Vicki Watson Walker patiently stood amid the boisterous crowd of political supporters, holding a poster alluding to her “magical lady parts.”
It was October 2012. Kansas City, like the rest of the nation, was following Todd Akin as he desperately tried to pull his U.S. Senate campaign out of the swirling drain. He’d made the ridiculous comment that pregnancy resulting from rape was “really rare” because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
GOP heavy-hitter Newt Gingrich had swung into town to hold a rally at Union Station to bolster Akin’s winnowing support. Walker, a former Missouri representative, attended in support of the eventual winner, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Walker was among the less vocal protesters that day. She explained to me that her bout with cancer had tempered the bravado of her younger years. And she mused about the lack of informed dialogue in politics: people’s reluctance to think through issues and separate fact from emotion. Last September, Walker succumbed to cancer at 62.
But her sentiments were spot-on that day. Indeed, Walker’s lifelong beliefs about the necessity of an engaged, informed and active voting public — especially women — are even more pertinent today.
Which is just one reason that her friends and co-activists within the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus are holding a fundraiser/party in her honor Friday. They’re raising money in her name for the caucus’ Education and Endowment Fund, which helps train women on how to launch a political campaign. Walker was a founder of the Missouri Women’s Leadership Coalition, which encourages women to run for office.
A Democrat, she represented south Kansas City and portions of Raytown from 2002 to 2004. Not a long ride. Her re-election was defeated by 127 votes. And yet she was ahead of the curve, taking on the loan shark nature of payday loans and supporting medical marijuana. A 2003 Star article explained her desire to stop the churn of legislators immediately becoming lobbyists after leaving office.
In 2005, she wrote a prophetic guest column for the paper. She analyzed the problems of partisanship, noting that in Missouri, increasing numbers within the GOP were adhering to ideology over well-devised policy. “Good government or good public policy is never done on a partisan basis,” Walker wrote.
Donations in Walker’s name can be made to the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus, EEF, P.O. Box 10095, Kansas City, MO 64171. For more information about Friday’s event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.