In this exclusive op-ed, Liuba Grechen Shirley, who in 2018 ran for U.S. Representative in New York's traditionally Republican 2nd District, tells us why she is endorsing Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president.
I remember one of the hardest days of my campaign was when my son Nicholas had recently broken his leg. We had spent hours at the doctor’s that day. Both kids were crying and exhausted. I was exhausted.
Then I got a call from Elizabeth Warren. The conversation started with politics and quickly turned to motherhood as I told her what was going on with Nicholas. We talked about my mom and her Aunt Bee, and I broke down on the phone. I started crying, and she gave me the mom pep talk I needed at that moment. She told me, "We moms...when we run out of milk, we make breakfast with orange juice." She gave me advice and she listened. The conversation I had with Elizabeth was about more than motherhood. It was about the struggles that working parents face every day.
I know how hard it is to be a working parent in the United States. When I had my first child, Mila, I was the director of a research institute at New York University. I didn’t have paid family leave and couldn’t get my daughter into daycare because of years-long waiting lists for child-care centers I couldn’t even afford. We moved back home to Long Island so my mom could help watch our children and I could keep working.
Running for Congress was the last thing I thought I would do, but when my representative Peter King voted to take healthcare coverage away from 74,000 people in our district alone and told me that holding a town hall would only "diminish democracy," I got angry. I held a town hall for him, and then I ran against him.
When I launched my campaign, my babies were only 1 and 3 years old. While we knocked on more than 250,000 doors, outraised Peter King, and came within just a few points of unseating him — closer than any candidate has in his 26 years in office — we didn’t win that election.
We did, however, change the way that parents run for office. We convinced the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to approve the use of campaign funds for child care, and in 2018, nine federal candidates used the FEC ruling to pay for their child care with their campaign funds. This decision broke down barriers for parents who aren’t independently wealthy to be able to run for office.
In January, I launched Vote Mama, the only organization in the country dedicated to electing moms up and down the ballot so that we can change who has a seat at the table and which legislation is prioritized. More moms would mean paid family leave. It would mean leading the world in public education and healthcare instead of our current ranking as 27th worldwide.
If our country had more family-friendly policies such as universal child care and paid family leave, we could add more than 5 million more women to our workforce and an additional $500 billion to our economy. This is why we need Elizabeth’s plan for universal child care and early education. Under her plan, families with a household income that's 200% or more below the federal poverty line will be guaranteed free high-quality child care and early education — and no family will pay more than 7% of their income. Elizabeth’s plan would be a game-changer for me and for millions of families like mine.
I got an MBA because I wanted to understand how to make markets work better for all Americans. Today, parents have to make the decision between paying thousands of dollars a month for child care or quitting their jobs and putting their careers on hold because they simply cannot afford daycare. Single parents in our country spend nearly 40% of their income on child care. One in four women in the U.S. goes back to work just 10 days after giving birth. Teachers, union workers, and families on Long Island and across the country saw their tax bills increase last year while Amazon and Facebook made billions, paid nothing in taxes, and actually got tax refunds. Students graduate crushed in debt and watch their loan balances increase even while they’re making payments.
There is one candidate in the 2020 presidential race who has made it her life's work to change these rules and to change this game. I remember as then-Professor Elizabeth Warren fought tooth and nail to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to transfer some power back to working Americans. Elizabeth understands that we need to make our markets work for American families, entrepreneurs, and young people because right now, the system isn’t built for their success.
While "she has a plan for that" has become a regular refrain and lighthearted remark, Elizabeth’s plans for universal child care, a massive investment in housing, addressing racial disparity in maternal mortality, and an ultra-millionaire tax to pay for these investments, are revolutionary and will make the economy work better for all Americans, not just those who can afford to lobby Congress. I am thrilled that she is now running for President, and I could not be more excited to endorse Sen. Elizabeth Warren and hit the campaign trail for her.
Liuba Grechen Shirley is a former Democratic candidate for U.S. Representative in Long Island, NY, who came closer to beating long-timer Republican Rep. Peter King than anyone in the past. She was also the first candidate to successfully convince the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to allow the use of campaign funds to pay for child care. She has founded a group called Vote Mama that is focused on getting moms elected to office. The views expressed here are her own.