Elections commission rules against young mother

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A local state rep. race in last fall’s election is attracting national attention, not because of who won, but because of an issue involving the young woman that lost.

33-year-old Caitlin Clarkson Pereira lost her bid in last year’s election for a state rep. seat in Fairfield, but she’s now on a different mission.

She asked for a decision from the State Elections Enforcement Commission on whether or not it is legal to use public campaign funds for child care. She had to pay $15 an hour for someone to take care of 4-year-old Parker so she could campaign for office.

It was an effort that even Hillary Clinton was watching, having tweeted about it last month.

On Wednesday, after a lengthy investigation, the Commission ruled that she cannot and that the state legislature would have to change the rules of the Public Campaign Finance law. 

“We think that it’s more appropriate for the legislature to weigh in in a public hearing process that would occur at the legislature,” said SEEC Executive Director Michael Brandi.

Attorney David Kozlowski, who’s helping Pereira with the case, said, “I think they’re concerned that this will open up a slippery slope, but every decision they make opens a slippery slope.”

The Commission ruled long ago that it’s okay to use privately-raised campaign funds for child care, but now says there is no provision in the law for using the public funding. When a candidate runs for election for state rep., they must raise $5,100 in small private donations in order to qualify for $28,000 in public funding. The ruling means it’s the public funding that’s off limits for child care expenses. 

“It’s not just about candidates. It’s not just about women or parents or working families. It’s really about setting the bar for legislation moving forward because it impacts the people who can run, therefore, the people that we elect,” said Pereira.

Following Wednesday’s decision, Governor Ned Lamont said the legislature should make the change to allow the public funds to be used for child care by candidates.

Pereira said she may not wait for the legislature to address this, as that probably won’t be until next year.  

She said she and the lawyer that’s helping her with this are considering appealing the decision to Superior Court.

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