In March, the Maryland gubernatorial candidate Krish Vignarajah made her case to voters in a striking 30-second ad featuring a shot of her breastfeeding her infant daughter intercut with photos showing her family and various moments from her political career. She ended the video with a simple appeal: “I’m a mom. I’m a woman. And I want to be your next governor.”
With a historic number of women running for office up and down ballots this year, many candidates are making a similar pitch. Moms are not only seeking political seats, but seeking them explicitly, and proudly, as moms; in this year’s election cycle, motherhood has become an asset to be flaunted in progressive campaigns, resolving a decades-old tension for women seeking to enter electoral politics.
Vignarajah’s ad is one of two this year that showed gubernatorial candidates breastfeeding their children: Kelda Roys, running for governor of Wisconsin, included comparable footage in a campaign spot this spring, in which she talked about her efforts to ban a potentially harmful chemical prevalent in children’s products. The Texas congressional candidate M. J. Hegar put forward her own take on motherhood last month in a campaign ad that quickly went viral. “I’m an Air Force combat veteran and a mom,” she says as the video begins to show her life through a sequence of doors: to her family’s home; to a helicopter she flew in Afghanistan; to the houses she lived in with her mom, a survivor of domestic abuse, when she was a child; to legislative chambers. In this way, she shows voters all the closed doors that she had to open in order to build a career and a life as a mom.