While Vote Mama Foundation Founder and CEO Liuba Grechen Shirley’s 2018 Federal Election Commission ruling approved the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare for all candidates running for federal office, each state has its own campaign finance laws and entities authorized to provide oversight of elections and campaign spending and reporting for candidates running at the state and local level.
Today 20 states allow the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare. Vote Mama Foundation is working with candidates to petition their state and local election commissions and legislators to pass Campaign Funds for Childcare legislation in all 50 states.
Vote Mama Success Stories
Louisiana State House Candidate
At first the Louisiana Ethics Commission ruled that a female candidate could not use Campaign Funds for Childcare, even though they had approved it for four male candidates in the past. They told Democratic State House candidate Morgan Lamandre that she had “misplaced priorities,” and that having a child was her “primary responsibility.” The Vote Mama Foundation advised her on her appeal, which she later won. Lamandre told Vote Mama Foundation:
“Childcare is already very expensive for working families, so to incur additional childcare costs to run for office is definitely a barrier, and it is a barrier that disproportionately affects women and limits our access to political participation and representation. [...] We need more moms in office, and I am proud to be part of Vote Mama’s efforts to break down these needless barriers.”
Candace Valenzuela was the first Latina and African-American woman to serve on the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school board. She was homeless for a time as a child and fled domestic abuse. Valenzuela ran for Congress in 2020 with a newborn and a toddler by her side. She has said that using her Campaign Funds for Childcare was “campaign saving".
“When I ran for school board it was under very different circumstances. […] But Congress is such a different ball game. When we began talking about running, I was super pregnant with our second child. Having the knowledge that we could use Campaign Funds for Childcare expenses because of Liuba’s work to get child care covered for all moms pursuing federal office was a considerable factor.”
The cost of running for federal office can be so financially prohibitive that it keeps strong candidates from running. Thanks to her ability to use campaign funds for childcare, Valenzuela paved the way for more working parents like her to run in the future.
Utah State House Representative
Utah’s Campaign Funds for Childcare bill is already making a difference. In 2019, Republican State Representative Candice Pierucci won her election as the youngest woman ever elected to the Utah Legislature.
“For legislators in other states considering introducing legislation to allow Campaign Funds for Childcare know that it is a gamechanger. It breaks down a barrier that doesn’t have to be there. The seat came open in my district. As a young mother, you think about timing with family, you think you are going to wait. But why not me? I am a product of my community, I grew up here. I loved politics, I was qualified and prepared. There are local decisions about growth that are really important to me, and at the state level you can really make a difference. I worked at a conservative think tank. I had to quit my job to run full-time. In order to run and serve in elected office, I had to be able to pay for childcare.”
Eric Swalwell was first elected to Congress in 2012 and is one of the 14 dads at the federal level who used Campaign Funds for Childcare during the 2020 election cycle. Rep. Swalwell recently spoke with Vote Mama Foundation while he was driving his daughter Cricket to the pediatrician and explained:
“My kids are three and two years old. My wife is also in the workforce, and recently received a promotion. Our family had to reevaluate whether we can afford to still do this job. Living between Washington, D.C. and San Francisco is incredibly expensive. On top of the official duties, there is an obligation to campaign for House candidates and be away a lot. It was taking a toll financially. Campaign Funds for Childcare has allowed me to keep doing necessary political work, and having children has changed my policy perspective and priorities. When you have more mouths to feed and childcare expenses, you realize how much student loan debt takes out of your monthly paycheck.”
Jennifer Carroll Foy
Gubernatorial Candidate and Former Delegate
Jennifer Carroll Foy gave birth to premature twin boys, Alex and Xander, during her first campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates, and she won her race. She recently stepped down as a Delegate to focus full-time on building a grassroots movement in her campaign for Governor.
“I used to pay for childcare out of pocket, but I now use campaign funds to pay for it after receiving a legal brief from my attorneys saying nothing in Virginia prohibits the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare. Without that childcare, especially during a pandemic, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not be able to complete the tasks needed to excel in a campaign. I have heard candidates express fear and hesitancy to use campaign funds for childcare expenses. This creates an unnecessary barrier for parents, lower income heads of households, and women from seeking elected office, which undermines Virginians the right to full representation in our state and local democracy.”