Liuba Gretchen Shirley Comes to Pace

Manhattan, New York
United States

On April 9th, Pace’s chapter of HeForShe will be hosting 2018 Congressional candidate from Long Island Liuba Grechen Shirley. Grechen Shirley made waves this past election cycle when she decided to challenge Representative Peter King, who has been the incumbent in the district for 25 years. Not only did she decide to challenge King, but she also petitioned the Federal Elections Commission to allow campaign funds to be used towards childcare--effectively opening doors for other young mothers to run for office.

Grechen Shirley is the granddaughter of Russian immigrants and the daughter of a single mother. She attended NYU to study politics and Russian and later earned her MBA in Management, Economics, and Social Innovation. She began her political activism working with nonprofits focused on human rights and economic empowerment, and later started a grassroots group for Democrats in her community following the 2016 election (this group went on to have 3,000 members). When King voted in favor of Trump’s Muslim travel ban, she organized a protest against it. Not only did King favor the travel ban, but he has also made other harmful political decisions as well: he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he opposes abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, and he is in favor of the Mexican border wall. For these reasons, Grechen Shirley decided to challenge him, telling Refinery29, "I’ve had enough of having a representative who doesn’t stand up for his constituents.”

Her campaign was based on supporting Medicare-for-All, gun safety, $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, reproductive rights, and tax cuts for the middle class. For the first few months of her campaign, Grechen Shirley was working from home while watching her one and two-year-olds until her mother came to watch them at 3:30 pm after teaching at a public school all day. This daily routine made her realize how almost impossible it is for young mothers to run for office, being that adequate child care is difficult to access, nevermind that one year of care can cost just around a year’s worth of college tuition. This is why many of our representatives and senators are millionaires-- they can afford to take time off of work in order to run their campaigns. This realization inspired Grechen Shirley to petition the FEC to allow her to use campaign funding towards the cost of childcare. The commission voted unanimously in her favor. This decision allowed several other young mothers to petition their local governments for similar requests, and will certainly change the way young parents run for office in the future as well.

Unfortunately, Grechen Shirley did not win her seat in Congress-- along with every other mother with children under two years old that ran. With this in mind, she went on to create Vote Mama, the very first PAC created to support progressive young mothers running for office. It will endorse and fundraise for its candidates (who must not only be Democrats and moms of children under 18 but also support abortion rights, paid family leave, universal pre-K, and other issues regarding working families), as well as connect them with current young mothers in Congress for advice and guidance throughout the campaign. With the founding of this PAC, Grechen Shirley hopes that more moms will run for Congress and bolster more support for family issues like paid family leave, children’s healthcare, universal pre-K, and childcare.

Liuba Grechen Shirley will be coming to speak at Pace on April 9th from 6-8pm in Student Center East. Follow @heforshepace for updates and more information leading up to the event