Why Arizona Democrat moms want to use campaign cash for childcare | Phoenix New Times

Canvassing with kids: Dem moms want to use campaign cash for childcare

Using campaign funds for childcare is already permissible for federal candidates. But its legality in Arizona is unclear.
State Sen. Eva Diaz is one of four Democrat mothers who have signed a letter asking Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes to clarify the legality of state and local candidates using campaign funds for childcare.
State Sen. Eva Diaz is one of four Democrat mothers who have signed a letter asking Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes to clarify the legality of state and local candidates using campaign funds for childcare. TJ L'Heureux
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A group of Democratic mothers in the Arizona Legislature want to know if candidates running for office can use their campaign funds for child care.

Led by Sen. Eva Diaz of Tolleson, the women on May 9 asked Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes — the first mother to serve as AG in Arizona — for a legal opinion on whether existing state law deems childcare expenses for a candidate’s children that are necessary because of campaign activities are considered “personal use” or permissible campaign expenses. 

All of the women who signed onto the letter — Diaz, and Reps. Stacey Travers, Quantá Crews and Sarah Liguori, all of Phoenix — are mothers of young children who know how difficult and expensive finding childcare can be. 

“As parents, it’s hard sometimes, because you have a lot of obligations as a candidate and a legislator, and not everyone has the built-in resources like a parent or husband to take care of the child while you’re out doing events,” Travers told the Arizona Mirror. “Sometimes, you can take your kids with you. And sometimes it’s not appropriate.” 

The legislators worked with the Vote Mama Foundation, an organization whose ultimate goal is to codify the use of campaign funds for child care into law, to draft their request. A favorable opinion from Mayes would likely only be the first step.

Using campaign funds for child care costs is already permissible for federal candidates after the Federal Elections Commission ruled in 2018 that New York congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley could use campaign funds to cover her campaign-related child care expenses. 

Shirley later created the Vote Mama Foundation, which is working to get legislation passed in all 50 states to allow campaign funds to be used for child care. So far, the practice is expressly allowed in 31 states, but Arizona’s law is unclear. Vote Mama is also tracking how allowing this use of campaign funds affects the number of women and families represented in public office. 

Arizona’s Candidate Guide, which is published by the Secretary of State’s Office, lists the following as allowed expenses: “conducting polling, purchasing email lists, hiring attorneys or consultants, taking out a loan, incurring travel expenses, leasing facilities, purchasing supplies or equipment, or any other expense incurred for campaign purposes.”

Child care is not specifically mentioned.

click to enlarge Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes
Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is the first mother to serve in her position in state history.
TJ L'Heureux

'Fight for what's fair'

Diaz told the Mirror that, because she has the support of her family, she doesn’t necessarily need to use campaign funds for child care, but she believes that the unclear nature of Arizona’s law might be keeping other mothers of young children out of politics. 

“I feel it’s very important, because I think some parents might need this, but I have been very fortunate to have the support of my family members and my husband,” Diaz said. 

She added that she believes that mothers make good candidates for public office, and she hopes, if Mayes’ decision is favorable, that it will spur more of them to run. 

“I think they definitely, they’re not afraid to speak up and fight for what’s right and fight for what’s fair…as if they were fighting for their own family,” Diaz said. 

Travers added that, although no fathers had signed onto the letter, she thinks it’s possible that an update or clarification in the law could spur more single fathers to get on the campaign trail, as well, and said she knows a single father of three who she thinks would make a great candidate. 

“If we really want to be representational, if ‘We, the people’ is going to mean ‘We, the people,’ it means moms and dads and single dads and single moms,” she said. 

Travers said she is hopeful that the issue will garner bipartisan support since the women aren’t advocating for government funding for child care, but to use their own private campaign funds.

This story was first published by Arizona Mirror, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

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