First lady due in city to get women to polls Tonight's fund-raiser aims to empower, mobilize voters

September 16, 1996|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the star attraction tonight at a Baltimore fund-raiser aimed at maximizing voter turnout among women, perhaps the most heavily targeted segment of the electorate this year.

Maryland members of The Women's Leadership Forum, an affiliate of the Democratic National Committee, are sponsoring a reception and dinner at the Hyatt Regency hotel on Light Street. Tickets are $200, and $1,000 to attend a VIP reception preceding the dinner.

About 500 of the 600 to 700 guests are expected to be women. With polls showing President Clinton having a considerable advantage among women voters, Republican challenger Bob Dole has been looking for ways to narrow the gap.

Along with Tipper Gore, wife of Vice President Al Gore, Mrs. Clinton has made four appearances around the country similar to the one planned for Baltimore. The party hopes her star quality will put money in the campaign treasury and help cement the Democrats' favorable position with women voters, according to Marsha Reeves Jews, one of the Baltimore event's co-sponsors.

She said as much as $100,000 will be raised for the Democratic National Committee.

The Women's Leadership Forum was organized in 1993 to create opportunities for women to become active in the Democratic Party at the national level -- as well as to help with fund raising for the Nov. 5 election. The group hopes to empower women and mobilize them to vote.

Though controversial among Republicans, Mrs. Clinton has become a potent force among Democrats, Democratic women and, perhaps, women in general -- particularly if they are attempting to balance career and family.

Seeking to turn criticism of her leadership into leverage, the party accorded her a major role at the recent Democratic National Convention.

Many of tonight's guests will be eager to endorse the first lady's idea that communities as a whole must take responsibility for the health, safety and upbringing of the nation's children, Jews predicted.

Clinton's book, "It Takes a Village," is criticized by Republicans because they contend it diverts attention from the role of families in child rearing. The name was drawn from African folklore. Campaign-style buttons that say "I Am a Villager" were hot items at the convention in Chicago.

Jews said the village theme is playing well in Baltimore and, she thinks, all over the country.

"Where I grew up in South Bend, Ind.," she said, "people knew we were all responsible for our children. You walked down the street and you knew everyone. You could not be bad. Mrs. Jones would call your mother. The principal would call your house. All of that is part of the village."

Long before the book and its author were criticized at this year's Republican National Convention, "It Takes a Village" was chosen as the theme of an annual awards dinner of the Baltimore-area Coalition of 100 Black Women. Twelve hundred women attended that event.

Mrs. Clinton has been a frequent visitor to Maryland. She was commencement speaker at the University of Maryland College Park in May. And she has spoken at Johns Hopkins Hospital, visited Baltimore schools and talked with small business leaders at Jimmy's, a Fells Point restaurant.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is honorary co-chair of tonight's event and its master of ceremonies. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes is also scheduled to attend.

Earlier today, Mrs. Clinton is to address delegates at a conference of the U.S. Agency for International Development at Levering Hall on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus.

The conferees hope to find new ways to provide medical assistance in impoverished areas of the United States.

Applying lessons learned by the development agency in Kenya, Baltimore has boosted its childhood immunization rate in recent years from 62 percent to 96 percent, one of the best in the nation, the agency said.

Pub Date: 9/16/96

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