Category: Elections

Tuesday was a GREAT Day!

You Did It! You came out and voted, bringing your friends and relatives to Early Voting and on General Election Day, November 5th! And on behalf of Choice Matters, WCLA PAC & pro-choice voters everywhere, thank you for that!

November 5th was a good day for Westchester County. After thousands of phone calls, distributing tens of thousands of our bight yellow ProChoice Voting Guide and door-knocking, we have elected 13 pro-choice County legislators. Our endorsed candidates won in all 6 contested County legislative races. We now have a pro-choice super majority on the Westchester County Board of Legislators. We also have a pro-choice majority on the New Castle Town Board!

Also, In The BIG News Column, Virginia elected a government that, with more hard work, should pass a Virginian Reproductive Health Act! And Kentucky elected a pro-choice governor! 

PLEASE enjoy today and our successes because tomorrow we must work! 2020 is finally here. There will be no time to waste.  The election will not only be about defeating Donald Trump. It will be about protecting the gains we made in 2018. 

We must turn our attention to accessibility and reproductive inequities. ALL women must have access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare regardless of their economic abilities and geographic locations, because legal does not mean accessible.

Unite to fight. For our rights.

On My Mind

We know Judges matters. They decide everything – our constitutional rights, malpractice judgements, divorces, white collar settlements, everything! So why aren’t we paying attention and demanding more control?

If Trump has done nothing else, he has made crystal clear how very important judges are! Trump has already appointed 2 Supreme Court Justices and 150+ right-wing, ultra-conservative, anti-choice judges, many of whom have been rated “unqualified”, who will change the face of our legal system for decades to come.

But it’s not just Trump. Here in Westchester, one could argue that judicial ethics rules are not truly ethical or impartial or even constitutional.

 Just this election cycle, the Subcommittee Chair of the Judicial Campaign Ethics Subcommittee, Advisory Committee, told judicial candidates they could not accept WCLA PAC’s endorsement. The reasons provided reference our endorsement policy but do so INCORRECTLY. Judicial candidates do not complete questionnaires nor are they asked to support anything that may require going against any law. The only accurate reference is that a candidate may “neither seek nor accept the Right to Life Party (RTL) nomination” – And that criteria seems justifiable because candidates are permitted to accept the RTL Party line, thereby making their opposition to abortion clear.

One must, therefore, ask, “Was this gross misrepresentation intentional or accidental?” Hmmm. Let’s consider these important facts: the Subcommittee Chair who issued this opinion: 1.) ran for Supreme Court 9th Judicial District in 2011 on the Republican and Conservative lines (the same year the Conservative Party and the Right to Life Party joined forces here in Westchester); 2.) was rated “anti-choice” by us, and 3.) then LOST the election. One can only wonder what this Subcommittee Chair’s motivations may be.

Here in New York State, judicial candidates often fear interviews, claiming that the NYS Ethics rules prohibit them from expressing their views on contentious issues like abortion. The rules they reference are in direct opposition to the 2002 US Supreme Court decision Republican Party of Minnesota vs White. In the 5 – 4 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that Minnesota’s clause, which “forbade judicial candidates from announcing their views on disputed legal and political issues”, was unconstitutional. Why are NYS judicial candidates still being held to a pre-2002 standard? In all my years here, I’ve met only one judicial candidate willing to challenge that NYS Ethics position and, perhaps, it’s no surprise that he did not get his Party’s nod to run.

On another judicial note: our NYS Chief Justice is seeking to “streamline” the judicial system. Sounds great and in some ways is much needed, but the devil is in the details. The claim is that we don’t have enough justices where we need them. The proposed solution is to get rid of specific categories of judges including County, Court of Claims, Surrogate’s Court and Family Court. Instead, they will all be “Supreme Court” judges and can be moved around where needed.

Sounds good? Not necessarily. For example, take Family Court. Family Court requires a certain type of personality and commitment. The same person hearing white collar crime cases should not be deciding a custody battle. Who will decide which judge serves where and based upon what criteria? Will the decision be based simply on where a judge is needed? Does this mean that judges elected in northern NYS will be sitting on the bench in Westchester? Will we even still be electing judges or will they all be appointed?

The role personal perspective plays in judicial decisions is seismic, in all courts and at all levels. Personal opinions and biases affect how a judge treats those who come before her/ him/they, the sentence imposed, the bail required, and more.

Yes, the present system is flawed and cumbersome but it’s a lot better than appointments and what we are witnessing in Washington DC. We need a better system for electing judges, not simply replacing it.

Every time you vote for judicial candidates, you are voting for someone with a personal history. That is exactly why WCLA – Choice Matters interviews each judicial nominee and if the nominee refuses to be interviewed, we rate accordingly, as we always have. If someone wants to serve in the courts, we are all entitled to know more, as the US Supreme Court ruled in 2002.

Join us – Honor Assemblywoman Amy Paulin

On Saturday, June 22nd, we will honor an outstanding Assemblymember, Amy Paulin,
(NYS Assembly District #88.)

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin is a champion for women. She has been a prolific legislator, with more than 200 of her own bills being signed into law. Her diverse legislative agenda includes state government reform, children and families, domestic violence, sex trafficking, education, health care, animal welfare, and preventing gun violence.

Amy’s distinguished record of activism in public policy and community issues before being elected to the Assembly has helped make her the outstanding elected official she is today.  Amy has served as Executive Director of My Sisters’ Place, Founder and Chairwoman of Westchester Women’s Agenda, President of Westchester League of Women Voters, Vice President of NY State League of Women Voters, Citizen Member of County Board of Legislators’ Special Committee on Families, and as a Member of the Board of Directors of WCLA – Choice Matters! What a launching pad for women’s issues!

Choice Matters and the community of advocates and activists are particularly excited by Amy’s writing and sponsoring of the bill that eliminated the statute of limitations for rape, and sponsoring the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act to dramatically toughen penalties for traffickers and buyers while providing support to the victims of human trafficking to help rebuild their lives. (Click here to read a partial list of Amy’s Bills.)

“After 242 years, a woman is in charge of the State Senate”*

On Wednesday, January 8th, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins was voted Senate Temporary President and Majority Leader by her colleagues.

This is the official end of the “3-men-in-a-room” NYS governing process!

AND – In the newly-elected NYS Senate, now 20 of the 63-member body are women – (Still not an accurate reflection of the State’s gender make-up but a heck of a lot better!)

The changing demographics of New York State are more clearly reflected by this Senate body than any before it. Among the newly-elected senators are the first Muslim, first Iranian American, first Chinese America, first Salvadoran American, first Costa Rican American, first Indian American and two Colombian Americans.

And in the NYS Assembly, For The First Time EVER

For the first time in the State’s history, a woman, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes of Buffalo, was named Assembly Majority Leader. Surrounding Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes were 50 women which is a record number for the Assembly.

Approximately 32% of those serving in the NYS Senate and Assembly in 2019 are women. Nevada has the highest percentage in the country of women serving in its State legislature, with 51% being women.

Assembly Majority Leader, Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes said, “I’m not sure I can put into words how insurmountable I think the significance of this day is. It’s exciting. It’s to some extent overwhelming. It’s humbling.”

Governor Cuomo did not attend the opening session of either the NYS Senate or the NYS Assembly.

*For more information, read The Buffalo News, After 242 Years, a woman is in charge of the State Senate.

Judges

The role personal perspective plays in judicial decisions is seismic, in all courts and at all levels – not just the US Supreme Court. Personal opinions do matter. Temperament, previous decisions and prior actions tell exactly what kind of judge a candidate will be. Personal bias affects how a judge treats those who come before her/him, the sentence imposed, the bail required, and more.

That is exactly why Donald Trump has been appointing only judges who the ultra-reactionary Federalist Society selects.

Every time you vote for judicial candidates, you are voting for someone with a personal history. That is exactly why WCLA – Choice Matters and WCLA PAC interview each judicial nominee, and if the nominee refuses to be interviewed, we rate accordingly. If someone wants to serve in the courts, we all need to know more. Saying, “I will follow the law” or “it is established law” generally means that the candidate does not want to share his/her view with you.

Just imagine the impact a judge’s view on reproductive rights can have in a state that requires parental notification/consent. To avoid informing her parent(s), a minor may apply for a judicial bypass, which means a judge can allow the girl to terminate the pregnancy if she/he deems the girl mature and capable of making the decision. If the judge is anti-choice, what are the chances he/she will permit the abortion? They can outright deny the abortion or simply draw out the decision until the window for a termination has passed. In Alabama, some judges even appoint an attorney to represent the fetus.

This year, for NYS Supreme Court Justices in the 9th Judicial District (Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties) you can choose to vote for 6 qualified attorneys who have experience and great understanding of the issues confronting women and their families, or you can vote for their anti-choice opponents. Use your vote wisely.

No Judgeship for Jeff Klein!

Chairman Crespo and Members of the Bronx Democratic Party Executive Committee
Bronx Democratic Committee
1640 Eastchester Road
Bronx, NY 10461

Dear Chairman Crespo and Members of the Bronx Democratic Party Executive Committee:

It has been brought to our attention that former Senator Jeff Klein is being considered for a judgeship by the Bronx Democratic Committee.

As the voices of hundreds of thousands of women from across New York State, we ask that Jeff Klein be held to the same standards demanded of Brett Kavanaugh by the US Senate Democrats.

They are demanding that until such time that a complete investigation has been conducted and concluded, the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh should not be permitted to come to a vote. That same standard must be apply to consideration of Jeff Klein.

Governor Cuomo has said, “The allegations of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh are disturbing and deeply concerning. We owe it … to the American people to fully investigate these allegations — our democracy demands nothing less.”

As the Bronx Democratic Committee, you must surely see that there is no room for a double standard.

Jeff Klein should not be considered for a judgeship until such time that the allegations lodged against him over nine months ago are fully investigated, and conclude.

We the undersigned respectfully ask that you do not consider Mr. Klein for a judgeship at this time.

Sincerely yours,

Catherine Lederer-Plaskett
President, WCLA – Choice Matters

and

Andrea Miller
President, National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund

Presidential Elections 2016

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. But my personal story is not so unique. That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it.

Again and again, we’ve seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. I get it.

But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence.

More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. The men and women who gathered there could’ve heard many things. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq.

Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk.

We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition.