About 400 women crowded into the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Juneau on Saturday afternoon to show their support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fran Ulmer.
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Lt. Gov. Ulmer would be the first woman elected governor in Alaska if she wins the Nov. 5 general election.
Ulmer addressed the audience, stressing support on women's issues such as equal pay, domestic violence, child care, abortion and women's health.
Some progress has been made in the last 30 years on equal pay for men and women, Ulmer said.
"Whether you want to be a doctor or you want to be a space pilot (gender) shouldn't be a barrier and it shouldn't be a barrier in terms of what we're paid," Ulmer said.
She added that domestic violence continues to be a serious problem in the state and that Alaska has double the national average for sexual predators. As governor she would implement statutes to protect woman and require DNA testing of sexual predators, she said.
Child care also is a growing concern as more women enter the work force, Ulmer said.
"We still have a terrible struggle in terms of making certain child care is available, it's affordable and it's of quality so that we know that our children are not only being well cared for from the standpoint of safety, but also being prepared for school," she said.
She noted that only a quarter of children in Alaska are eligible for the Head Start program to enter pre-school, noting that child care grants, quality pre-schools and full funding for Head Start should be a top priority in Alaska.
"Children who are well cared for, that are safe, that are nourished, that are getting the kind of pre-school and then K-12 education they need are going to be more productive adults," she said.
In terms of women's health, Ulmer, a former state representative for Juneau, said one of her proudest moments was passing a bill that required health insurers in the state to cover routine mammograms.
She criticized Republican Sen. Loren Leman, who is running for lieutenant governor with Ulmer's opponent, U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, for supporting a bill sunsetting provisions that would provide for breast and cervical cancer treatment.
"And worse than that they put on a requirement that there be a study of women's lifestyles to see whether they were contributing to breast and cervical cancer," she said. "It was one of the really dark days in the legislative session."
If elected, Ulmer said she would remove the sunset.
Ulmer also said she would continue to advocate for a woman's right to choose to have an abortion.
"I know choice is a deeply divisive issue, and I know it's a deeply personal decision," she said. "I have just for a very, very, very long time been an advocate for letting women and their families and their doctors make that decision, and not letting the Legislature make that decision."
Mildred Boesser, 77, attended the rally with her daughter Cindy Boesser, 47.
"I think Fran is just the best person for the job; it's not because she's a Democrat and it's not because she's a woman," Mildred Boesser said.
Jeannie Monk, a 39-year-old woman at the rally, said Ulmer's plans for the state gives her hope for the future of her newborn son Aaron.
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