Last May, Liuba Grechen Shirley made history in her race against Congressman Peter King when she became the first female candidate to get permission from the Federal Election Commission to use campaign funds to pay for child care. Shirley brought to light an issue that has made it disproportionately difficult for mothers to run for public office.
The facts are the facts. Child care is an issue that effects predominantly women and can be a barrier to those who want to put their hat in the ring. Many mothers struggle with the new cost of child care that comes along with campaigning, and the imbalance in the numbers of mothers holding elected office prove it.
In 2018 there were only about a dozen women in Congress with children younger than 18. But thanks to those who have the courage to take on the fight and blaze the trail for those who will follow in their footsteps, that number nearly doubled in 2019. But the number still remains an unequal representation.
While Shirley may have lost the election, that hasn’t stopped her advocacy. Her legacy is helping to create change across the nation as more and more states allow mothers to use campaign funds for child care.
Motherhood should not been seen as a liability when running for office — it is a strength. This is about leveling the playing field, ensuring everyone who wants a seat at the table is given an equal and fair opportunity.
It is time New York State does the same, and I urge our leaders in Albany to embrace the new faces of leadership and work to propel more mothers into elected office. The cost of child care should never be a deterrent for any mother who wants to run for office.
While it remains an uphill battle, we must keep pushing forward. I look forward to the day when all state and local candidates running for office are given the same chance.
It is time for equal representation, and allowing campaign funds to be used to pay for child care is what is fair and right.
As New York State has done before and continues to do, we must set an example for others to follow.
Steve Bellone is the Suffolk County Executive.