Running for office and running after a daring toddler don't always mix so well. And that obstacle may be keeping certain New Jerseyans, particularly women, from throwing their hat in the ring.

Following the lead of a handful of states, New Jersey could be the next to permit political candidates to use campaign funds for certain child care expenses.

Under a piece of legislation which would take effect immediately and has already received the green light from the full state Senate and an Assembly committee, candidates are allowed to count child care expenses as "campaign expenses," as long as they're directly related to campaign activity and would not otherwise exist.

"It's really important because the childcare burden has disproportionately fallen on women," Jean Sinzdak, associate director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said of the measure.

According to Sinzdak, women have traditionally waited until they were older to run for office, because of "family responsibilities."

"We all know childcare is enormously expensive, and this sort of removes that obstacle and makes it easier for parents to run for office," Sinzdak said.

The bill applies to all parents who may incur childcare expenses while campaigning, not just women.

According to the Center, New Jersey ranks 20th among the states for female representation in the Legislature. The percentage of women has hovered around 30% for several years.

The Federal Election Commission announced last year it would allow political candidates for federal office to pay for child care with campaign funds. States such as Colorado and Utah have laws that permit the practice on a state level. New York and other states are attempting to achieve the same. The practice is also permitted by campaign finance officials in other states, but not enshrined in law.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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