Women’s groups endorse Stringer and try to ignore Spitzer
The National Organization for Women (NOW), NARAL Pro-Choice New York, and Planned Parenthood of New York City Action Fund (PPNYC) stood together in Union Square on Monday, July 22 to announce their endorsement of Scott Stringer for city comptroller, citing Stringer’s strong record of supporting women’s issues.
“In some elections we have a real choice between the candidates, and this is one of them,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of the NOW.
Stringer’s opponent, former New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, was forced to resign after serving only one year, because of the disclosure that he repeatedly sought the services of prostitutes. At first the announcement of his candidacy stunned New Yorkers -- but he quickly collected more than 27,000 signatures by the July 11 deadline, far beyond the 3,750 needed to qualify, and surpassed Stringer in the polls.
Spitzer’s reemergence has posed a dilemma for women voters and advocacy groups focused on women’s issues, as has the popular mayoral candidacy of Anthony Weiner. The candidates, both Democrats, were generally considered supportive of women’s issues in their earlier political incarnations, but their private behavior has cost them support.
“Absolutely character is part of it,” said Ossorio, before making the formal endorsement. A few minutes later, at the podium, she accused Spitzer of operating under a double standard for aggressively cracking down on prostitution even as he spent thousands of dollars on their services. “What he says and what he does are two different things.”
NARAL and PPNYC generally refrained from direct attacks on Spitzer. Sasha Ahuja, director of government relations at PPNYC, came closest when she stated that her organization endorses “candidates that don’t just give a nod to women’s issues.”
But all three groups tried to make clear that today’s endorsement was not meant to censure the other candidate – instead, it’s intended to acknowledge Stringer’s long record of supporting policies important to women.
“The comptroller should reflect pro-choice views and values that we share,” said Andrea Miller, president of NARAL. Ossorio explained that NOW’s endorsement belonged to the candidate that understands the importance of the “obstacles women and families still face.”
Miller also talked about the “attacks on reproductive rights across the country,” referring to legislative initiatives in some states to limit access to abortion. And Ossorio used the endorsement to raise the issue of international sex trafficking. “The demand for women’s bodies is so great in New York City that the State Department named JFK as a key transit hub,” she said.
Stringer took the podium in front of about 20 supporters holding signs that read “Stringer for Women,” “For Women For Equality,” and “Scott Stringer NOW.” Flanked by representatives from all three groups, he expressed his gratitude and commitment to continue fighting for equal pay, protection against domestic violence, paid sick leave, and other issues that matter to women in New York.
“We cannot have a city run by men that look like me,” said Stringer. He also showered praise on New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who had publicly endorsed Stringer earlier in the day. Stringer called a Gillibrand “a leading voice in the country on women’s rights.”
While Stringer promised, “women will be on the front line of my campaign,” he brushed aside a question about his opponent, saying, “I don’t want to deal with the redemption thing,” before quickly shifting back to his record.
The small crowd consisted mostly of press and campaign staffers. Some passing pedestrians paused to hear what was happening, but most kept moving. The campaign had no comment on the sparse turnout.
The extent to which these endorsements will sway women voters is unclear. Spitzer’s public record is still considered strong among women’s rights advocates; the groups standing with Stringer today refused to rule-out supporting Spitzer in November if he triumphs in the Sept. 10 primary.