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Ghorbani to take advantage of new rule allowing campaign cash to pay for child care

SALT LAKE CITY -- Shireen Ghorbani's 3-year-old son Desmond got ready for school, while she got ready to hit the campaign trail.

"Mom runs for congress!" he said in response to a reporter's question about what his mother does.

The Democratic candidate for Utah's 2nd Congressional District is taking advantage of a new Federal Election Commission ruling allowing her to spend campaign cash to cover the cost of child care. Ghorbani is the first candidate in Utah to utilize it.

"That's hundreds more doors that I'm able to knock on because of this kind of support," she said in an interview with FOX 13 on Friday. "So it's a real way that we're sustaining and showing that women, especially women with children, can do this."

Ghorbani is running against incumbent Republican congressman Chris Stewart. His campaign declined to comment on Ghorbani's use of campaign funds on Friday.

The FEC ruling is significant because it lifts a big barrier for women who want to run for political office, said Morgan Lyon Cotti, the associate director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

"Utah has always struggled to elect female candidates and even get women to run," she said. "Removing barriers should help. However, this FEC ruling is just for federal candidates."

Cotti said more women are running for office than ever before.

"Research shows women face a lot more barriers and even put barriers on themselves thinking they have to be on a certain level in the profession, their intelligence, or maybe a certain life stage before they can run," she said. "Making it so they can run as young parents removes a lot of the barriers and helps with the stigma showing young parents can do this, too."

Shireen Ghorbani and her 3-year-old son, Desmond, at her home on Sept. 7, 2018. (Image by Pete Deluca, FOX 13 News)

Ghorbani said she will spend about $2,000 for child care from now until November. She's taken a leave of absence from her job to travel the 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from Farmington to St. George.  She's also preparing for her only debate with Rep. Stewart, which is Sept. 17 at Dixie State University.

Campaign donors have been very accepting of her use with their contributions, Ghorbani said.

"I love my son. I've had him at campaign events, but it's a real roll of the dice to see if he's going to be screaming in my face while I'm trying to speak to a crowd of people or if he'll happily play with other kids. You never know what's going to happen," she laughed. "Which I guess is like campaigning!"