Incumbent Democratic State Senator Rodney Tom is a strong supporter of women’s rights in Washington State. He’s running against Republican challenger Greg Bennett. The Citizens for Responsible Spending is credited on a mailer sent out today about Tom’s stance on women’s issues (which Tom says makes a number of false claims); Planned Parenthood Votes! Washington says that the soft-PAC for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, the Leadership Council, funded the ad. And, indeed, on this last day for Washington State voters to mail in their ballots (all but one county in the state has moved to mail-in voting) the state Republicans have released the hounds.
The last-minute mailer attacks Tom on women’s rights issues noting that Tom would “leave women without legal protections” and “abolish women’s legal rights.” Neither of which is remotely true, according to womens’ rights organizations themselves. The mailer also says that Tom is “cutting breast and cervical cancer screenings.” But the ad has also been called “homophobic” by Tom because of one quote in particular, taken out of context, where Tom says the state should “stay out of the marriage business.”
Today, the Seattle news site, Publicola, which finds itself in the middle of the fanning flames because of a quote on the mailer attributed to the site, explained the brouhaha. First, Publicola’s Josh Feit reminds readers of Tom’s strong support for women’s rights in the state. He sponsored legislation earlier this year which would have required “crisis pregnancy centers” to reveal exactly what services they do and don’t provide, clearly stating their opposition to abortion, and their status not as medical centers but as non-profit organizations primarily.
As well, in an outraged press release sent by Planned Parenthood Votes! today the organization calls Tom a “champion for women” and notes that,
“Rodney Tom was the prime Senate sponsor of the Healthy Youth Act of 2007 which helps ensure that young people in our state get accurate, comprehensive health information including resources about how to prevent unintended pregnancies, stay safe in relationships, and recognize dating violence. Tom has also continually supported funding for family planning services which help women get vital health services like birth control, and breast and cervical cancer screenings.”
The mailer which Tom called “trash at its lowest,” “homophobic” and “sad” today, picks a quote from a Publicola interview with Tom last week where he addresses a question about gay marriage. Explains Josh Feit on Publicola,
Today, we asked Tom where he was on gay marriage. He told us, “the state should get out of the marriage business. A lot of countries in Europe do this. I have no issue with gay marriage. I think straight couples or gay and lesbian couples should all be treated equal and should get civil unions. Marriage should be between individuals and their church.”
Further, what Tom meant, says Feit, is that, “civil marriages, which he supports, come with all the same rights as church marriage. “We have civil marriages now,” he said. “My wife and I can go get a license and everybody would get the the exact same rights as we have today.”
Tom’s colleagues and supporters spoke out against the ad and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington sent their own message about its “baseless” claims,
“Senator Tom is a strong and vocal advocate for the right to choose and for access to reproductive health care,” said Lauren Simonds, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. “In fact, at a voter forum last month, Senator Tom reiterated his support for maintaining critical funding for family planning care, even in a time of state budget cuts.”
“This mail piece is deceptive on all fronts,” Simonds added. “It completely misrepresents not only Senator Tom’s steadfast support for women’s health care and women’s rights, but it uses his support for marriage equality to make a baseless allegation.”
“This mail piece is simply irresponsible,” Simonds said.