Monday, July 18, 2016

Senate candidates vying for the Dist. 30 seat answer questions about women issues

National Political Caucus board member Deidre Malone moderate the Memphis
Women's Political Caucus Town Hall on July 12. (Photos by Wiley Henry)
Two political stalwarts vying for the opportunity to represent the constituents in Senate Dist. 30 touted their experience and answered a volley of questions lobbed by National Political Caucus board member Deidre Malone, who moderated the Memphis Women's Political Caucus Town Hall Meeting on July 12.
Women’s issues took center-stage in this town hall and drew a roomful of spectators and public office seekers to Amurica Studios in the Crosstown community, as state Sen. Sara Kyle and former senator Beverly Marrero discussed relevant issues pertaining to women.
“In this current season, it’s important to empower women, to inform them, and to encourage them to be a part of the political process,” said Latrivia Welch, president of the Memphis Women's Political Caucus (MWPC), a non-profit promoting full and equal participation of women in government and political parties.
State Sen. Sara Kyle (right) and former senator Beverly
Marrero discussed issues relevant to women.
The purpose of the town hall was to highlight two leaders in the community, said Welch, and the work they are doing for Dist. 30. “We applaud them for their willingness to be featured in our first town hall,” she said.
Kyle and Marrero, pitted against each other for the Senate seat that Kyle currently holds, are on the campaign trail leading up to the Aug. 4 Democratic and Republican state and federal primary elections and the Shelby County general election. The general election for this seat is in November.
Both Kyle and Marrero, who are familiar with the political landscape, sat adjacent to each other and espoused legislation that they had a hand in fashioning and discussed germane issues that would uplift women. 
Kyle, an attorney, was elected in 2014 to fill the seat that her husband, former Senate minority leader Jim Kyle, left vacant after he was elected to Chancery Court. She is the second woman to be elected statewide. No other woman has been elected statewide since.
Marrero spent nine years in Nashville and lost the seat in 2012 to Jim Kyle, then the highest-ranking Democrat. Kyle opted to run against Marrero rather than face Republican Brian Kelsey when districts were redrawn that year.
Explaining why she’s seeking re-election, Kyle said, “We’re 51 percent of the population. Only 22 women are running statewide in House and Senate races.”
“It’s important for women to have a voice and to speak their mind,” Marrero added. “We don’t have representation that can represent us.”
Priorities? Marrero said if she were elected, she’d work on pay equity for women. Kyle would do the same, she said, to bridge the wage gap that separates men and women.
“The gap is larger for women of color,” said Kyle, adding that women finishing college “face a 7 percent wage gap.”
  The health care debate continues to rage, with both sides of the aisle in the Tennessee General Assembly digging in their heals and refusing to budge one iota on a plan to insure the state’s uninsured adults.
“Viagra is covered by insurance and birth control is not. That’s an abomination,” said Marrero. “We have people dying because they can’t afford medical care. What kind of sick people who don’t want people to have health care?”
President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which he signed into law in 2010, has been widely eschewed and denounced by Republicans. Gov. Bill Haslam, however, offered an alternative in 2015 to expand Medicaid. Insure Tennessee failed by a vote of 7-4.
“It’s a no-brainer to vote yes on the governor’s health care bill,” said Kyle. “Tennessee should have gotten $1.4 billion dollars. It would have created two million jobs.”
The candidates fielded a number of Malone’s questions, from funding education to economic development to fixing the schools. Since questions came from the audience, someone wanted to know the candidates’ feelings about the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think it’s necessary,” Kyle said.

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