Archive for Thursday, October 18, 2001

Recall Kay petitioners knocking on area doors

October 18, 2001

Lenexa middle-school teacher Rhonda Hassig was angry when she heard about the comments made by State Sen. Kay O'Connor regarding women's suffrage.

"All the announcer said was, 'A senator says she doesn't support the 19th Amendment,' and I knew it was Kay," she said.

Hassig was so angry she decided she didn't want O'Connor representing her any longer. So she's leading a group of district voters named "Recall Kay" who hope to remove the Olathe senator from office.

"I wasn't a happy camper," Hassig said. "Like everyone else I know, I was disgusted."

O'Connor, in what since has become widely reported comments, told the Johnson County League of Women Voters Sept. 19 that if she had a chance to vote for the 19th Amendment today, she wouldn't do it.

But O'Connor says these allegations are completely false.

O'Connor's explanation: The comments made at the Johnson County League of Women Voters meeting were made in a private conversation that a newspaper reporter just happened to overhear. She says the reporter then called her the next day for clarification. O'Connor says she explained to him that a woman at the meeting asked her if she would join their celebration of the 19th amendment. O'Connor said she told the League representative that her organization probably wouldn't want to hear what she had to say, because as a conservative Republican she would rather focus on the family than just women. She said at the end of the interview, she asked the reporter to read back the quotes. The quotes were wrong, and she says she informed the reporter of that, but the comments were printed anyway.

"I am an honest, straight-forward and articulate person," O'Connor said. "I made myself very clear."

De Soto School board member Sandy Thierer says she

doesn't buy it.

"I know she has explained away the claim, but I have a difficult time believing the comments were just taken out of context," she said.

Thierer said her experience with O'Connor in the past has not been positive.

"I was at a meeting last year with her about school finance and she said she didn't care what anyone said because she knew more than they did."

Hassig says this latest bit of anti-women rhetoric follows a long line of inadequate representation of her constituents.

"I've followed her career since 1992, and even as a Republican I would never vote for her," Hassig said. "And now that she's said this, she's no longer representing anyone's interests."

So Hassig has set out to have O'Connor recalled. The process will not be an easy one. To get the job done, Hassig is required to form a committee of three people, find more than 3,200 people who agree with her, submit an application for petitions to Kansas Secretary of the State, then obtain a petition that requires additional signatures and more.

"It's absolutely worth it," Hassig said. "She can resign at this point, but I don't think she will. So I'm going to do what I have to do."

O'Connor said she has no intentions of resigning because she feels she was wronged in this situation.

"I'll have to do some fund-raising and will probably need $5,000 to 10,000 to get the word out that I do in fact support the women's right to vote and work."

O'Connor said that as a woman who had to enter the workforce to help support her family, she realizes the necessity of women in society and the importance of their vote.

"It's not that I think women shouldn't work, it's just that I believe that when there are children involved, one person should work and one should take care of the children," she said, "No matter which person mother or father."

O'Connor said her 42-year marriage has been an equal partnership. She said, him being the head and her the heart two equally important components of a family.

"I don't want to be liberated from my captive husband," she said.

O'Connor's explanation doesn't repair the damage already done, Hassig said.

"The words are out there and have offended many people," she said.

Hassig has formed her committee and started her recall effort last Thursday at Amos Activity Center in Lenexa.

Hassig expects to obtain 100 sponsors for the recall, who will travel door-to-door to get the 3,000 signatures to get the petition approved.

Hassig says the outcome of her efforts will be positive no matter what happens.

"If I'm successful then we'll get better representation," she said. "If I'm not, well, at least I'm sending a message that the public won't tolerate it."

Hassig says everyone should be concerned by the comments.

"De Soto and Lenexa are mostly affected, but everybody women and men should be upset." Hassig said. "I've gotten calls from both and the numbers are about even."

"As a woman, she's made a statement that doesn't represent the majority of her constituents, and as a woman I have to do something about it."

O'Connor said she won't leave without a fight. She said after they know the truth, voters will side with her.

"If the constituents disagree, they can get rid of me."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.