By Tamika Hamilton | Special to the OBSERVER
(OPINION) – Being a mother of five children is always work. But running for Congress in a competitive district and under national scrutiny takes it to a whole new level.
By 4:30 am, my husband has already left the house for work as a police officer. Since I’m running for Congress, by 5:00 am, I’m hustling to make calls for fundraising and networking on the East Coast before my children wake up to be dressed, fed breakfast, and prepared for the day and to get ready for the important campaign events on nights and weekends that help me connect with 788,000 people in California’s sixth congressional district.
As difficult as campaigning can be, it’s a little more manageable by the childcare that enables me to do the work of being a candidate for office. But on occasion, I hear from critics who claim childcare costs shouldn’t be seen as a campaign expense, such as with a recent Federal Elections Commission meeting that devolved into personal attacks from a commissioner on a congressman as a father. The perspective seems to be either that my family should pay for needed childcare ourselves or that I should simply be at home with the children.
This thinking is problematic on many levels.
FEC regulations state that expenses are considered “personal use” if they are to “fulfill a commitment, obligation or expense of any person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign.” Since I would not be using childcare were it not for my congressional campaign, the costs are campaign costs just like a salary for a campaign manager or food and drink at a campaign event.
Americans need their elected officials to be broadly reflective of the great variety of daily lives that we have in such a big and beautiful country. We cannot cede our government only to those of retirement age who may have seen the hardships of raising a young family several decades in the past, or not at all.
Current congressional Democratic leadership, for example, is far from living the day-to-day life most Americans live. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (82), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (71), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (83), Majority Whip James Clyburn (82), and California Senator Dianne Feinstein (89) likely do not have to supervise the quality of their small children’s educations, or worry about how gas prices will impact the extracurricular activities they can afford for their children.
Well maybe people with young children just shouldn’t run for office, someone might reply.
No, such a philosophy would be more likely to exclude women than men, since women on average do more of the child rearing of children under 5, and more women are needed in Congress. Increase the cost of running for office for young women, and fewer young women will run for office. Maybe people should just pay for their own childcare if they run for office, someone might scoff. But such a philosophy would be more beneficial to the wealthy rather than to the middle-class.
It’s one thing for an elected official to listen to a young mother. It’s another for an elected official to be that young mother.
So much of what we see in the news has a severe impact on young families right now: energy prices, inflation, supply chain problems (remember the baby formula crisis!), school curriculum debates, fears of a recession, rising interest rates, the cost of housing, and so much more. It makes sense for young families to have their own voice in our government rather than to hope others will provide it for them.
Particularly in the wake of the Dobbs decision leaving abortion policies up to the states, it is essential that the Republican party follow through on its pro-family messaging and agenda by supporting candidates with families.
It is equally essential that the Democratic party follows through on its assertions that women and younger people should be in higher office by supporting women and younger people running for higher office.
I felt compelled to run for Congress, despite being a young mother, precisely because I do not believe that I can wait 10 or 20 years for politicians in Washington D.C. to fix the significant problems we presently face. We shouldn’t throw up arbitrary barriers to elected office that prevent socio-economic diversity.
So let’s stop with the criticism and condescension for young mothers who want to raise up their country just as they raise up their children.
Tamika Hamilton is a mother, Air Force Sergeant, and candidate for California’s sixth congressional district. She can be reached at email@example.com.