For freshman Republican Rep. Carol Miller, work-life balance looks a bit different.
While she was running for her House seat last fall, there were times when Miller had to rush back to the bison farm she owns in West Virginia to deal with unexpected problems with the animals she helps raise.
Miller has a lot less time to spend on the farm now that she represents West Virginia’s third congressional district, but she still helps out with the work when she can.
“I’m not as good a farmer as I was two years ago — really since I ran for office,” Miller said in a recent interview.
Her campaign slogan was a promise to “cut the bull out of politics” and when she got to Washington, she had a bison head mounted on the wall of her Capitol Hill office.
That’s not the only unique thing about the congresswoman: Miller is the only new Republican woman in the House of Representatives.
While the number of House Democratic women hit a record high after the 2018 midterms, the ranks of House GOP women were cut nearly in half, dropping from 23 women serving in the last session of Congress to now just 13 House Republican women.
“It’s unfortunate that I’m the only Republican woman in the freshman class,” Miller said, but added, “I’m very hopeful that we will have more Republican women in the next legislative term.”
The congresswoman may play a role in making that happen. Miller is quickly rising through the ranks of House Republicans — she is already a member of the GOP whip team — and she wants to help Republicans win back the House majority after Democrats took over in January. As part of that, she wants to help more Republican women get elected to Congress in the years to come.
‘We wish there were a bunch more of her’
Miller has a sign hanging on the wall in her office that says “A woman’s place is in the House, the Senate and the Oval Office.”
The daughter of former Ohio congressman Samuel Devine, Miller has broken glass ceilings over the course of her own career. Before coming to Washington, she was the first Republican woman to serve as majority whip in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
But Miller is quick to point out that her “mission was never to be a glass breaker.” She wants the focus to be on her work and she doesn’t want to be defined by her gender.
“I didn’t run because I was a woman. I ran because I cared a lot about my state,” Miller said, reflecting on her run for Congress. “I never let my gender identify me.”
At the same time, the fact that Miller is the only newly elected House Republican woman and managed to prevail in her congressional race while so many other Republican women did not is now part of what sets her apart in Congress and gives her a unique perspective, one that could prove valuable to her party as it works to recover from the setback of its midterm losses.
Republican women planning to run for Congress in 2020 are already seeking Miller out to ask for advice.
“There were some sharp women that ran this last time and I’ve already talked to a few that are going to run in the next election, and I will encourage them,” Miller said. “I’ve spoken to many different groups of women. I’m glad to talk to any of them.”
When she speaks to women interested in running for Congress, Miller talks about everything from the challenges of fundraising to what it’s like to live your life in a public spotlight.
“I talk to them about having a fire in their belly to really want to open themselves up, their whole life, their whole family to thousands and thousands of people,” Miller said, adding, “because when you step into a public service mode, you are exposed to people saying whatever they want to say about you.”
Miller has also had conversations about the importance of electing more GOP women with Republican Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, the recruitment chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee for the 2020 election cycle, and Elise Stefanik of New York, who recently re-launched a political action committee to focus on helping Republican women win primaries and warned after the midterms that the party has reached “a crisis level of GOP women in Congress.” Miller has let both Brooks and Stefanik know that she is supportive of their efforts to recruit and elect Republican women.
“Carol Miller knows firsthand the challenges that come with running for Congress as a woman, and she will be instrumental in my efforts to elect more Republican women,” Stefanik told CNN. “I’m grateful for her support and friendship.”
“We’re excited to have her on our team. We wish there were a bunch more of her,” Brooks told CNN. “I think she’s going to be a great recruiting partner for us,” Brooks said, adding that Miller “wants to be helpful because she, like we, recognize that we absolutely need a lot more women in the United States House who are Republicans.”
“Congress is a melting pot of many, many people and I think the more people we have with different experiences, the better we can relate to the people that we represent,” Miller said. “So I’m very hopeful there will be more women.”
‘How are those tweets working for you?’
Republicans running in battleground states and congressional districts in the 2018 midterms faced a challenge when it came to the President: Anything less than full-throated support could alienate conservative voters, but to appeal to moderate, independent or swing voters, candidates faced pressure to break with Trump on controversial issues.
Miller, however, is an ally and staunch defender of the President and she believes his endorsement and support for her congressional campaign in the deep red state of West Virginia helped her win.
Trump traveled to West Virginia several times for rallies in the run up to the 2018 midterms. During one of those visits, Miller was invited inside Air Force One with the President, an experience she says was “incredible.”
On another occasion, Miller recalls having a conversation with the President when he jokingly said to her, “How are those tweets working for you?” a reference to his own Twitter feed.
“He’s got quite a sense of humor,” the congresswoman said, describing the interaction.
She talks frequently about how her focus is on issues that impact West Virginia, like improving roads and infrastructure, tackling the opioid epidemic, and promoting workforce development in a state hard hit by the decline of the coal industry.
“People in West Virginia are hard-working, resilient people, and they suffered the hopelessness of having their jobs taken away and their communities leaving,” she said.
Miller’s two sons and five grandchildren live within a mile of her home in West Virginia and she says her “priorities are to work on the issues so that people can keep their families here in West Virginia and be with their grandchildren like I am.”
“I’m always selling our state, come, bring jobs to our state, we want your jobs. We’d love to have your business in our state,” Miller said, adding, “I want people to realize what a great place it is.”
‘There aren’t many freshmen that I add’
On a recent day on Capitol Hill, Miller had a jam-packed schedule. In between votes on the House floor and two committee hearings, she had a series of meetings, including speaking with a group of West Virginians, hosting a member of the Parliament of Georgia in her office and stopping by a reception for the National Motorsports Coalition.
Miller is still new to Capitol Hill, but she is forming friendships with other lawmakers, including members of House GOP leadership, and even some Democrats – and making progress at a faster clip than one might expect for a freshman member.
The congresswoman was named a member of the House GOP whip team shortly after the start of the new Congress and she describes House GOP leaders Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise and Liz Cheney as “wonderful people.” When she first got to Congress, Scalise came to her office to meet members of her family who had traveled to Washington for her swearing-in ceremony.
“With her background as majority whip in West Virginia, she was the perfect person to add on to the whip team,” Scalise told CNN, saying, “there aren’t many freshmen that I add.”
“Carol’s a doer. She’s a worker,” he added. “She came here with a purpose and those are the kind of people I look for.”
Miller has gotten to know other lawmakers through the committees she serves on. “You become family,” Miller said. “You pray together, you laugh together, you battle together.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform committee, is one of the people Miller has become close with. But it’s not just Republicans.
“Across the aisle, there are people that I like and I’m getting to know,” Miller added. The congresswoman counts Democratic freshmen Reps. Katie Hill of California and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia as friends.
Miller has also joined a bipartisan women’s prayer group made up of lawmakers from both the House and the Senate.
“At this stage, I’m still getting to know everybody and I’m concentrating on my committee work,” she said, describing what it’s been like to be in Congress so far.
“There’s a lot of players out there, lots of people, and it’s fascinating, it’s exhilarating. I mean there are so many adjectives you could use for Washington, DC,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s exhausting. It’s enjoyable. It’s frustrating. It’s all of those things.”