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EDITORIAL: Make campaign funds available for child care

Salem News - 1/3/2020

Jan. 3--Balancing work and family life is never easy for political candidates, who find themselves constantly in the spotlight while attending community breakfasts, lunches at the senior center and after-dinner campaign rallies. The task is especially difficult for candidates with small children.

Let's face it: Child care is expensive, leaving some would-be public servants in Massachusetts facing a choice of whether to spend thousands of dollars of their own money while on the campaign trail, or to not run at all.

There is, of course, a simple step the state Legislature could take to address the problem: Allow campaign funds to pay for child care when it's needed during election-related activities.

The practice has been allowed in federal races since 2018, yet a mere six states allow for it in local campaigns (New Hampshire, to its credit, is one of them). A bill that would have allowed campaign spending on child care was introduced in Massachusetts in 2018. It has gained little traction among lawmakers who have little interest in risking their incumbent status. And so, the Legislature remains exceedingly white, male and wealthy.

That has to change. A MassINC report released last November noted the Massachusetts Legislature does not reflect the diversity of the state, finding that "Asian, African-American, and Latino residents are significantly underrepresented. To achieve balance, the legislature would need an additional 31 members of color."

What's more, the report said, "In Massachusetts, 52% of adult citizens are women, yet women hold less than 29% of the seats in the Legislature. The National Conference of State Legislatures now ranks Massachusetts 27th in gender representation, down from 18th in 2009. To achieve balanced representation, the Legislature would need an additional 47 female members."

Allowing campaign funds to be used for child-care expenses would make it easier for underrepresented groups -- women, young parents, people of color -- to run for office. The result, while not guaranteed, could be a Legislature that looks more like the state it purports to serve.

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