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Vote Mama PAC Wants More Democratic Moms To Run For Office

The PAC just endorsed 16 Pennsylvania candidates running for the state Senate and House.

Running for office is no easy feat, especially for mothers of young children. This is something Vote Mama PAC founder and CEO Liuba Grechen Shirley experienced firsthand during her congressional run in 2017. After facing many unique obstacles while campaigning as a mother of small children and realizing that she was one of only a few moms looking to serve in Congress, Liuba created Vote Mama PAC to help ensure that they had a seat at the table. 

Since its founding in 2019, Vote Mama has endorsed and supported a total of over 500 pregnant and caregiving moms running as Democratic candidates, from school board to U.S Senate. This election cycle, the PAC has endorsed over 150 moms nationwide, including 16 candidates in Pennsylvania running for state Senate and House of Representatives. According to Sarah Hague, Vote Mama’s Chief Program Officer, there is a real need for more moms of school-aged children to be represented in government. 

“Our PAC really exists to normalize moms running for office and breaking down the barriers that moms face when they run for office and when they serve in office,” Hague told the Bucks County Beacon. “We found that only 7 percent of members of Congress are moms with minor children and just 5 percent of state legislators are moms with minor children, which means in a lot of those rooms there’s not a single mom of school-aged kids talking about books bans, talking about childcare access, talking about childcare affordability, or talking about school funding – all these things that impact our kids directly.” In Pennsylvania, only 3 percent of state lawmakers are moms with school-aged children, Hague says.

One of the main reasons for this disparity is that running for office is simply too expensive. The added cost of childcare and security, which candidates have to pay out of pocket for, only makes it even harder for working class people to afford being on the campaign trail. Moms running for office also tend to face more skepticism about their ability to serve in office, Hague says, and are often asked questions about who is going to take care of their families and how they plan to juggle their jobs and their kids. 

Once elected, moms in office still face similar financial burdens surrounding child care. “Many state legislators make less money as a state legislator than the average cost of childcare in the state,” Hague said. “The voting hours are often unpredictable. There’s not a childcare per diem like there is for hotels and meals when they’re at the Capitol, so they’re having to pay out of pocket for childcare while they’re at a late night vote when the childcare center is closed.” 

In states with part-time legislatures, lawmakers are paid significantly less than their full-time or hybrid counterparts. While Pennsylvania legislators are full-time and earn a salary of around $106,000 a year, Texas lawmakers make just $7,200, while legislators in New Mexico are not paid a salary at all. 

READ: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick Is A Loyal Soldier in the Crusade to End Reproductive Freedom and Ban Abortion

Vote Mama wants all state legislators to be paid a living wage and have access to paid family leave and on-site affordable childcare. The PAC also proposes that both candidates and elected officials should be able to use campaign funds to pay for childcare. 

According to Hague, Vote Mama’s candidates all decided to run for office because they were “fired up” about an issue affecting their kids, like a lack of school resources, and “didn’t see anyone fighting for that change.” In addition to education and affordable childcare, gun violence, the environment, and LGBTQ rights are some of the main issues driving these candidates to get into politics. 

“All of these issues you’ll notice are forward-looking. They’re looking for solutions that are sustainable and long-lasting because they’re thinking about their children,” she said. “That leads to better policy making.”

One candidate, Eleanor Breslin, is running for a House seat in Pennsylvania’s 143rd District, which represents a portion of Bucks County, and is campaigning to secure adequate public school funding and protect reproductive freedom and the environment, among other issues. Hague says that Breslin’s candidacy is a “huge opportunity” for Democrats to gain a larger margin in the House, which would enable the creation of the types of policy solutions moms care about the most. Vote Mama has also endorsed Rep. Patty Kim of Dauphin County, who is running for state Senate, which currently has a thin Republican majority the PAC is hoping to win back. 

READ: Bucks County Changemakers Interview with the NAACP’s Karen Downer

Vote Mama’s candidates have had a hand in gaining back Democratic majorities before. Last year, the PAC supported Council Rock School Board candidate Tracey Osecki, who flipped the Bucks County school board blue and beat a Moms For Liberty candidate, which Hague says Vote Mama is the “antithesis” of. “We’re not weaponizing motherhood. We’re using it as motivation to create a country where women and children can thrive,” she said.

Hague says that moms were “instrumental” in helping Osecki get elected and hopes there will be a similar turnout for their candidates in November. “We’re seeing across the board in Pennsylvania, and across the country, that moms are not only running for office, but moms are volunteering for candidates and moms are voting for candidates,” she added. “I really think that moms are going to be the linchpin in getting a blue wave this year and protecting abortion and protecting democracy.”

*Shown in the photo are Vote Mama PAC’s endorsed candidates in Pennsylvania: (L-R) Top Row: Patty Kim – Pennsylvania State Senate (District 15), Amanda Cappelletti – Pennsylvania State Senate (District 17), Nicole Ruscitto – Pennsylvania State Senate (District 37), La’Tasha D. Mayes – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 24), Mandy Steele – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 33); Middle Row: Ashley Comans – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 34), Hadley Haas – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 44), Fern Leard – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 120), Taiba Sultana – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 136), Eleanor Breslin – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 143), Carol Kazeem – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 159); Bottom Row: Leanne Krueger – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 161), Jennifer O’Mara – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 165), Regina Young – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 185), Tarah Probst – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 189), Donna Bullock – Pennsylvania House of Representatives (District 195).*

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Catherine Caruso

Catherine Caruso is a Pennsylvania-based freelance writer with a focus on culture, politics, education, and LGBTQ rights.

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