Ex-Dem congressional candidate pushes to elect more mothers to Congress

A former Democratic congressional candidate is working to help more mothers get elected to Congress, saying many face a stigma while running for office.

Liuba Grechen Shirley noted on Hill.TV's “Rising” that while a record number of women were elected to Congress in November’s midterm elections, just 25 female members have children that are 18 and under.

“Even with this historic 116th Congress, there are still only 25 women in Congress that have school-aged children and by school age, we mean 18 or younger,” Grechen Shirley told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton during an interview that aired Thursday.

Meanwhile, Grechen Shirley said that there are more than 100 dads in Congress. She attributes the disparity to a cultural double-standard, arguing most women are often thought as the primary caregiver.

“There are over a hundred dads and the reason for that is women, when they’re running with small children, they face a stigma that men do not face,” she said.

Grechen Shirley, a mother of two, pointed to her own congressional bid last year against incumbent Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) to discuss the hurdles facing mothers running for office.

“People will say you’re not a good investment, you don’t have the time," she told Hill.TV.

Grechen Shirley, who lost to King by 6 points in November, made headlines last year after the Federal Election Commission (FEC) unanimously approved her request to use campaign funds to pay for a babysitter.

The FEC said such a move would not be considered a violation of rules that prohibit personal spending, saying Grechen Shirley's child care needs were a direct result of her bid for Congress and essential to her continuing her campaign.

Grechen Shirley said the ruling has been a game changer for all women and parents considering a run for office.

“There are now people who have come to me and said I never thought I could run before but now with this ruling, I might be able to do it, I might be able to take the risk of giving up a salary for a year because I can also afford childcare,” she said. 

Grechen Shirley has since founded Vote Mama, which is geared toward supporting mothers running for office as Democrats across the country.

She said she hopes to address the stigma that many mothers face while running for office by providing the support they need.

“You need to be able to talk to moms who have done it before — both moms who have won and run and lost and we’re going to provide that mentorship, that early funding and that support for other moms who are running across the country,” she told Hill.TV.

Just a week after launching, Grechen Shirley said the organization has already received more than 50 potential candidates up and down the ballot, ranging from town council to federal level positions.

She said the reason why most women don’t get elected into leadership positions is because many wait until their children are grown up, but she hopes that if provided with more support, they will consider running.

“We need to change whose at the table, so we change the discussion,” she said.

—Tess Bonn