Caucus Rewards 'Stalwart' Women

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The local chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus endorsed three Berkeley City Council candidates Monday, promising them both financial assistance and on-the-ground volunteer help with their election bids.

Miriam Hawley for District 5, along with incumbents Margaret Breland for District 2 and Maudelle Shirek for District 3, won the endorsement over four challengers who appeared at the group's meeting and another nine candidates who chose not to participate.

"Getting the endorsement then opens the door to other organizations," said Terry Sandoval, political action chair for the chapter.

She noted that the group had endorsed Audie Bock for the state Assembly in 1998 and that it "really turned things around" for her.

The caucus is a national organization that recruits, trains and supports women for election and appointment to public office. The organization backs women who support its agenda, which includes reproductive rights, quality child care, the eradication of violence and poverty and an end to discrimination.

Sandoval said the council members who received the endorsement were "stalwarts" of those goals. For example, she noted that Hawley is an AC Transit Director with a working knowledge of transportation, an essential issue in this year's election. Breland is already knowledgeable about the city's health system and wants more money to go to the elderly and disabled. Shirek, as the oldest female elected official in the state, prides herself on appointing women to leadership positions, Sandoval said.

No one received the District 6 endorsement because none of the candidates received the required 60 percent of the caucus' votes.

The only council incumbent who did not receive the caucus endorsement was Betty Olds, who had earned the endorsement in the last election. Olds was not present at the meeting and, according to Sandoval, many chapter members did not know her.

The local caucus chapter has not yet decided how much money it will give to each of the three candidates. In the past, the organization has given the maximum - $250 to each candidate that receives its endorsement.

Four other candidates sought the endorsement and spoke on issues they hoped would gain the attention of the caucus.

Norine Smith, a District 6 candidate, called for a secret battered women's shelter and is pro-choice. Betty Hicks, a District 2 candidate, said she supports more affordable housing but that she does not oppose economic development.

Mark Fowler, running in District 5, who, as a male, was unable to receive an endorsement, said he is pro-choice.

Eleanor Pepples, in District 6, did not speak directly about women's issues and said her main concerns were added fire protection, greater fiscal responsibility and more community involvement in politics.

Diane Hirshberg, a Berkeley resident and caucus member, said the candidate forum helps her decide which candidates to vote for. It also gives her a chance to explain her own problems and pet peeves.

The candidates who received the caucus endorsement were very pleased with their success.

"I am happy to receive (the caucus) endorsement and to support their cause of equality for all women," said Breland, who has received the caucus' endorsement before. "It is very important to reach out to the other women (in the community).


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