While Republican Genevieve Atwood may be the woman in Utah's 2nd District House race, six Democratic congresswomen declared Thursday that Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, is better on women's issues and should be the women's candidate.
"Beware of wolves in designer clothing," Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., said.The congresswomen gave Owens a white hat and their Faithful Friend Award at a press conference in the Capitol women's lounge.
Meanwhile back in Utah, Atwood said she could also find Republican women in Congress to similarly proclaim her the women's candidate and charged that Owens is "playing lawyer's games."
She also sniped at Schroeder's statement, saying, "I'm not even wearing designer clothes." She had been campaigning door-to-door in old sneakers and a frontier skirt. "It pays to wear utilitarian clothing when you're greeting dogs in neighborhoods."
The Democratic women still insisted Owens would be a better ally to women than Atwood.
"Wayne stands with us on issues of importance to women . . . We can't spare him," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "All women who have to work and who have to fight to make ends meet should know Wayne is here fighting for them."
The proclamation they gave Owens praised him for backing child care bills, the Family and Medical Leave Act, Head Start, the failed Civil Rights Act of 1990, various other health and social issues and federal funding of abortions for poor women in cases of rape, incest and when the health of the mother is endangered.
Owens also said proudly, "I was the only major politician of either party in Utah for years who backed the Equal Rights Amendment." But Atwood said she voted for it in the state Legislature, and would vote for it again today in Congress - although she doesn't feel its need is now as great.
Owens said the proclamation from his women colleagues pointed out several differences between him and Atwood on women's issues.
For example, he said he strongly supported the failed Civil Rights Act of 1990 that would have made it easier for employees to win job bias suits - but said Atwood switched this week to oppose it. Atwood denied any switch and again accused Owens of "lawyer's games."
"It's beyond comprehension how she could take that position," said Rep. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. "For the first time ever, it would have protected women from discrimination on the job."
Atwood said she agreed, and had herself suffered job discrimination.
Owens also complained that Atwood didn't support the failed Family and Medical Leave Act to give parents time off without pay to care for new babies or family illnesses. Atwood said it would cause reverse discrimination against women.
"She obviously didn't read it then, because it gave time off to both men and women," said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.
The women's proclamation also said, "Owens has consistently voted to allow federal payment for abortions for poor women who are pregnant by reason of rape or incest or when the health of the woman is seriously endangered."
Atwood said she favors giving states the option of taking money to assist in such abortions, not mandating it. She also charged that Owens is "squishy" on abortion. "In 1988, he cast something like eight pro-life votes and three that were pro-choice. Talk about squish!" Atwood said.
Atwood said the press conference was designed to mask what she said is the true issue in the campaign: "Wayne's irresponsible spending. We have roughly the same goals, but he favors government mandating and spend, spend, spend. I don't."