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The new PAC Matriarch aims to give support and financial backing to the congressional campaigns of low-income and working-class women. (Photo: Matriarch)

Newly-Launched PAC Matriarch Aims to Send Working-Class Women, Often Ignored by Political Establishment, to Congress

"Money should not be a factor for what makes a woman a worthwhile candidate."

Julia Conley

Working and low-income progressive women whose congressional runs go overlooked by establishment political action groups have a new resource for funding their campaigns: the newly-launched organization Matriarch.

The group—whose founding members include board director Nomiki Konst, a former candidate for public advocate in New York City; former Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores; and former California state assembly candidate Jovanka Beckles—shared its overarching mission on Twitter:

"Working-class women who beat the odds to run for office and win are rare. We won't rest until the exception is the rule," the group tweeted.

The group details its mission statement on its website.

"Now more than ever, we need strong, progressive working women at the helm of government," the statement reads. "Domestic workers. Teachers. Home health aides. Food-service workers. No one knows better what it feels like to work for less than $15 an hour. What it means to have no healthcare. What it tastes like when your tap water runs brown. No one knows better the human cost of gun violence, police brutality, and family separation."

"For working-class candidates, raising huge sums of money in a short amount of time—while also working one or more jobs—is often unthinkable. These are the candidates who need and deserve early assistance and infrastructure support, because they are personally connected to the issues they are fighting for."
"For working-class candidates, raising huge sums of money in a short amount of time—while also working one or more jobs—is often unthinkable," the group continues. "These are the candidates who need and deserve early assistance and infrastructure support, because they are personally connected to the issues they are fighting for."

With more than three dozen progressive women on its founding board—including many former candidates themselves—Matriarch will offer working-class women's campaigns the support and financial backing that larger organizations, like EMILY's List, frequently withhold from candidates who aren't wealthy or backed by rich donors.

Within just days of announcing its launch on social media late last month, Matriarch has already received 1,500 nominations for working-class women's campaigns, according to The Intercept. The group is taking nominations until December 1 and plans to make its first endorsements by January.

It's a model like the one used by progressive group Justice Democrats, who endorsed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) after receiving her nomination from her brother, when the congresswoman was taking part in protests at Standing Rock Indian Reservation and working as a bartender. 

When Ocasio-Cortez challenged former Rep. Joe Crowley in the 2018 Democratic primary for New York's 14th congressional district, the pro-choice PAC EMILY's list declined to endorse her along with a number of other female progressives during that cycle. The group trains, helps fund, and endorses pro-choice women who are running for office, but progressives are critical of the organization for leaving economic justice and working-class women, who generally can't afford to run a campaign full-time and who aren't independently wealthy, out of their mission.

As Konst explained on the podcast "The Majority Report" last month, Matriarch will prioritize financially backing women who run for office with few resources and who make economic justice a central message of their campaigns.

"The goal of the group is to fill a space because we think that economic justice and intersectional issues are not prioritized when supporting women running for office, but also if you're a working woman running for office you most likely don't have access to wealth," Konst said. "So we want to help, really from the ground level, a lot of these candidates."

Some of the women on Matriarch's founding team have had their own experiences being passed over for support from EMILY's List.

In 2016, the group endorsed Susie Lee, a wealthy philanthropist, over Flores in the campaign for Nevada's 4th congressional district, reasoning that Lee had "over half a million dollars more in her campaign account than Lucy."

"They continue to exist as if they're these big champions of women, but really what they are is a champion of rich white women," Flores told Buzzfeed News in 2018.

A number of progressive observers applauded Matriarch for offering support for women whose own struggles with poverty and inequality could help them to give working families unprecedented representation in Congress.

"Our current electoral system works against working people and is biased towards those who are independently wealthy," Beckles told The Intercept. "We need systemic change that recognizes that—as designed—the status quo automatically significantly eliminates those that are most affected by these policies."

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