Family

The 2020 Democratic Candidates Sure Don’t Want to Talk About Using Paid Child Care

We asked.

Beto O'Rourke leans down and puts his arms around his three children at an event.
Beto O’Rourke talks with his children during a campaign rally on March 30 in El Paso, Texas.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In a piece published late last month, Vox’s Anna North asked the male 2020 Democratic candidates who have young children to answer a question: Who is taking care of your kids while you run for president? Rep. Eric Swalwell, who has two children younger than 3, answered that his wife, who is “a national sales director for Ritz-Carlton,” is lucky enough to have “a career that allows her to work from home most of the time, but it’s still a herculean task to work with two young kids around.” An aunt “lends us a hand at times,” and they “sometimes” do friend swaps for babysitting. The campaign of Rep. Seth Moulton, whose daughter is 7 months old, referred North to an interview in which Moulton said, in response to a query about “juggling” an infant and a presidential campaign: “I miss my daughter every single day. It was a hard decision to get into this race. But I want my daughter to grow up in a better world.” Which was not really an answer. And Beto O’Rourke, whose kids are 8, 10, and 12, sent this message via his spokesman Chris Evans: Beto “has acknowledged that when he’s on the road, [his wife] Amy has the lion’s share of the child-care responsibilities while also working in El Paso. Additionally, Beto and Amy are fortunate to have several family members in the community who are able to give support and help out.”

Notice anything missing? I suppose it’s possible that the only other people helping out, say, Amy O’Rourke, whose family is quite wealthy, are her relatives, but it seems doubtful that there’s not a single housekeeper, driver, nanny, or au pair involved with their day-to-day pickups and drop-offs. Overall, the cautious answers of the candidates, which emphasized the help of family members and friends, suggests that although child care is now a campaign issue—thanks, mostly, to Elizabeth Warren—some Democrats are still a bit uncomfortable talking about their own experiences using paid child care in raising their families. So I decided to ask them about it.

I reached out to the campaigns of all the Democratic candidates with kids, including those whose children are now grown, with one direct question: “What kind of paid child care has the candidate’s family used, if any—and how often?” Only six campaigns replied to repeated inquiries with a willingness to go on the record. Here’s what I got, starting with the candidates mentioned above. We will update this post with more answers, if we get them.

Candidate: Beto O’Rourke
Kids: Three, ages 8, 10, and 12
Experience with paid child care: When I asked the O’Rourke campaign if the O’Rourkes use any paid child care, the campaign replied: “Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to have anything for you.”

Candidate: Eric Swalwell
Kids: Two, younger than 1 and age 2
Experience with paid child care: The Swalwell campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Seth Moulton
Kids: One, younger than 1
Experience with paid child care: “Liz and Seth both work full-time and travel for their jobs. They have a paid caregiver and both of their parents help babysit as well. Seth recognizes that not everyone is in a position where they have access to a support system like this, which is why he is a champion of paid family leave and wants to expand the child care tax credit as well as the child tax credit and making them fully refundable.”

Candidate: Elizabeth Warren
Kids: Two, ages 43 and 47
Experience with paid child care: Warren’s campaign sent us several links to speeches and stories containing Warren’s history with day cares and sitters she used to care for her children when they were young.

Candidate: Michael Bennet
Kids: Three, One in college, one in high school, one in middle school
Experience with paid child care: The campaign would not speak on the record.

Candidate: Joe Biden
Kids: Four, two surviving, ages 37 and 49
Experience with paid child care: The Biden campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Steve Bullock
Kids: Three, ages 12, 14, and 17
Experience with paid child care: “With relatively young kids at home, my wife Lisa and I have lived the experience of families all across the country. When our kids were younger and with both of us in the workforce, we paid dearly for quality childcare. We know firsthand that a quality day care program can cost more than college tuition. During the elementary years, we relied on after school programs offered by our local school district. And, even now, it is a daily effort to shuttle kids between activities and after school activities. Lisa and I are lucky to be raising our kids in our hometown, surrounded by close friends and family that have been there for us from the beginning.”

Candidate: Julián Castro
Kids: Two, ages 4 and 9
Experience with paid child care: The Castro campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Bill de Blasio
Kids: Two, ages 21 and 24
Experience with paid child care: The de Blasio campaign did not respond.

Candidate: John Delaney
Kids: Four, ages 10, 17, 20, and 24
Experience with paid child care: The Delaney campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Kirsten Gillibrand
Kids: Two, ages 11 and 16
Experience with paid child care: An aide to Gillibrand said the senator has relied on a combination of day care and after-school programs while raising her sons.

Candidate: Mike Gravel
Kids: Two, late 50s
Experience with paid child care: The Gravel campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Kamala Harris
Kids: Two stepchildren, 19 and 24
Experience with paid child care: The Harris campaign did not respond.

Candidate: John Hickenlooper
Kids: One, 16
Experience with paid child care: The Hickenlooper campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Amy Klobuchar
Kids: One, mid-20s
Experience with paid child care: The Klobuchar campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Wayne Messam
Kids: Three, college-age
Experience with paid child care: The Messam campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Tim Ryan
Kids: Three, including two stepchildren, ages 4, 15, and 16
Experience with paid child care: The Ryan campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Bernie Sanders
Kids: Four, including three stepchildren, 40s and 50s
Experience with paid child care: The Sanders campaign did not respond.

Candidate: Marianne Williamson
Kids: One, age 29
Experience with paid child care: “When my daughter was young, I had continuous professional assistance from nannies and babysitters as I traveled for my work. The experience deepened my understanding of the needs of the working mother, and my commitment to the struggle for every woman to be able to actualize her dreams both professionally and maternally without sacrificing either.”

Candidate: Andrew Yang
Kids: Two, ages unclear
Experience with paid child care: “While I am on the campaign trail, my wife Evelyn watches after our two young children, one of whom is autistic, at home full time. We have help from my mother and mother-in-law as well as various sitters and other family members. Occasionally, my family is able to join me on the campaign trail which is always welcome and makes campaigning more enjoyable, but Evelyn really is the rock of our family and without her, everything would fall apart. We must do more to support and recognize the work being done in our homes and communities each day. My wife inspires me to work harder both at home and on the trail.”