Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds has won the endorsement of the Virginia NOW PAC – the political arm of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for Women – because his experience and views are superior to those of his opponent on key issues of concern to mainstream, socially aware women.
Deeds and his opponent, Republican candidate Robert McDonnell, answered a series of questions posed by the Virginia NOW PAC. Based on their responses, it is clear that Deeds has a clearer understanding of the complex issues that women face every day and better ideas of how to address them. We concluded that Deeds is the best choice for women who are concerned about jobs, pay, health care, education, and reproductive rights and who want to reduce family and street violence and increase women’s opportunities for leadership.
Reducing Violence Against Women – Both candidates acknowledged this is a serious issue and both have had experience that should help them reduce the epidemic of violence against women as governor. Deeds’ significant experience dates to 1991, when he was a leader in creating and strengthening the sex offender registry and wrote Virginia’s Megan’s Law to put the list of sexual predators on the Internet. He also helped establish Virginia’s Amber Alert program and fought for an increase of $1 million for Alicia’s Law, to find and prosecute child predators. McDonnell’s significant experience is recent: he became active on the issue four years ago, when he became Attorney General; he led the effort that resulted in the passage of a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for violent sex offenders.
Deeds pledged to work to close the income gap between men and women (Virginia women earn 77 cents to a man’s dollar and women of color earn far less). He proposed specific plans to improve conditions for low-income women, including an outreach campaign to enroll all eligible children and pregnant women in the Family Access to Medical Security (FAMIS) program.
McDonnell did not address the issue of income disparity between men and women. He said he would help women by strengthening small businesses, although women make up only about 20% of small business owners (according to figures he supplied) He did not mention any plans to help low-income women, although at least one-third of female-headed families with children in Virginia live in poverty.
Deeds discussed plans to lower the cost of health insurance and expand access to quality medical and dental care. These include prohibiting insurance companies from refusing coverage for pre-existing conditions. According to the National Women’s Law Center, pregnancy is a pre-existing condition in Virginia. Of the 78 individual insurance plans available in Virginia, only 9 provide some maternity coverage. Deeds also discussed his plans to improve prenatal care, expand research into prematurity and infant mortality, and improve care for at-risk pregnant women and new mothers.
McDonnell focused on costs. He pledged greater efficiency in programs such as Medicaid and FAMIS, including expanding the use of technology and reducing the cost of health care. He emphasized making insurance more affordable for small business owners.
Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Education
Deeds pledged to make pre-K available to more 4-year olds by expanding the Virginia Preschool Initiative, which currently reaches only 75% of 4 year-olds who qualify.
McDonnell said that “improving the reading skills of our young children must be a top priority” and that “we should encourage public and private early reading initiatives.”
Increasing the Number of Women in Elected Office
Deeds recommended taking steps “to ensure an even playing field” for female candidates, including reforming the redistricting system to ensure more competitive elections. Virginia ranks near the bottom of all states in the number of women in elected office; there are currently no female representatives to Congress.
McDonnell said he appointed women to five of ten senior staff positions in the office of attorney general and to top positions in his campaign.
Deeds said he supports comprehensive, medically accurate sex education that stresses abstinence as a healthy choice and provides appropriate opt-out provisions for parents.
McDonnell said he will continue to support sex education programs that stress abstinence and have appropriate opt-out provisions. Research indicates that abstinence-only programs are ineffective and may be harmful in omitting accurate information about contraception.
Reproductive Health and Rights
Deeds said: “I support a woman’s right to choose and have voted consistently for pro-choice measures throughout my legislative career. I will be a pro-choice governor and support a woman’s legal right to make her own health choices in consultation with her family, her doctor, and her spiritual advisor.”
McDonnell said: “I am pro-life and will build bipartisan consensus to reduce the number of abortions in Virginia, encourage adoption and support programs like the Fatherhood initiative advocated by President Obama.” During his career, McDonnell introduced at least 35 bills to curtail reproductive rights.
The VA NOW PAC awards its endorsement based on candidates’ responses to questions about a wide range of issues of concern to Virginia women, including constitutional rights for women, pay equity, improvements in women’s and family health care, and reducing violence against women. All endorsed candidates support maintaining access to reproductive health care. They also support full equality for gays, lesbians and persons who are bisexual and transgender in employment, housing, custody decisions, adoptions, and military service.