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Marylouise Oates

Dukakis Dodges a Blunder in L.A.

May 20, 1988|Marylouise Oates

There was a day this week when it looked as though the campaign of Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis had made a mistake and stood in danger of offending the powerful and money-available leadership of the women's movement here.

But it didn't.

It all concerned the "women's fund-raiser," involving a major number of leaders in the women's movement, and set for tonight at the home of Roz Wyman. It involved dozens of influential women, from attorney Gloria Allred to activist Peg Yorkin.

Wednesday, the fund-raiser was cancelled, when Dukakis' staff put a "crime event" in San Francisco on his Friday late afternoon schedule. At the time of the cancellation call, organizers were told that a substitute reception could happen either before or after a fund-raising gala for Dukakis here on June 2.

Now, such a cancellation, especially with the substitute meeting being set before or after a big party, is not what warms the hearts of committed and frequently rich feminists, who want themselves and their issues taken seriously. A quickie meeting in connection with a gala just wasn't the same as a lengthier and hopefully issue-oriented session, especially one in which the agenda had been worked on with the input of Betty Friedan and elected officials like Los Angeles Councilwomen Gloria Molina and Joy Picus.

But, just as the complaints really started to bubble, clever campaign organizers recouped and put out the fire.

A few of the women were invited to sit on the platform at a women's fund-raising rally held Thursday night, and then to have a meeting with him afterwards, according to Dorothy Jonas, whose Women's Network is a round table of some dozen-plus women's issues groups.

"I don't know why they didn't offer us an invite right away," Jonas said, pointing out that the machinery in putting together the women's fund-raiser had been fueled by reports circulating the last several weeks that there would be an attempt to shorten the 1988 Democratic platform, and "somehow soft-pedal the legal right to an abortion" or remove any reference to the equal rights amendment.

The complexity of the campaign is how the several steps to the solution were explained by Pat Forciea, the campaign's state communication director. Forciea said that the organizers had to be checked and the schedule checked before the post-rally meeting could be added in to the alternative offers.

"We don't make any immediate decisions," Marilyn Yeager, director of constituencies for the state campaign, said. And, she added, she and the campaign were well aware that in dealing with issue-oriented groups, time had to be made to talk about the issues.

A woman involved in the event had a different line: "In all my years in dealing in politics, this is as Humpty-Dumpty an operation as I have ever seen."

"People are actually getting two meetings out of this" (one after the rally and one June 2), Forciea said, pointing out that every contributor to the canceled event was also offered her money back and that of the $10,000-plus raised, only three contributors picked up on the money-refund offer.

Forciea said that at every step during the cancellation and substitution process "we were aware of how important these folks are and we want their support."

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