“This is the first real opportunity after the midterms for Republicans to prove how serious they are about electing women,” said Olivia Perez-Cubas, a spokeswoman for WFW Action Fund. “We are hoping this race sets the tone for lots more women to come.”
Not if the party’s prominent conservative men have anything to say about it. House Freedom Action, the political arm of the Freedom Caucus, which has reported spending about $240,000 in the race, has answered by portraying Dr. Perry as a closet progressive. One TV spot calls her “another lying Nancy Pelosi liberal.” Another political action group, Awake Carolina, which has spent more than $150,000, has circulated a mailer showing Dr. Perry superimposed on the tattooed face of a member of the brutal transnational gang MS-13.
Dr. Murphy, a three-term state legislator who has deep ties within the North Carolina Republican establishment, is running as a political outsider. The “swamp,” he says, is targeting him because of his association with Mr. Meadows. He declined through an aide to be interviewed; he was, said Doug Raymond, his campaign manager, “chasing votes, not headlines.”
Dr. Perry, a triathlete who has never run for political office, said she was moved to mount her first bid after New York passed the Reproductive Health Act. The measure expanded abortion rights, allowing the procedure after 24 weeks to protect the mother’s health or if the fetus was not viable.
“I really felt strongly that, as there are remarkable Democratic women voices speaking out on this, that there needs to be a strong conservative female voice with medical expertise speaking to this issue,” Dr. Perry said in an interview here last week, as an air-conditioned white minivan ferried her from house to house to knock on doors. At her feet were her campaign must-haves: an ivory canvas bag containing door cards, stickers, a glass bottle filled with iced green tea, pistachios and other snacks, and a book of daily Scripture readings.
Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, who has dedicated her political fund-raising operation to supporting Republican women in their primaries, said the race reflected an important shift.
“What it does show is, other women who are stepping forward, and we have dozens of them, it shows that there’s going to be support financially,” Ms. Stefanik said. “We haven’t necessarily seen that in past cycles.”