Evening the political field
Former congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley recently launched the first political action committe in the nation to help fund political campaigns for mothers with young children.
Vote Mama, helmed by an advisory committee of over a dozen congresswomen and state and local legislators, looks to provide nearly half a million dollars in funding to progressive candidates with young children who are running for public office throughout the county this year, according to officials.
Grechen Shirley said the PAC will apply to candidates “up and down the ballot,” meaning that funding would go to anyone from local legislators to state senators. “When I decided to run for congress last year, one of the hardest parts was figuring out how to do it with babies,” she said in a statement last week. Her children are currently 4 and 2 years old.
Vote Mama, whose committee members include Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, endorses progressive moms who support a woman’s right to choose, paid family leave and universal pre-K, officials said.
Grechen Shirley also told this publication that Vote Mama would not accept corporate PAC money, a move that she made a hallmark of her campaign last year to represent New York State’s 2nd congressional district.
“We’re doing this with small, individual donations,” she said.
Grechen Shirley, an Amityville resident, lost to longtime congressman Peter King (R-Seaford) in November’s general election with 46.9 percent of the vote. Her campaign made national headlines when the Federal Election Committee approved her request to use campaign funds to cover childcare expenses while she was out campaigning.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has since weighed in on Grechen Shirley’s latest initiative. Warren, a likely candidate for the 2020 presidential race, said the longtime Democratic activist is continuing to “[pave] the way for working parents running for office” with Vote Mama.
“Right now, a lot of moms wait until their children are grown before they run for political office,” Warren wrote in a statement. “Because they wait to get started, it’s harder for women to achieve leadership positions at the same rate as men.”
Vote Mama found that just 25 women in congress are serving with children age 18 and below. This equates to 5 percent of congress. However, over 100 men in congress are serving with children 18 and below. Their data also found that in 2018, all seven women who ran for congress with children age 2 or younger lost.
PAC officials pointed to a recent study conducted by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which found that voters often express concern about the ability of female candidates and elected officials to balance their home life and services to the public.
The study, entitled “Modern Family: How Women Candidates Can Talk About Politics, Parenting, and Their Personal Lives,” also found that voters frequently worry about the effect running for public office will have on the candidate’s children, on the candidate as a person, and on the job she or he will do once in office.
Additional information finds that the age of a female candidate’s child or children matters a great deal in overcoming critiques. Voters, according to the study, associate different challenges with various children’s age groups. In essence, having younger children is more difficult for voters to accept than older children.
“There is no playbook for running for office with kids – so I’m making one,” Grechen Shirley said. “Too often, moms with young kids are dismissed outright because we’re seen as unviable – and blocked from key early support that could help us win.”
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