor of a state.
Capito and Haley first stopped at the headquarters of the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council, where the two spoke before 30 scouts about becoming better leaders.
The West Virginia Girls Rise Up program focuses on three areas: education, physical fitness and self-confidence.
“We really just want the girls to know if they push through the fear, they’ll end up so much stronger on the other side. You don’t know what you will accomplish if you don’t push to get there,” Haley said.
Capito and Haley, both former Girl Scouts, talked about the women they admired as children: their respective mothers. Capito said her mother taught her the importance of being honest with oneself.
“If you do what is true to yourself, then you don’t have to wake up the next morning and wonder what you did,” the senator said. “If you’re still true to yourself, you would do it the same way the next day.”
Haley recalled her mother teaching her about persistence. During one portion of the event, Haley talked about the jobs women now have compared to when she was a child.
“Except for being president,” one scout said.
“Well, that will happen,” Haley replied. “And one of you might make that happen.”
“I’ll be out there. I’ll be loud and try to push good policy and good people to get elected, and hopefully make a difference as I support President Trump as well,” she said. “That’s all the plans I have right now.”
“I’m not even comfortable about 2024,” she added. “I just want to help as many people for 2020 as I can.”
An issue the Republican Party will have to address is the lack of female candidates under the party’s banner; out of the 256 women who ran for federal office in last year’s midterm elections, only 60 were Republican. U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., was the only Republican woman sworn into the House of Representatives this year.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make up nearly 52% of the country’s voting population.
“If you look at the Republican female senators that we have and the Republican female House members we have, they are incredibly impressive,” Haley said. “They are thoughtful in their approach, and they work well with the president. We want to add more to those.”
Capito called the numbers “anemic.”
“Sometimes, we really don’t have people in the Republican batting order to move to the next level. We have a lot of local officials here in West Virginia that are women. We certainly have a lot in our Legislature,” she said.
Capito added political culture has become more toxic, affecting many women interested in public office.
“We have the ability, through social media, to make blind attacks at people. I just think it forces people to think, ‘Do I really want to put myself through that?'” she said.
The senator referenced nominations under the current president as examples of omnipresent hostility.
“I just think it’s gotten worse and worse over the last two years,” Capito said of the nomination process.
Monday’s West Virginia Girls Rise Up gathering was the program’s 20th event since Capito became a senator in 2015; it was also the first event to be held in Charleston.