Voting along gender lines bothers male candidate

November 04, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Republican Carroll County Commissioner candidate Richard T. Yates said it bothers him to hear female voters say they sometimes vote for other women based on gender.

Should men always vote for men and women always vote for women? he wondered.

"It would be interesting to see how [county government] would run with three women vs. three men," he said in a recent interview at his Eldersburg home.

"I've seen two women in an argument, and they'll actually tear each other up. Men will fight and then shake hands. It seems there's an undying enmity there" with women, he said.

Mr. Yates, 69 and retired from the U.S. Department of Defense, brought up the topic of men's and women's roles during an interview about issues in the commissioners' race.

He said the only woman in the commissioners' race did well in the September primary because she captured the women's vote.

Rebecca A. Orenstein, a Westminster City councilwoman, was the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary. Mr. Yates was the top vote-getter in the Republican primary.

They are competing against four others in Tuesday's election for three commissioner seats.

When Mr. Yates ran for commissioner in 1990, he said a woman told him she would vote for Republican Commissioner Julia W. Gouge just because Mrs. Gouge was a woman.

Mr. Yates said he took that viewpoint "to the point of absurdity" and wondered how the world would operate if women ran everything.

"Certain things are meant to be male dominated, and certain things are meant to be female dominated," he said.

Asked for examples, he said men are meant to serve in the military and work in police forces. Women are meant to be teachers and nurses, although he added that women have been good judges and legislators.

He said he wondered what would happen if police forces were composed entirely of women.

"You'd have a 5-foot-2, eyes of blue, 98-pound woman" trying to arrest a large man, Mr. Yates said. She wouldn't be able to do it, he added.

Kay Garnish, an Eldersburg business owner who has been active in women's issues, said women consider more than gender when they vote.

"If women voted for women because they were women, we'd have a lot more women in government," she said.

Carroll County has 1,874 more women than men, according to the 1990 U.S. Census. Women make up 50.76 percent of the population, and men make up 49.24 percent. The Board of Supervisors of Elections does not break down registered voters by gender.

Ms. Garnish said she does not vote based on gender: "There are a lot of women running who don't represent my views."

She helped start the annual Carroll County Women's Fair two years ago and was a member of the steering committee that pushed unsuccessfully for a county women's commission earlier this year.

Mrs. Gouge, who has been Carroll's only female commissioner, said some women may vote for other women partly out of frustration. She was elected in 1986.

"For so long women have been told they're not capable of serving in government. They decided they needed to support each other in order to get there.

"The argument is going by the wayside that there has to be a division in government and other fields between men and women," she said.

That thinking can be discriminatory toward men, too, she said.

Mrs. Gouge has complained during her last term as commissioner that the "old-boy network" has been active in county government.

She said her colleagues -- Republican Donald I. Dell, 69, and Democrat Elmer C. Lippy, 74 -- made sexist remarks and found it hard to work with a woman as an equal. Mr. Dell and Mr. Lippy, both are running for re-election, have said they are not sexists and don't mean to offend women when they make remarks that are taken as sexist.

Last year, Mr. Lippy spoke out in support of establishing the county women's commission, and added what he called "grandfatherly advice" during a meeting with the steering committee.

He said he was born the year women gained the right to vote -- 1920 -- and that he hoped women would excuse him if he called them "girls," opened a door for them or tipped his hat.

"I think women's groups do themselves a disservice when they resent being called sex objects," he said. "Regarding each other as sex objects has to be part of any equation" between men and women.

Mr. Dell voted against starting the women's group, saying the government should not sanction a special-interest group.

Several years ago, at a "State of the County" address sponsored by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, he included a joke about the "curves" of county secretaries.

The men's remarks reflect the attitudes of people who grew up in another generation, Westminster City Councilman Kenneth A. Yowan said.

Mr. Yowan, 52, suggested several years ago that the city eliminate gender-specific language from its official

documents. Ordinances now say "he or she" instead of just "he" when using pronouns.

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