CHICAGO — Famed women's rights activist Gloria Steinem did not make it to Chicago as scheduled Friday to personally endorse Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in a tough re-election race but her support allowed the Democratic governor to tout his support from women anyway.
Steinem's flight to Chicago from New York was cancelled after a fire at an air traffic control facility halted all flights in and out of Chicago.
The "Women for Quinn" even went ahead without Steinem, with the governor stressing his support for abortion rights, equal pay for women and other issues. Quinn is in a tight re-election battle with Republican candidate Bruce Rauner, who says he is focused on the Illinois economy and does not have a social agenda.
Noting that "the fight against women's and economic and reproductive rights has shifted to the states," Steinem said in a statement the country "needs more leaders who aren't afraid to do what's right."
Steinem has in the past endorsed President Barack Obama, Democratic candidates for Congress across the country, as well as unsuccessful Democratic candidate Christine Quinn in the 2013 New York mayor's race. Steinem's office didn't immediately return a request for comment about whether Quinn was the first governor that she has endorsed.
Top Illinois female Democrats sharing the stage with Quinn sought to draw contrasts between the governor and Rauner on women's issues Friday, with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle calling Quinn the "most pro-woman" governor the state has had.
Rauner's campaign responded that Quinn had failed the women of Illinois through the governor's support of budgets that have cut education and domestic violence funding, and by "failing to create good jobs for Illinoisans."
"Women are deeply disappointed by Pat Quinn's failures," Rauner spokeswoman, Lyndsey Walters, said Friday.
Women, particularly those in the independent, moderate suburbs, are viewed as a key swing vote in the contest.
In the 2010 governor's race, Quinn was able to use Republican Bill Brady's conservative positions on abortion to bring those votes his way, beating the Bloomington state senator by a margin of less than half of a percentage point.
"The women's vote is critical to Pat Quinn, particularly the votes of single women, single moms. This's a group that doesn't reliably vote in nonpresidential elections," David Yepsen, Director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University said.
Rauner, learning from Brady's unsuccessful 2010 bid, has tried to woo women voters with his economic message while avoiding conservative social positions.
Rauner has aired ads on cable television in suburban Chicago aimed at women, stressing his support for school funding and abortion rights. Another commercial features his wife Diana who notes she's a Democrat and doesn't always see eye to eye with her husband on issues.
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