Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Female Members Growing Their Families and Parties

By Nathan L. Gonzales

Last spring, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) became the first serving Member of Congress to give birth in more than a decade. Now, Congress is going through a mini baby boom.

South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D), and her husband, former Texas Rep. Max Sandlin (D), announced this week that they are expecting their first child in late December.

Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) just gave birth to her second child, a son, on May 15. McMorris Rodgers gave birth to her son in April 2007, and she was the fifth woman to have a baby while serving in Congress.

Each of the most recent moms has handled their political careers differently. McMorris Rodgers didn’t announce her pregnancy until after her competitive 2006 re-election.

After knocking off Rep. John Sweeney (R) last cycle, Gillibrand was initially regarded as one of the more vulnerable Democratic freshmen, but her fundraising and polling numbers have her in solid shape for re-election.

Herseth Sandlin is not in danger of losing re-election, but she is mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2010.

Back in 1996, then-Rep. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) chose not to seek re-election, and she gave birth to twin boys in June of the election year. But she made a political comeback two years later, winning an open Senate seat.

New York Rep. Susan Molinari (R) gave birth to a daughter that year as well. And later that summer, the Congresswoman went on to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, mentioning her daughter in her conclusion. Molinari left Congress a year later, however, to pursue a career in broadcasting. She is now a Washington, D.C., lobbyist.

In 1995, freshman Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz (R-Utah) gave birth to a daughter. But her political career was short-lived — her then-husband, Joe Waldholtz, who had managed her winning campaign, became embroiled in personal and campaign finance scandals, and Waldholtz — now known as Enid Greene — had to abandon her 1996 re-election campaign. She ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Utah in 2004, and also briefly served as chairwoman of the Utah GOP.

Former California Rep. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (D) was the first woman to give birth while serving in Congress, when she had a daughter in 1973. She served in the House for five more years, losing a bid for California attorney general in 1978. But Brathwaite Burke remains in politics today, and has served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors since 1992. Now 75, she plans to retire when her term ends later this year.

This item first appeared on on July 24, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.