May 24, 2018
Legislation addresses gender barriers for political candidates
NEW YORK, NY – Council Member Keith Powers and Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo today hosted a rally with members of the New York City Council, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, and advocacy organizations to call on support for Introduction 899, which would allow candidates to use campaign funds for childcare expenses.
“All expenses make a difference when you are running for office, but some are significant enough to make or break a would-be candidate’s decision to run. In a time when we need more women and new ideas in government, I am proud to introduce legislation that confronts hurdles to run for office,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “There is no doubt that this bill will benefit women who are new mothers, and men who are new fathers, who have made the decision to run for office. New York City can now line up with federal election regulations around childcare.”
“To truly support women as political leaders, we must look at the reality of their lives. For many women, childcare is an insurmountable barrier when it comes to running for office,” said New York City Council Majority Leader, Laurie A. Cumbo. “Here, in New York City, we have the opportunity to break that barrier with this legislation, which would allow campaign funds to be used for childcare expenses when the candidate is the primary caregiver. I know firsthand the challenges of balancing family and a political career, and I would love nothing more than for other moms and primary caregivers to no longer feel like they have to choose between career and family.”
Earlier this month, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) made a landmark decision to allow New York congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, a mother of two running in the Second District, to use campaign funds for childcare expenses. By applying the FEC’s ruling to local elections, this bill would benefit any primary caregiver interested in running for City office, but research shows it stands to support women in particular.
“I’m proud to be the first woman in the nation to spend federal campaign funds on childcare—and I’m thrilled the FEC’s landmark decision is inspiring elected officials to change campaign finance laws on a state and local level as well,” said Democratic Congressional Candidate for NY-2, Liuba Grechen Shirley. “If we want leaders who will stand up for women and working families, then we need to remove the barriers that keep women and working parents from running. There’s a reason more than half of Congressmembers are millionaires: running for office takes a huge toll on a family’s budget, especially while raising children. Using federal campaign funds for childcare will remove a major financial obstacle for working families and mothers—and I’m grateful Council Members Power and Cumbo are bringing this important issue to light in New York City as well.”
“PPNYC Votes PAC applauds Council Member Keith Powers, and Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, for introducing legislation to bring the recent FEC childcare funds ruling to New York City. No one should have to choose between running for office, and caring for a child,” said Christina Chang, Planned Parenthood NYC Votes PAC. “We need more women–and more parents of all genders–in office. We need people in leadership positions whose lived experiences match those of the people they serve. People who understand how important sexual and reproductive health care, child care, education, and safety are to our communities. PPNYC Votes PAC applauds this move to support all people, including parents, to step up, serve in elected office, and make the positive change we need to make New York fairer and more equitable.”
“A major obstacle to running for office for many women is the issue of childcare, this legislation will even the playing field for mothers who want to get into politics and hold elected office,” said Sonia Ossorio, president, National Organization for Women (NOW), NYC. “There couldn’t be a better time for this issue to be raised and for change to occur, the New York City Council is dominated by men.”
With just 11 female members, the City Council has fewer women today than it has had at any point in the past 20 years. National research shows that women will particularly benefit from this legislation, as they assume more responsibility than men when it comes to managing work and family needs. A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that while 42 percent of working mothers have to reduce their working hours to care for a child or other family member at some point in their career, 28 percent of working fathers do the same.
“I am proud to stand with my colleagues as a co-sponsor of Introduction 899. For too long, childcare has been dismissed as an afterthought, rather than a necessity. As a mother who knows firsthand the magnitude of time and resources required to raise one’s young children, it is obvious to me that childcare is as vital to the smooth function of a primary caregiver’s election campaign as any other expenditure,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Chair of the Committee on Women. “With an unprecedented number of women running for office across the country, New York City has an opportunity here to codify an unassailable standard of inclusivity and respect in our campaign law. I encourage my fellow Council Members to pass this imperative and timely piece of legislation.”
“To build a democracy that truly reflects our diverse communities, we need to eliminate the barriers keeping qualified women from running for office. This legislation would be a game changer in the movement to increase women’s representation in all levels of City government,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin, Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus. “This legislation not only reforms the campaign finance process, a system that has benefited the status quo for too long — it affirms our City’s longstanding commitment to inclusion and gender equity. I am proud to join Council Member Keith Powers, Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo and my fellow colleagues on this effort to create more opportunities for women in local leadership to run for office, and pave the way for a future where New Yorkers of every community can see themselves reflected in their government.”
“One of the most common reasons women tell me they won’t run for office in New York is because of the cost – both financially and emotionally on their families. Now that the Federal Election Commission has ruled that federal candidates can use campaign funds to pay for child care costs, it is time that we codify the same rules here at the city level of government,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus. “I want to commend my Council colleagues for introducing this legislation, as well as New York Democratic House candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, whose successful fight at the FEC is now paving the way for New York and municipalities across the country to finally give parents of young children a fair opportunity to seek and win elected office.”
“Allowing candidates to utilize campaign funds for childcare expenses will encourage more women with young children to run for office, especially as female representation is needed throughout municipal government,” said Council Member Diana Ayala. “As a mother, grandmother, and newly elected Council Member, I am proud to sponsor this important piece of legislation with my colleagues.”
“We should be doing everything we can to make it easier for people to run for office. By allowing childcare expenses to be considered a campaign expense, more candidates, especially women, will be able to run for office,” said Council Member Justin Brannan. “A bigger pool of candidates from more diverse backgrounds will better serve the interests of regular people.”
“Intro 899 is good legislation. We need to do everything possible to ‘level the playing field’ in political campaigns,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera, Chair of the Governmental Operations Committee. “We need a diverse, cross-section of qualified candidates to enter public service. The inability to campaign because of childcare issues prevents many potential candidates from running for office and this is not fair. I am co-sponsoring Intro. 899 for fairness and equal access for candidates for public office.”
“Allowing candidates in New York City to use campaign funds to cover qualified childcare costs will go a long way in improving representation in the Council,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Many parents, particularly women, see childcare as a real obstacle in running for office, and the numbers show that we need to be doing much more to make it easier for women to run. Liuba Grechen Shirley’s landmark victory with the FEC is a great step forward federally, and now it’s time to take this issue on in the City. I thank my colleague Keith Powers for introducing this bill, and I’m proud to join him in championing this cause.”
“Campaigning can be a full-time job, and I see no reason why, if the money raised to campaign can finance staff salaries and other expenditures, it can’t also be used for the care of candidates’ young children,” said Council Member Robert Holden. “If we truly want to diversify who runs for City Council, we need more policies like this.”
“By enabling individuals to run for office who would not otherwise have the opportunity except for this legislation, our city will not be deprived of their contributions and service; nor of their influences on legislation and programs from the perspective of a caregiver for a child or an infirm individual,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz.
“This legislation would level the playing field for candidates for public office that have to take care of children while on the campaign trail, but may not have the necessary funds,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “By allowing the use of certain campaign funds for childcare costs, it allows caregivers and parents to not let their duties deter them from running for public office. It will allow for the best candidates to seek office. I’m proud to support this legislation and thank Council Member Powers for his leadership on this issue.”
This bill was introduced as part of the City Council’s Mother’s Day legislative package. Intro. 899 is scheduled for a hearing on June 19 at the Governmental Operations hearing.
About Council Member Keith Powers
Keith Powers is Council Member for the 4th Council District, covering Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, Tudor City, East Midtown, Midtown West, and part of the Upper East Side. Council Member Powers serves as Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, and is vice co-chair of budget of the Progressive Caucus.