When I heard that famed feminist Gloria Steinem is coming to town to campaign for Pat Quinn, my inner coffeeshop critic immediately wondered: What is she doing with him?
Pardon me for being overly judgmental, but I can't help it. Steinem is a beloved icon; Quinn's a less-than-popular governor at the helm of a state government tainted by scandal. She's global; he's provincial. She's creme brulee; he's Jell-O.
Quinn campaign spokesperson Brooke Anderson confirms to Ward Room that Steinem will be in Chicago Friday for an event kicking off the group Women for Quinn as well as a fundraiser downtown. Anderson provided no further details on the events.
How Illinois' deeply flawed Democratic incumbent managed to wrangle an endorsement from the stately Steinem is as equally mystifying as his Republican rival Bruce Rauner's strategic aversion to detail. Her approval not only sprinkles Quinn with much-needed gravitas, it gives the beleaguered politician a potential boost in the eyes of women voters—a crucially important, highly coveted demo—and feminists of all stripes. It makes Rauner, a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers pressured to condemn the NFL domestic abuse scandals after initially refusing to comment, look like the kind of guy who might claim to have "binders full of women" to hire.
Not that Steinem—who's been campaigning for political candidates since the '60s—needed much persuading to publicly support Quinn as he battles multi-millionaire venture capitalist Rauner in one of the most competitive gubernatorial showdowns in the country. A new poll this week from We Ask America shows Quinn leading Rauner among women, 44-42 percent, while Rauner commands a larger male following, 47-36 percent. (This gender reversal reflects the data in a recent Ward Room analysis of the candidate's Twitter followers.)
Rauner has sought to appeal to women through appearing in light-hearted campaign ads with his wife, Diana, a Democrat. He chose Evelyn Sanguinetti, an attorney from Wheaton, as his running mate. Last week he announced the launch of the group Women for Rauner, whose members include Anne Dias Griffin (the estranged wife of hedge fund mogul Ken Griffin), ex-Illinois Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood (who served with George Ryan) and state Rep. Jil Tracy of the 93rd district.
In a video message on Women for Rauner's sign-up page, Diana Rauner says: "Bruce doesn't have a social agenda, he has an economic and education agenda. He'll be a warrior for our children and for taxpayers. ... This isn't about Democrat or Republican. This is about our state's future."
Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted a Quinn source as saying the writer-activist "is not only going to hit the campaign trail for Quinn, but she will keynote a major fundraiser for him."
"The governor has been a strong champion for women, from leading initiatives to strengthen(ing) pay equity to signing laws to prevent domestic violence," the source told the Sun-Times' Michael Sneed in a story published last Thursday.
A rep for Steinem did not respond to Ward Room's request for comment.
Most recently, Steinem endorsed Christine Quinn (no relation to Pat), a Democrat and former speaker of the New York City Council, in her 2013 bid for the Big Apple mayorship, and Hillary Clinton in her 2008 campaign for president.