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.