Women question candidates

Women question candidates

By On Thursday night at the YWCA for the first time ever, women from local organizations questioned area candidates about women’s issues, ranging from child care to partial-birth abortions.

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

On Thursday night at the YWCA for the first time ever, women from local organizations questioned area candidates about women’s issues, ranging from child care to partial-birth abortions.

Those in attendance were Daniel Matthews (Democrat) vs. Rep. David Winters (Republican, 69th district); and Rep. Doug Scott (Democrat, 68th district); Martin Hippie (Independent) vs. Charles Hendrickson (Democrat, 16th). An opening statement was read for Rep. Don Manzullo (Republican, 16th), who was in Washington, D.C.

Questions came from Barbara Boyd-Lewis (YWCA and Junior League); Lynn Kearney (Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling); Lynn Parry (American Association of University Women AAUW and the League of Women Voters); and Pat Nelson (League of Women Voters).

Joanne Baker from the League of Women Voters was the moderator for the event and devised rules. Adrienne Langley of the League timed the event, gave 30-second warnings and displayed a “stop” sign for candidates. Each candidate had one and a half minutes for an opening statement, and the same amount of time to respond to questions.

In his opening statement, Hendrickson referred to his tenure as a seventh-grade teacher. He said he’s definitely in touch the most with family issues. He also said the event was truly “democracy in action.”

Hippie noted he has been walking and biking across the state and found citizens apathetic toward government. He said he’s

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written letters to congressmen detailing his concerns, but he has never received feedback. “I decided one way for my voice to get heard was to say them myself,” he said.

Manzullo’s statement included the fact that he was a lawyer for 22 years before becoming a representative who dealt with issues including child custody and support and orders of protection for battered women.

Matthews stated that a woman is raped every 85 minutes. He said that in the year 2000, people should be discussing achievements of women. “These issues overshadow them,” he remarked.

Winters said he agreed with Matthews, and that women’s issues concern everyone. He also noted his concerns about crime against both men and women. He also mentioned one of his goals is to keep taxes low and produce more jobs in Illinois.

Scott said he’s dealt with women’s issues in the Legislature. In particular, he mentioned education, school funding and child care. “Those are the things we’ve worked on,” he said.

Boyd-Lewis started the questioning process. She mentioned the Great Start program, which has a $3 million budget, was enacted by the state Legislature and was designed to give bonuses and incentives to attract and retain child care workers. She asked legislators how to respond to the child-care staffing crisis in Illinois, and if it was a good enough idea to expand the Great Start program and acquire more funds.

Scott acknowledged a tremendous shortage of teachers exists. He said the Great Start program is a nice first step, but “it’s not getting to where we want to go.” He noted that both attracting and retaining the teachers was necessary. “It’s not just the staffing issues that we’ve got,” he said.

Matthews said that traditionally, the state has gained employees and added incentives. He said the state should provide a support structure and give the employees an adequate pay level.

Winters also remarked that the Great Start program is a good effort. He said it’s important to encourage those who are already working in the field. He said longevity and a support system need to be examined.

Later, Parry pointed out that mostly white men hold management positions in the work force. She questioned congressional candidates about how they plan to change the management situation.

Hendrickson again referred to his teaching experience. He said he’s seen many young men who seem to have an inherent idea of superiority. He remarked that his school has tried “to nip it in the bud.” He believes the solution is to fully educate male and female children.

Hippie pointed out the prejudice that exists toward women, who he feels can take on the same jobs as men. He said what exists is “clearly a biased system. We must stop it at a social level and enforce the laws that exist.”

Another major question was posed by Nelson, who asked all candidates if they supported partial birth abortions. She said very few are completed yearly under “extreme circumstances.”

Scott noted he voted against a partial- birth abortion bill. However, he only agrees with the abortions in extreme situations.

Matthews said he would support partial- birth abortions to save the lives of mothers. “I’m going to struggle with this issue probably the rest of my life,” he said.

Winters noted he wouldn’t vote in favor of any partial-birth abortions. “I have voted for the partial-birth abortion ban,” Winters said.

Hendrickson remarked that he believes in the women’s and family’s right to choose. “I am pro-choice, and I will vote pro-choice while in congress,” Hippie said.

Organizations that sponsored the event were Phase/Wave; Womanspace; YWCA of Rockford; AAUW of Rockford; Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling; Girl Scouts, Rock River Valley Council; League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford; and Rockford Section-National Council on Negro Women, Inc.

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