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Whitman: Nurses’ suffrage rally a ‘distraction’

Associated Press, 8/27/10

By Juliet Williams
Associated Press
August 27, 2010

Hundreds of union members celebrating the 90th anniversary of women's suffrage rallied Thursday at the state capitol, holding signs that said "Women vote for women who vote" an attack on the state's first female Republican nominee for governor.

The signs were criticizing the abysmal voting record of former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, who has acknowledged that she failed to vote for most of her adult life. The rally was organized by the California Nurses Association, a vocal Whitman critic.

Many marchers wore wide-brimmed hats adorned with flowers, long skirts and high necklines, in reference to the attire of the era of suffragettes. While some speeches focused on the struggles women went through to secure the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, other speakers touched on a modern political issue: the upcoming November election.

A group of California Teachers Association members chanted "Teachers vote without fail, California's not for sale."

Whitman, a billionaire businesswoman, has contributed $104 million to her campaign to date, breaking all previous state spending records.

At a campaign event Thursday in the City of Industry, Whitman called the rally a distraction from the most pressing issues facing the state.

"That is the union bosses trying to distract from the fact that I will go to Sacramento and I will change Sacramento," she said. "I will get the public pension under control. I will fix our K-12 education system. So in my view, my voting record isn't perfect, but the main issue here is how are we going to turn California around, and I think I have a plan."

Whitman has been a vocal critic of public employee unions, which largely support her Democratic challenger, state Attorney General Jerry Brown. He re-emerged on the campaign trail this week after a quiet summer spent fundraising for a costly campaign this fall.

The California Nurses Association has held rallies around the state with a colorful "Queen Meg" character who proclaims she would like to buy the state. Whitman has responded in kind, skewering the union in mailers sent to some nurses' homes calling out executive director Rose Ann DeMoro's $293,000 annual salary.

Whitman says she supports the group's signature issue upholding the California law that requires hospitals to have at least one nurse for every five patients. The CNA successfully lobbied for the law.

But Jan McDermott, 63, a postpartum nurse from San Francisco, said she doesn't believe Whitman would uphold the law or other patient safety protections.

"She's apparently anti-union. And anything we've won, we won through the union," said McDermott.

Associated Press Writer John Rogers in City of Industry also contributed to this report.

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