Fearing conservative social policies, womens’ groups start offensive against Brady

By Adrian G. Uribarri
March 09, 2010

If state Sen. Bill Brady’s race against Gov. Pat Quinn comes anywhere as close as his campaign against Kirk Dillard, then one thing is for sure: It won’t be womens’ groups that push him over the edge.

Nearly eight months before the general election, advocates for abortion rights and equal-pay legislation have formally begun denouncing Brady, the Republican nominee for governor.

In a press conference this morning, leaders from several progressive organizations in the state portrayed Brady as a religiously motivated and extremely socially conservative candidate, unfit to serve women who want control over their reproductive and financial health.

“I literally shuddered at the notion of him in the governor’s office,” said Beth Kanter of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action. “Illinois women cannot afford Bill Brady in the governor’s office.”

Michelle Staeger, at the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women, said his opposition to legislation that requires equal pay for women as for men in similar positions shows he is out of touch with reality.

“He’s simply ignoring the fact that there is still discrimination, based on gender, in the workplace,” Staeger said. She called his voting record in the Illinois General Assembly, where he has served more than 16 years, “troubling” and “alarming, in fact.”

Jaime Elich, Brady’s campaign spokeswoman, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Today’s unequivocal statements mark a first wave of resistance to Brady’s campaign outside of Quinn’s own camp. Last week, the governor released a statement in response to Brady’s nomination that clearly targeted his social positions.

“The Republican nominee is from the extreme right wing of the party and far from the mainstream of Illinois voters,” Quinn campaign spokeswoman Mica Matsoff wrote.

She cited his past opposition to the Family Medical Leave Act, equal-pay legislation and raising the minimum wage, as well as his support for legislation that would ban abortions, even for women who were raped or victims of incest.

The womens’ advocates echoed those sentiments today, strongly endorsing Quinn as their ally on those very issues.

Terry Cosgrove, president of the Personal Political Action Committee, pressed reporters to ask Brady what kind of penalties he would impose on women who illegally sought abortions or emergency contraceptives.

He joked that building prisons for them would not be his idea of a jobs plan.

“His extremist agenda has to be rejected by the people of Illinois,” Cosgrove said.

Lynda DeLaforgue, co-chair of Citizen Action Illinois, said Brady ranked second to last in an analysis of state legislators who ranked “poor” in their positions on social issues, as compared to the consumer organization’s progressive agenda.

State Sen. Dave Syverson, the staunch Rockford conservative, was last on the list.

“Sen. Brady has time and again voted against the needs of average Illinois families,” DeLaforgue said. “Consumer issues are womens’ issues.”

Perhaps nothing illustrated that more clearly during today’s event than its setting, the downtown Chicago offices of Environmental Design International Inc.

Deborah Sawyer, head of the firm, said that being a woman — and a minority, in her case — is especially challenging in a nontraditional industry for women such as civil engineering. Among other things, her firm helps construction companies mitigate environmental impacts from their building projects.

“We need a supportive, women-friendly governor to succeed,” Sawyer said.

Chicago NOW criticizes Commissioner Brooks

March 5, 2010

BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND FRANK MAIN Staff Reporters

Female aldermen criticized Chicago Fire Commissioner John Brooks on Friday for his “intemperate” and “insensitive” response to an underling’s allegation of sexual harassment.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday on the underling’s accusations that Brooks called her repeatedly, came on to her sexually and targeted her for a layoff when she refused his advances. Office of Compliance chief Anthony Boswell — suspended for allegedly killing a different harassment case — is accused of shelving an investigation into Brooks, too.

Brooks acknowledged placing the calls, but denied propositioning or attempting to punish the woman.

Read the full story here

An Open Letter to Scott Lee Cohen

February 10, 2010

Dear Mr. Cohen,

Thank you for requesting a meeting with the Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women to discuss the future of your political career.  Chicago NOW has been a stalwart defender of the rights of women and girls since 1967.  We appreciate that you recognize that fact enough to reach out to us, however belatedly.  Your spokesman’s email said that the requested meeting is critical to further your “understanding of women’s issues.”  We know that the world of women’s issues can be vast and complex, but there are some basics that you will need to cover before moving forward.  First and foremost, violence is never the answer.

The facts on domestic violence are devastating.  In 2006 the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control published a fact sheet stating that “women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes” every year.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner in 2005. That’s an average of three women every day. (Citations at NOW.org)

Mr. Cohen, we will consider meeting with you, but before any plans are made, we need you to make some changes to show the people of Illinois that you are really sincere.

  1. File the paperwork necessary to formally step down.
  2. Publicly acknowledge the allegations made against you by the women in your life.  If you have harmed these women, do not make excuses; simply state what you have done.
  3. Apologize
  4. Pay back any child support that is due.
  5. Commit to ending violence against women and girls in Illinois.

We hope you can understand why the allegations against you have caused such an upheaval.  We need leaders who can lead by example.  Perhaps we will meet face to face once this checklist is complete.  Until then, good luck with your endeavors.  We urge you to take this time to make yourself into a new person.

Best Regards,

Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women

Anti-Violence Groups Blast Cohen Candidacy

From Progress Illinois, Adam Doster,  Friday February 5th, 2010, 4:25pm

A broad coalition of anti-violence and women’s groups held a press conference in Chicago to discuss the recent revelations about the Democrat lieutenant gubernatorial nominee’s history of violence and harassment. Due to their nonprofit status, most of the representatives couldn’t publicly demand that Cohen withdraw from the ballot.  Nonetheless, they strongly repudiated his candidacy.

In Rasmussen’s pre-primary polling, Gov. Pat Quinn struggled among female voters against challenger Dan Hynes. But if Scott Lee Cohen remains on the ticket as his running mate in the fall, you can be sure those numbers will plummet.

Today, a broad coalition of anti-violence and women’s groups held a press conference in Chicago to discuss the recent revelations about the Democrat lieutenant gubernatorial nominee’s history of violence and harassment. Due to their nonprofit status, most of the representatives couldn’t publicly demand that Cohen withdraw from the ballot.  Nonetheless, they strongly repudiated his candidacy. “My immediate response,” said Kelly White of the Chicago Foundation for Women, “was completely and totally appalled.” Watch some clips from the event:

Cohen wasn’t the only topic of discussion. The groups also used the occasion to criticize the General Assembly for failing to provide enough resources to women suffering from domestic and sexual violence.  According to Sami Goswami, policy director for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, the FY 2010 budget slashed funding for domestic violence programs by 9 percent and funding for sexual assault programs by 19 percent. “A state’s priorities are reflected in their budgets,” he said. “These are not the actions of a state that prioritizes addressing violence against women in any meaningful way.”

After the presentation, Chicago NOW’s Michelle Staeger said that her organization’s PAC would take immediate and direct action against Cohen by initiating a letter-writing campaign that demands he step aside. More drastic measures could be on the way. “Cohen needs to follow Gov. Quinn’s advice,” she said, “and do what’s best for Illinois.”