Speaking at a men’s-only event earlier this year, Michigan Republican John James questioned women’s capacity for leadership, alleging that “women want men who have been tested” and that men had a “charge to lead.”

“We have an obligation to future generations to make sure that we are operating within the role that we have to lead. And yes that is not politically correct, but men we have a charge to lead and we are failing in that because we are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings,” James said at the Christian Businessmen’s Connection luncheon in Bath, Mich., on May 24.

James followed his suggestion that women should be excluded from positions of leadership by alleging that women in fact prefer to see men serving in leadership roles.

“The fact of the matter is women want men who have been tested. And boys need to be tested. And we are those examples. And so this falls silently on our shoulders to ensure that we are the Christian business leaders and the men that we must have in order to make sure that subsequent generations have the blessings that we have today,” he added.  

James is challenging incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow, currently one of the Senate’s longest-serving women, this November. His remarks come as the Republican Party continues to struggle to connect with women voters in critical states and races ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

The James campaign didn’t respond to emailed questions about his statements by the time of publication.

In July, President Donald Trump endorsed James ahead of the Republican primary, referring to him as a “West Point graduate, businessman and African American leader” and predicting he “will be a star.” Vice President Mike Pence followed with an endorsement later the same day.