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Elizabeth Dole Puts Women in Spotlight

Honors: Three San Diegans who made a difference are praised by the would-be first lady in an effort to counter the GOP's 'gender gap.'


SAN DIEGO — A crime fighter, a small-business owner and a battered mother, all from San Diego, were swept up into presidential politics Tuesday as Elizabeth Hanford Dole sought to highlight how she and her husband share the everyday concerns and values of women.

The morning event at an auditorium overlooking San Diego Bay kicked off a day of events--including the convention's keynote speech--in which Bob Dole's campaign sought to underline how it hopes to address one of the Republicans' most daunting challenges--appealing to female voters.

With opinion polls showing a large "gender gap"--with President Clinton doing better among female voters than among men--Tuesday's session sought to present Mrs. Dole and her husband as inclusive and tolerant.

First to address Mrs. Dole and an audience of about 250 local community activists was Cathy Ramsey, a single mother of three who purchased a home in San Diego's Skyline neighborhood, only to find the area overrun with drug dealers.

"When I finally got to my dream home, it was like I was in prison," she recalled. "There were bars on the doors and on the windows."

She described how she began to talk and meet with her neighbors and confront their tormentors, even smacking one with a stick to chase him from her yard. She rallied her community, staged police meetings and insisted on more city services.

As a result, police calls for service in the area have dropped from more than 900 annually to less than 100, she said proudly.

"That truly is the power of one, isn't it?" said Mrs. Dole as she embraced Ramsey. "I'm really admiring of what you've done."

But Ramsey, who would not say whom she is voting for, sounded a bit like First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in her book "It Takes a Village." She described a key to her success: "It took that extended community, people looking out for you, to make a difference."

Mrs. Dole said she and her husband support hard work and initiative, and she sought to show how the presumptive Republican nominee's politics will help women. For instance, she suggested that a balanced budget will reduce interest on home loans, and that her husband's proposed 15% income tax rate cut will benefit women by giving money back to families.

"That tax cut will allow more freedom to you as you try to decide whether you want to be a two-career family or a one-career family," she said. "It will help give women that option."

The session featured Mrs. Dole and her stepdaughter, Robin, sitting alongside the women on a stage set as a living room.

Mrs. Dole asked each to tell her story, then responded with a homily about the lesson learned.

Mrs. Dole found parallels between herself and small-business owner Nora Jaeschke, who appeared on stage with her three daughters. Jaeschke and Mrs. Dole both described how they were excluded from all-male clubs earlier in their careers.

The lesson, said Mrs. Dole: "We have got to take charge of our own lives. Nobody is going to do it for you."

The last of the speakers, Vera Fallis, described how she escaped an abusive relationship and is in a shelter called Julian's Anchorage.

The shelter, supported by government grants and Episcopal Community Services, helped her get a job as a bank teller and prepare to move out on her own. Mrs. Dole gave the young woman a Bible and said the program points out the need for more charitable giving.

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