FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — As a 33-year-old mom running for a seat in the Kentucky state legislature, Josie Raymond had to figure out how to care for her two small children while she spent hours campaigning door-to-door. She needed help every Saturday, so she sent a calendar to her friends and hoped they would sign up to help.
This month, state election officials gave her and other parents some relief.
“Being a mother is not a handicap to my candidacy. I’m a stronger candidate because I am a mother,” said Raymond, a Democrat, who asked the registry for the opinion. “If I am able to reach people and share that message, I think it’s going to resonate.”
The news was first reported by Insider Louisville . Kentucky is the latest state to offer clarification of its campaign spending rules for child care. In May, the Federal Election Commission said it was OK to use campaign cash for child care expenses. The ruling was prompted by a request from New York Congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley.
Since then, other states, including Texas and Alabama, have issued similar rulings. Officials in Iowa ruled such expenses are not allowed, saying the state legislature should clarify the law.
An informal opinion from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, dated Oct. 5, says state officials will address child care expenses “on a case by case basis.” But in general, the opinion noted state law bans spending campaign contributions on anything “that would bestow a private pecuniary benefit … upon a candidate (or) member of the candidate’s family.”
“Thus, it is impermissible for a candidate to use campaign funds to pay for child care expenses that existed prior to their candidacy or occur during the candidacy but have nothing to do with the campaign,” wrote Emily Dennis, the registry’s general counsel. “If the childcare enables the candidate to promote his or her campaign in a reasonable way, then it could be considered an actual expense made directly and primarily in support of the candidate.”
The clarification comes as an unprecedented number of women are running for elected office. In Kentucky, at least 74 women are running for seats in the state legislature this year. Raymond said the overall number is encouraging, but still disheartening to see a lack of mothers with young children running for seats.
“There is value in saying, you know, we have a system that is going to let the parents of young children be just as involved as anyone else,” Raymond said. “We have a different lens … focusing on early childhood issues and day care issues and literacy issues and these sorts of things people with older children and people with no children aren’t necessarily focused on.”
Raymond is running for the Kentucky House of Representative in district 31, which includes a portion of Jefferson County. She faces Republican Leigh Jones for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic state Rep. Steve Riggs.
Jones is also a mother, but both of her children are grown.
“I think the ruling will encourage more moms to run for office and moms always have a great perspective on things,” Jones said.
Raymond has raised about $63,000 for her campaign, but said she won’t use any of it to pay for child care this election cycle because she did not tell donors she would use it for that purpose when she originally asked for money. But she said she likely would use it for child care in future races and hopes it will help other candidates.