Political pundits are saying that women may decide the 2012 elections.
Here in Central New York, a new political action group isn’t surprised.
“Initially, we brought up the idea in general that things had been going on in this country that were negative for women, and it’s putting us back many years,” said Ruth Kutz of Syracuse. “A lot of us remember what it was like before birth control and the fight for abortion, and it feels a lot like we’re back there again. It just seemed like an ideal time to grab women and get them energized for this election, get them to get out and vote.”
That’s why she and Nancy Bunn of Marcellus came together to form Women’s Initiative Now (WIN), a group dedicated to supporting candidates that they feel champion women’s issues, as well as the issues of working families. The group formed in June of 2012. They hold monthly meetings at which they discuss the candidates they support, political issues, fundraising techniques and how to gain new members.
“We’ve signed up more than 100 people,” Kutz said. “They’re not all at the meetings, but they’ve all expressed some kind of interest. I’m shocked by how many have shown interest.”
While Kutz and Bunn may have founded the group, they don’t consider themselves the leaders.
“We call ourselves ‘facilitators,’” Kutz said.
WIN got its start when a friend’s cousin came to town and explained the basics to Kutz and Bunn.
“A friend of ours has a cousin from Connecticut had visited, and she’s part of a similar group there — I’m not sure if she started it, or if she’s just involved with it. But she offered to give us some general advice,” Kutz said. “She was very inspiring. They’ve certainly been in existence longer and been more effective than we’ve been in our few months, but what they do is very similar — walking and canvassing for candidates. We’re still evolving.”
In particular, WIN has come out against Assemblyman Don Miller (R-Clay), arguing that his voting record is anti-women and anti-working families. Speakers at a press conference last week pointed to his votes on several assembly bills — A.6130-A, known as the Fair Pay Act, which would have outlawed discrimination between employees on the basis of sex, race and/or national origin by paying different wages; A.6448-A, which would have implemented a state policy of fair and equal pay for equivalent value of work; A.1780-A, which would have brought New York state into compliance with the federal equal pay act of 1963 by implementing a state policy of compensating employees in state service equally for work of comparable value by eliminating wage inequality in job titles having been segregated by sex, race or national origin; and A.2244, which would have provided women facing unplanned pregnancies who are considering abortion with full information and reflection time prior to having an abortion performed upon them and provides a 24-hour waiting period to give women the opportunity to receive information about the medical risks of abortion, alternatives to the procedure and the unborn child’s development. Miller voted against the first three and for the last (he was a co-sponsor of A.2244).
““Don Miller’s record against women is outrageous,” WIN member Diane Dwire said at the press conference. “He’s against equal pay, he’s against a minimum wage increase that would help hardworking families and he wants to limit women’s health care choices. He’s out of touch, and it’s time we got a representative in Albany who fights for what we really need.”
Instead, WIN is endorsing Democrat Al Stirpe, who sent out a mailer last month attacking Miller’s record on the same issues.
Miller did not return repeated phone calls to the Star-Review seeking comment.
Other candidates backed by WIN include Democrats Dan Maffei for the 24th Congressional District and Sam Roberts for the 128th Assembly District; Roberts is running against John Sharon.
WIN plans to continue activity between elections.
“We all need to get together once the election is over and decide what’s going to happen, but certainly we’d like to see more women become candidates,” Kutz said. “We do see ourselves as existing between elections. The important thing for us is to get as many members as possible to work during election season, and if we drop off after, we’d have to start over every time.”
To learn more about WIN, visit their Facebook page at Facebook.com/WomensInitiativeNowwin.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.