CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / GOVERNOR : Environment and Equality Get the Candidates’ Attention : Feinstein: She disputes claim that male voters will be alienated by pledging half of Administration jobs to women.
Fresh from a weekend dust-up about her pledge to appoint women to half of the jobs in her Administration, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday said she would view her election as a “significant achievement” for women but strongly disputed that she also might be alienating male voters.
“I don’t think there will be a backlash,” the former San Francisco mayor said at a Century City press conference, backed by prominent representatives of the women’s movement.
“All I’m saying is let’s make democracy truly representative.”
While her Democratic opponent, Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp, has kept a low profile on the matter, Sen. Pete Wilson said appointment quotas are “insulting” to women and minorities who achieve through merit. Wilson, a Republican, will meet the winner of the Feinstein-Van de Kamp primary in November.
Feinstein quickly charged that Wilson was implying there were not enough qualified women to appoint to half of the Administration’s jobs.
“If there really was anyone to protect the old boys’ network, it truly is Pete Wilson . . . ,” she said.
“He was outraged that I would suggest that we set a goal to appoint one half of all available appointments (to women)--as if to say there aren’t qualified women out there. Well, Pete Wilson, when the people elect me governor, I’m going to show you to be very very wrong.”
Wilson rejected Feinstein’s barb. “That is not the implication,” he said.
Feinstein’s comments came as she joined with representatives of women’s groups to assail Van de Kamp for what the former mayor said is an insufficient will to prosecute anti-abortion protesters and seek out parents who are not paying court-ordered child support.
The session was another example of the primacy that women and women’s issues have seen in Feinstein’s campaign to become California’s first woman governor.
According to a Times Poll published Saturday, Feinstein led Van de Kamp 36%-21% among women, who constitute a majority of the voting public. Among men, she led by half the margin, 41% to 34%.
Also on Saturday, Feinstein vowed in her strongest terms to date that she would deliver to women half the appointive jobs in her Administration--from judgeships to commissions. She also pledged to give those jobs to minorities in the same proportions as they appear in society; for example, at current percentages, 62% would go to whites, 25% to Latinos and 7% to blacks.
Van de Kamp has criticized Feinstein’s record of appointing women during her tenure as mayor, but Feinstein Tuesday said she “made some very good strides” in women and minority appointments after taking over when Mayor George Moscone was assassinated.
“I inherited an admininstration that was intact,” she said. “I didn’t have the ability really to start anew, as I might if I were to be elected governor in the state.”
Some of Feinstein’s women supporters came to her defense Tuesday. Eleanor Smeal, the former president of the National Organization for Women and currently the head of the Fund for a Feminist Majority, called Feinstein’s plan for gender balance in appointments “a process of inclusion.”
“What happens here in California sets a trend for the nation,” Smeal said.