Making sure women have a voice in male-heavy Illinois governor's race
November 06 2017

Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune

Sure, the race for Illinois governor is paved with testosterone.

But longtime activist Marilyn Katz, co-founder of Chicago Women Take Action, is optimistic that women’s voices will very much shape the outcome.

“I haven’t seen this much energy in years,” Katz told me Monday.

January’s Women’s March — which drew an estimated 250,000 demonstrators in Chicago alone — wasn’t just a protest against the election of President Donald Trump. It was a rallying cry to elevate the issues that women hold sacred — equal pay, a minimum wage increase, common sense gun control, reproductive rights — and make sure leaders prioritize them accordingly.

“We wanted to figure out how to capture that energy in a way that went beyond Jan. 21,” Katz said.

The race for governor seemed like a perfect moment. Over the summer, Chicago Women Take Action sent an email to a few dozen women’s organizations — including YWCA Metropolitan ChicagoWomen EmployedCause the EffectPlanned Parenthood of Illinois and Latinas en Accion — to talk about sponsoring a forum for the gubernatorial candidates to discuss the issues women say are most important to them.

“Before even making a phone call, we had 40 groups sign on as co-sponsors,” Katz said.

(What’s that old saying — behind every great idea is a group of women working their tails off to bring it to fruition? I may be paraphrasing.)

Anyway. The forum is happening. It will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St. Democratic candidates Daniel Biss, J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy have committed. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s staff is checking for scheduling conflicts before he commits, Katz said. And organizers are planning to invite state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, now that she’s confirmed her candidacy, Katz said.

The candidates will receive a 30-point questionnaire to fill out before the forum, asking where they stand on issues women have identified as important. Forum attendees will receive a copy of the candidates’ answers prior to the event, so they can use the allotted time to ask them for more context and policy plans, rather than a laundry list of “where do you stand on …” questions.

“The usual problem with forums is they tend to be either too heated or too boring,” Katz said.

Ideally, this one will be neither. (Though I’ll take too heated over too boring any day of the week.)

In 1913, Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi that allowed women to vote. It’s been a fruitful century, though we’ve yet to elect a female governor.

“Women are in the leadership of virtually every battle on every issue you can think of,” Katz said. “Minimum wage, gun violence, police accountability.

“Unfortunately, that’s not reflected in who’s running for governor,” she continued. “But I think what we’re seeing in these very interesting times is the breeding of a whole new generation of activists.”

And voters. Now, let’s get educated.

Read original article here.