ALBANY — State attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout will hit the campaign trail pregnant, joining a growing list of women serving in or running for office while having kids.
“It’s a really exciting moment,” Teachout told the Daily News.
Teachout, a 46-year-old Fordham Law School professor who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2014 and Congress in 2016, is due in October.
“As more women run for office in their 20s, 30s and 40s, you’re going to see a lot more women breastfeeding and parenting,” she said. “I think it’s a real watershed moment. We’re in a moment where we’re redefining what leadership looks like.”
City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo of Brooklyn ran for and won re-election in 2017 while pregnant.
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth recently became the first U.S. senator to cast a vote with a newborn by her side.
Earlier this month, Liuba Grechen Shirley, a congressional candidate on Long Island, got permission in a landmark ruling by the Federal Election Commission to use campaign funds to pay for a babysitter for her two toddlers.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden is pregnant and due to give birth in June.
“What’s really exciting about this is that’s it’s a full recognition that power and parenthood are not in conflict,” Teachout said.
“One of the things that people are realizing is that parenthood doesn’t erase a woman’s professional experience and the expertise that they bring to office any more than it does for men.”
Teachout is looking to challenge city Public Advocate Letitia James, the party’s designee, and former Gov. Cuomo and Hillary Clinton aide Leecia Eve in the September Democratic primary for attorney general.
“My professional life has been steeped in constitutional law and anti-corruption law,” she added. “I think it’s important to recognize that becoming a parent doesn’t change my decades of experience.”
Teachout isn’t the only parent-to-be seeking statewide office in New York this year.
Dutchess County Executive and GOP gubernatorial nominee Marcus Molinaro, who has three kids with his wife, is expecting a fourth in November.
“It was part of the decision (whether to run),” Molinaro campaign spokeswoman Katie Delgado said of the coming addition. “It was a discussion with his whole family.”
Molinaro at first opted out of a run, but changed his mind weeks later.
Molinaro will likely face fewer questions about his family situation than Teachout. Being married with children is an asset to men seeking office. For women, it’s always been a liability, said Jean Sinzdak, associate director of the Center For American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Women who are pregnant or raising young children are more often asked about whether they have the time and energy to balance political life with parenthood, Sinzdak said.
“Traditionally women waited to run until they were older because of family responsibility and cultural opinions about whether women with young children should be out in the workforce,” Sinzdak said.
But with more pregnant women and young moms running for office, Sinzdak said of the bias, “I think that’s changing … As women see other women (running and serving), they feel more comfortable (doing it themselves).”
Cumbo, the City Council majority leader whose 9-month-old son is named Prince, said she overcame the physical challenges of running for office while pregnant by working “smarter and differently.”
Cumbo said she relied on supporters for more than just donations, asking them to go door-knocking for her and campaign for her at train stations and other areas.
“The challenge of (running while pregnant) is really that your health and the health of the baby has to remain in the forefront of your mind,” she said. “I would say it’s something you think about the entire time on the campaign trail.”
Her advice to anyone considering running for office while pregnant is to make it a family decision in consultation with doctors.
“I would have pulled the plug on this thing at any point if my doctor had said the health of you or your baby are in jeopardy,” Cumbo said. “With every weekly visit, I got the ok that ‘The baby’s fine, that I’m fine. You can keep going.'”
While she expected questions about whether her pregnancy or having a baby could limit her ability to do the job, she said they never came.
“I doubted myself initially more than other people in terms of whether I would be able to do it or if I would be able to win having a baby,” she said.
She finished the campaign by taking her newborn to different election districts and the polls to vote. She said having a child also changed her perspective as an elected official to push for such things as more lactation spaces across the city, fighting for a city paid family leave program, and pushing for changes to Uber’s baby carrier policy.
But it’s not all about child issues. Cumbo said she was involved in the push to make Corey Johnson the council speaker and was rewarded with the important majority leader post.