A decision on what has become a major issue in a Wichita County race is expected to come out of Austin on Wednesday. The challenger for a commissioners seat says it will have an impact on many future candidates, or would-be candidates now hesitant to run for office.
Democrat Precinct 4 Wichita County Commissioner candidate Catie Robinson, drew both support and criticism when she filed her child care expense as a campaign contribution.
She was a stay at home mom before running for office and didn’t have childcare expenses until she began her campaign. She is convinced she is justified and hopeful she will get a favorable ruling Wednesday.
Catie Robinson has one and three-year-olds and when she started her campaign for Precinct 4 county commissioner against incumbent Republican Jeff Watts. She took them along with her to the campaign events but that soon became too much to deal with. So, She filed her donated child care expenses as a campaign contribution and she thinks it should be allowed.
“To me, it’s just as practical as any other expense. There are allowances in our election code for tuxedo rentals and county judge portraits and Christmas cards and candidates can use the money for things like that. And I think that child care is just as practical if not more so as a lot of those things,” Robinson said.
Her opponent, incumbent County Commissioner Jeff Watts first criticized the filing in media reports, but now says knowing how she filed that she is not in the wrong.
“Catie did the right thing. She had a person that contributed with helping her watch her children while she went to campaign duties so she reported that as a contribution to her campaign,” Watts said.
Watts is not okay with is using your campaign funds to pay for personal expenses.
“For me to use it to fix my pickup or buy gas or do those kinds of things that would be considered personable, buying shirts or going to buy a new suit or pay for things that would not fit in the realm of a candidates obligations, I’m opposed to that altogether,” Watts said.
The case went to the Texas Ethics Commission when someone offered to donate money to Robinson’s campaign to pay for child care and Robinson asked for an opinion on whether that was allowed. In the end, someone offered to provide the daycare as a donation.
“I hope that they are supportive of the ultimate goal which is to make it easier for more people to run for office because it’s better for everybody when we have a more diverse representation in government and without something like this, without childcare as an option for campaign contributions, it’s hard for people to run for office,” Robinson said.
If she gets the ruling in her favor Wednesday, the Ethics Commission will establish a new standard statewide of what is allowed and what is not. Alabama is currently the only state to allow child care expenses as campaign expenses.