Wisconsin News

Candidates covet possible 'swing' women's vote

Women's rally held Saturday on Capitol Square

MADISON, Wis. - Recall candidates took different approaches to targeting women voters in the weeks before the state's primary, with some saying women voters may already have decided who they'll support.

Several hundred people rallied on the Capitol Square on Saturday in Madison, opposing Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans on issues like birth control, abortion rights, and equal pay.

"How many of you are willing to give up the rights that our foremothers have fought for and died for? No way!" said Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, as she urged on the crowd. "It's a testament to our tenacity, our passion and our commitment to each other and our children."

But, despite a new television ad from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett claiming the Republicans are waging a "war on women," women's issues may not play a big role in the recall election, Marquette Law professor Charles Franklin said.

"What we consistently find is Democratic women vote like Democrats, and Republican women vote like Republicans," Franklin said. "And the women's issues don't really move those two groups that much."

Barrett, looking to reach swing voters during a race in which polls indicate no one has a major advantage, has begun attacking Walker's decision to sign the state's Equal Pay Protection Act.

"Legislation on the books dealing with equal pay for equal work, to ensure that women would be treated fairly for work in this state -- pow! He goes after that," Barrett said in the ad.

Barrett said the new law rolled back legal recourse options for women claiming workplace gender discrimination.

But several legal avenues still exist, as WISC-TV reported earlier. The governor's office said the law simply removes repetition that only allows lawyers to get rich.

"It does not single out any group of individuals. All individuals in Wisconsin will be treated the same as they have been for decades," said Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for the governor. "Wisconsin has and will continue to have some of the strongest workplace protections in the nation. "

Women's rights supporters at the Madison rally said they supported any TV ads that suggested Walker's "war on women" was hurting their gender.

"These attacks on women are unprecedented," said Donna Magdalina of Madison. "I feel like we have gone back 100 years in time. It's absolutely absurd."

With those at the rally already on the Democrats' side -- and Republican women supporting Walker -- women's issues advertising must target independents, Franklin said.

But it will be difficult to make women's issues a key topic in the race, because most voters remain focused on job creation and union bargaining rights, he said.

"One reason you advertise is not to persuade voters but to make them think of these things as more important, to raise it on their agendas," Franklin said.

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