Fmr Congressional Candidates & Mothers Join A Political Action Committee Working To Get More Moms Elected To Office

In 2019, a record number of mothers of young children were sworn into Congress after Democrats swept the mid-terms in November 2018, which has been called “one of the most diverse congressional classes ever” according to Vox.com. That record number, however, is just 28, out of the latest to get elected. We’re talking mothers of children under the age of 18 (i.e, still considered dependents). But out of a total 435 members of the House of Representatives and the US Senate, it now makes more sense as to why the push for more family-oriented policies and support systems are slow in getting enacted, or even getting support from enough elected officials. And of course, with the majority of Congress being men, we still have a long way to go until we see America truly reflected in all its diversity.

Political Action Committee Moms In Office has been working behind the scenes to encourage more progressive mothers to run for office and change the status quo in the nation’s highest legislature. Founded by single mom Simona Grace (who regularly reminds her followers on social media that to date there is only one single mother of young children in Congress – the badass California Rep Katie Porter), this organization boasts a board of directors that is diverse, passionate, and dedicated to seeing the issues concerning mothers be front and center in our politics.

As supporters of Moms In Office and their mission, we wanted to introduce you to their board, so you can get some insight into the women who run for office in the hope it will encourage you as you perhaps consider doing the same, or as you hear about women in your community stepping up to leadership who are looking for support.

Elisa Cardnell with former Democratic Presidential candidate from texas, Julian Castro

Elisa Cardnell, Executive Director

Elisa is a single mom to a 9 year-old daughter which she describes as her most important role. In May of 2019, after the Navy Reserves told her she had too many pre-existing conditions to continue serving, she launched her campaign for US Congress in TX02. She received over 5000 contributions and 17000 votes, more than any previous Democratic candidate in the district. Elisa is dedicated to helping other moms run and advocating for policies to help families across the country.

What made you run for office initially? 

My dad was in the Army and my mom was a teacher. I spent 11 years in the Navy, between active duty and the Reserves, and six years as a teacher. Public service is in my DNA. In April of 2018, the Navy told me I had too many pre-existing conditions and couldn’t serve anymore, so I had to find another way to channel that energy. When a far-right Republican won my district that November, I knew that it was time to step up again. I ran to fight for strong and safe schools, universal healthcare, and to limit the influence of corporate money in politics.

Why did you join Moms in Office and what do you hope to achieve through this endeavor in this year’s election?

When I ended my campaign after forcing a runoff against a self-funded millionaire, I knew that I wanted to keep advocating for the issues that I had been fighting for as a candidate. My campaign was largely grassroots, raising almost $400,000 from over 5000 contributions, and the only organization that had given a contribution as part of their endorsement was Moms in Office. We need to have representation that reflects our country, and moms are a big part of that, but most of us don’t have a personal network that can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. So being able to continue working for not only the policies that I support but also to help other women running for office is a perfect transition for me. I hope that we can highlight the need for mothers to have a seat at the table, amplify the voices of the women running for office, and build a grassroots network of moms across the country to help do that.

Kim Williams (center) with climate change activists from the Sunrise Movement

Kim Williams, Director California

As a director, Kim is supporting Moms in Office’s mission to break down the barriers that prevent more moms from becoming the policy makers we need. She ran for US Congress because too many in her district, and across this country, were hurting. Over the better part of a year, she and her team knocked on tens of thousands of doors and heard directly from some of the hardest working people in America about how our federal policies were failing our families. Kim still carries their stories with her, and they are why she is just as committed to change today as the day she decided to run for office.

What made you run for office initially? 

When I first arrived to the Central Valley, I was told I had to complete a homeless family packet to register my daughter for school. I was stunned to say the least. We had lived all around the world and no one had ever assumed that we were homeless just because we were new to town and didn’t have an apartment yet. I was also surprised that the school even had a homeless family packet in the first place.  It made me realize that the school had to have a fair number of homeless kids to have a packet in the first place. That night I went home and looked up the stats and I was blown away. It was estimated that California’s K-12 system had more than 200,000 kids who were sleeping on the streets, on couches, and in cars. Half of them were in the Valley.

I immediately reached out to my elected officials at different levels to ask how I could support. I looked for task forces and wrote letters. I knew we could be using more federal resources than we were and it grew more and more apparent that our representatives weren’t all that concerned. Then when I learned that our MoC was a millionaire farmer who personally benefited from the high poverty levels, I looked for someone to challenge him. When no one else would, I stepped forward. 

When I ran for office, I got a front row seat to all the ways our political system holds incumbents in place even when they didn’t serve the people all that well. I saw how local reporters framed elections as power plays and never talked about the policies that might help us. And I sat in closed door endorsement meetings filled with friends of the incumbent who steered organizations towards their guy even though he had a terrible voting record.

Why did you join Moms in Office, and what do you hope to achieve through this endeavor in this year’s election?

When I got the call from Simona, I was thrilled to hear about an organization that understood what candidates were going through. And I really liked that she had put a funding model in place that was more helpful than anything I had encountered on the trail. Moms in Office is a rare organization that lives its values, directs 90% of its fundraising towards candidates, and doesn’t require women to raise impossible sums of money to qualify for support. It’s a game changer, and I’m proud to be a part of it. 

My plan for the next year is to help promote great moms running for office and to translate that support into fundraising. I also want to do everything I can to promote all the ways Moms in Office is changing the rules so that other progressive orgs might look towards this good model. I also want to raise awareness more generally so that everyone who supports a great cause will encourage their orgs to back the candidates that align with their values and not just the ones that have already raised the most money. It’s a critical first step towards changing the system into something that truly breaks monied interests hold over our government.

Gina Collias

Gina Collias, Director NC

Gina is an attorney and mother who believes an empathetic government can improve people’s lives. Gina also believes we need female candidates at all levels of government, and encourages women and men to support female candidates. We will change our culture as we continue to be diverse in our leadership. 

What made you run for office initially? 

Prior to the 2016 election, running for Congress was not on my to-do list, but I learned that 7 of our 15 North Carolina College Electors lied under oath about where they lived. With a research team of about 15 attorneys and about 15 paralegals, we found 50 potential invalid Electors across the nation, which meant Trump not only failed to earn the popular vote but that he also failed to earn the Electoral College vote. 19 of the 50 invalid Electors swore they lived in places that did not match their voter registration cards, and 31 of them appeared to hold dual elected offices, which is illegal under the Constitution. For example Pam Bondi, who was on Trump’s transition team and the Attorney General of Florida, signed as a Florida College Elector. My research group sent 1200 pages of documents and evidence to the Senate Judiciary committee, and I thought I had done my civic duty. I never heard anything back, and I knew time was running out so I called all 100 Senators myself and spoke to staff and left messages.

Then we gave the evidence to all House Representative members. Seven Democratic House Representatives stood up for truth and justice, and I will be forever grateful to them. But not one Senator from either party would stand. The Congressional rules require that one Senator and one House Representative stand together to examine this evidence indicating corruption. The entire country should have witnessed thorough Elector scrutinization. We gave the Senate and the House everything they needed for them to be able to choose our president and vice president and to prevent an ill gotten Trump-Pence Presidency, and they failed us. This is the spark of why I ran for Congress. We must protect the Rule of Law. If we don’t have Senators and House Representatives who will stand up for us, then we have a duty to run for office and replace them. We have a duty to vote, and we have a duty to research the candidates before we vote.

Why did you join Moms in Office, and what do you hope to achieve through this endeavor in this year’s election? 

Simona Grace brought Moms in Office to my attention by providing helpful and consistent social media support of liking and sharing posts during my candidacy and by sharing her own inspirational story. I saw positivity and strength in her messages, and I agreed with her that we need to support mothers running for office because less than 5% of Congress members are mothers with children under 18 years old. Women and men need to support women and help close the gender disparity in Congressional representation. 

Sanjanetta Barnes (center)

Sanjanetta Barnes, Director Texas

Sanjanetta is a wife, mother and former Congressional Candidate in TX CD14. She worked for The Texas Democratic Party as Regional Political Director, South-East Texas in the 2018 cycle. She earned a Masters in Public Administration: National Security Affairs as well as International Relations.

What made you run for office initially? 

I ran for office because I wanted things to change. I truly believe in the American promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all. We are constantly hearing about equal rights for women, the LGBTQIA community, the black and brown communities and others, yet we seem to constantly keep falling short when it comes to representation in our elected officials, CEO’s and other positions of leadership. The only way we can ever achieve true equality is if we have representation to reflect that and I wanted to do something about it rather than just talk about it.

Why did you join Moms in Office, and what do you hope to achieve through this endeavor in this year’s election?

I joined Moms in Office because they support women and moms. It’s tough being a candidate and even harder when you are a mother trying to run for office. Moms in Office is truly a sisterhood that is there for each other. Its more than giving candidates financial support because anyone can do that; Moms In Office is also a place where candidates can meet with former candidates to share their personal stories and are there to support current candidates in a time when it my feel like they are alone.

Tatiana Matta with 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Tatiana Matta, Director MA and Puerto Rico

Tatiana was born in Puerto Rico and raised by a single mother, who was a local schoolteacher. When she was in third grade, they moved to Delaware without knowing any English, and with very few possessions, in hopes of a better life. As a military spouse she has been heavily involved in advocating for military families and veterans. She also owns her own consulting business that has worked with non-profits and other political candidates. Tatiana was the co-chair of the veterans and military families committee for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley during his presidential campaign run in 2016. In 2018, she ran for Congress in California’s 23d district against Kevin McCarthy.

What made you run for office initially?

I ran for Congress when my son was 13 years old, and I understand that women, especially moms, face different challenges. Now, more than ever, we want bold leadership that will champion the changes our communities need, and I know women can get it done.

Why did you join Moms in Office, and what do you hope to achieve through this endeavor in this year’s election?

I truly believe that serving our communities comes in different forms. I’m humbled to have joined the Board of Directors of Moms in Office to elevate the voices of women in politics. I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve alongside former congressional candidates and help progressive women get elected at all levels of government.


You can learn more about Moms In Office and support their mission by heading to the website, and making a donation here.

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