As the U.S. Senate race remains stubbornly tight in the last two weeks, both candidates have campaigned locally, emphasizing issues of women’s health and pay in a fight over the group that makes up more than half of the electorate.
Both candidates have highlighted their stances and support of breast and cervical cancer screening, federal laws on equal pay and maintaining abortion rights as polls suggest that women say they will vote for Democratic challenger Warren by double-digit margins.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, at a campaign stop in North Andover Monday, defended his record supporting equal pay laws, funding for Planned Parenthood medical services — apart from abortion, which by law cannot be funded with federal money — and general issues important to women, like the economy, education and taxes.
“My opponent would have you believe there’s a war on women,” he said at Stachey’s Pizzeria on High Street. “Elizabeth Warren has to stop scaring women.”
Brown picked up the endorsement of women’s rights advocate Laurie Myers, who said the campaign should be about everyday issues like jobs and education. “The scare tactics have to stop,” she said.
The candidates have talked little about abortion — both are pro-choice — but Warren has attacked Brown for voting against a federal equal-pay law and for supporting a proposal in the Senate that would allow employers to drop coverage of medical services, including contraception, in the insurance they offer their employees for moral or religious reasons.
She also has criticized him for voting against Elena Kagan, the former Obama administration solicitor general and dean of Harvard Law School, during her Senate confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“He had a chance to vote for a pro-choice candidate to the Supreme Court, and he voted no,” Warren said yesterday at Mann Orchards in Methuen. “Elena Kagan is eminently qualified and he voted no.”
Abortion rights supporters worry that a conservative Supreme Court could reverse Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. Warren, in campaign stops and debates, has indicated supporting pro-choice judicial appointments is important.
Brown has said he voted against Kagan partly because she did not have experience as a judge, and that he supports abortion rights. The federal equal pay law, called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act after an employee who discovered after 20 years that she was making less than men doing similar work, was “the right idea but the wrong bill,” he said.
He said economic and tax issues affect everybody and said the policies Warren supports would mean higher taxes on small businesses. “Her tax proposals are going to crush the middle class,” he said.
Warren has said she supports allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals, a tax group that can include some businesses, passed in 2001 and 2003 to revert back to the levels of the 1990s. She has argued the threshold of the change would be high enough to exclude most small businesses.
Polls this month have shown Warren with a significant lead among women voters. However, national polls have shown women moving toward former Gov. Mitt Romney since his first debate with President Obama in Denver on Oct. 5. Before that, Obama held double-digit leads among women.
In two polls released earlier this month conducted by WBUR and MassINC, Warren led Brown among women by 51 percent to 40 percent, similar to the margin in a University of Massachusetts-Amherst poll. A poll released Oct. 11 by Public Policy Polling showed Warren with a greater lead among women, 58-38.
The UMass-Amherst poll also showed that overall, 59 percent of poll respondents thought Warren would do a better job representing women, compared with 21 percent who thought Brown would do a better job. That answer was not broken down by gender.
Overall, the polls show a tight race. In the two WBUR/MassINC polls, which were released on Oct. 1 and Oct. 9, Warren led the earlier poll 46-44 with 9 percent undecided, while Brown led the later poll 48-45 with 5 percent undecided. Warren had a three-point lead in the UMass-Amherst and a six-point lead in the PPP poll.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women accounted for 53.7 percent of the vote nationally in 2008, with 70.4 million voters out of 131.1 million who cast ballots.
In the Jan. 19, 2010 special election, Brown won over Attorney General Martha Coakley by a margin of about 107,000 votes out of 2.3 million cast.
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