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Democrats to showcase 9 women as vice-presidential candidates

Massachusetts Democrats are getting ready for what may be an important boost to placing a woman on their party's national ticket. With promises from all eight male candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination at least to consider a female running mate, Bay State party leaders are sponsoring a forum to focus attention on nine prominent women.

The nine were invited to participate in a Feb. 26 televised program from Smith College in Northampton, Mass. They are: Gov. Martha Layne Collins of Kentucky; Lt. Gov. Martha Griffiths of Michigan; Mayor Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco; Reps. Lindy Boggs of Louisiana, Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York, Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, and Patricia Schroeder of Colorado; Prof. Shirley Chisholm of Mount Holyoke College; and Prof. Barbara C. Jordan of the University of Texas.

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Mrs. Chisholm is a former US representative from New York, and Miss Jordan, a former US representative from Texas.

The debate format is intended to help showcase women who have been most frequently mentioned as potential choices for the party's vice-presidential nomination.

While conceding the program in and of itself may have little impact in the ultimate selection of a teammate for the party's 1984 ticket, the program's architects hope it will focus attention on a number of women who ought to be considered.

''This is an opportunity for people to take a look at some very talented women,'' says Chester G. Atkins, Massachusetts State Democratic chairman.

Planners of the 90-miunute program, cosponsored by the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee and Smith College, say this is an opportunity for take advantage of the national political spotlight while it is on New England.

It is questionable, however, whether many of the Democratic White House aspirants will watch the forum, since it will come but two days before the Feb. 28 presidential preference primary in New Hampshire.

The forum, which sponsors hope will be televised nationally, will include statements by each of the nine. The women will then field questions from a panel of political experts and the audience.

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Of the eight Democratic presidential candidates, only the Rev. Jesse Jackson has stated flatly he would choose a woman for his running mate. He repeated this pledge at a Feb. 4 televised debate in Cambridge, Mass.

The five other participants, including Walter Mondale (who has been endorsed by the National Organization for Women), stopped short of such a commitment. Each, however, went out of his way to take a strong stand on improving the rights of women, and each denounced President Ronald Reagan for his administration's policies on a broad range of women's issues, such as day-care funding and the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

Candidates Reubin Askew and Alan Cranston were not at the debate, but both earlier had indicated that women would be on their lists as possible vice-presidential choices.

The possibility of a woman candidate on the party's national ticket has particular appeal within the Massachusetts Democratic hierarchy. Party leaders note that women comprise 53 percent of the national electorate, and a greater percentage of women than men went to the polls in the 1980 election.

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