WASHINGTON, D.C. — A high-profile cast of lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee Tom Harkin, and Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, will gather tonight at the Sheila Wellstone Institute’s annual event in Washington, D.C., to kick off October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The institute, named after the late wife of former Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died with his wife and their daughter in a 2002 plane crash, was established to continue Sheila Wellstone’s work on women’s issues, according to Paul and Sheila’s son, David Wellstone.
“My mom was kind of a force on domestic violence issues,” said David, who traveled to Washington for tonight’s event. “And, so, we just felt like there was a big loss of her voice in Washington, and we wanted to set up this institute to carry on the work that she did.”
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.
The annual Sheila Wellstone awards will be given to Vice President Joe Biden and, posthumously, to Lupe Serrano, who was president of the St. Paul-based Casa Esperanza, a women’s shelter and advocacy group.
Biden, who will not be able to attend tonight’s event, was given his award earlier in the week.
“It was pretty obvious this year that it would be the vice president,” David said of the decision to honor Biden. “He has been a hero on these issue for a long time and my mother worked with Biden pretty closely on bills related to domestic violence… it really was a natural this year because of the anniversary [of the Violence Against Women Act] and all the work he did on it.”