Two new Midwestern PACs have been launched since the beginning of the year by prominent women—one on the left, and one on the right.  

CouragePAC, started by former Democratic Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, intends to increase advocacy and issue awareness among Ohio’s progressive grassroots. With Ohio politics now dominated by Republicans, Brunner hopes her new watchdog PAC will provide a check on Republican power in the Buckeye State.

“Citizens are encouraged to advocate as individuals by contacting their government officials, writing letters to the editor, signing petitions and engaging personally in making their views known,” reads a statement of purpose on Courage PAC’s website. “After all, democracy is at its best when citizens participate.” Brunner told C&E that her PAC will emphasize issue advocacy to capitalize on the increasing political influence of individual voters. “I’m convinced that the nature of campaigns is changing to where participation results in more of an impact than before,” she says.

Meanwhile, a few states over in Minnesota, Jennifer DeJournett, a civil engineer who was appointed to the state Commission on National and Community Service by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has started VoicesPAC. The new outfit, which grew out of the advocacy organization Voices of Conservative Women, is set up to exclusively endorse conservative female candidates.

While Voices of Conservative Women was actively involved on the state level in the 2010 cycle, the new PAC plans to expand onto the national stage for 2012. In 2010, two-thirds of the campaigns that Voices of Conservative Women donated to were successful. “In our key races, where we did more than just donate money, our rate jumped up from two-thirds to 87.5 percent,” DeJournett told C&E. Having met with such success in a single year working on Minnesota races, DeJournett was prompted to retool the state PAC into a 501(c)(4) that will support and raise money for conservative female candidates across the country in 2012.

DeJournett told MinnPost.com that the new PAC will exclusively focus its efforts on female voters, whose turnout generally exceeds that of men. “We specifically message to women voters and that’s not usually what conservatives do,” said DeJournett. “We were very effective [in 2010]. We sent 110,000 mailers, did a radio ad buy and had a ground game.” She says that when representatives of her organization knock on doors, they specifically request to speak with the woman of the household. The organization also offers training and advice for first-time candidates, as well as funding assistance and awards for female politicians who maintain a conservative voting record.

Brunner’s CouragePAC trades on her renown as the first female secretary of state in Ohio history. While in office, Brunner supported reforms aimed at addressing problems the state encountered during the close 2004 presidential election. Elected in 2006, Brunner chose to run for U.S. Senate in 2010 rather than seek re-election. (She lost in the Democratic primary to Lee Fisher.)

“It’s been a privilege to be the first woman to do this and to show girls and young women that women leaders can empower a community or a state to achieve what we often cannot dream of accomplishing alone,” Brunner writes on CouragePAC’s website.

Brunner was advised by some prominent women not to dwell on her gender, but decided that, as the state’s first female secretary of state, she could not simply ignore women’s issues. “When you are a part of a group that has been underrepresented, you have a responsibility to talk about the fact that they have been underrepresented,” she says. “CouragePAC is a way to have those voices heard.”

Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at nrothman@campaignsandelections.com