Former state Rep. Kelda Helen Roys on Tuesday released her first gubernatorial campaign video — in which she breastfeeds her 4-month-old daughter on camera.
Though some companies have shown breastfeeding mothers in ads, Roys’ two-minute video is likely the first time a political candidate has been shown nursing on camera in a campaign video, said Travis Nelson Ridout, a political science professor at Washington State University and co-director of Wesleyan Media Project, which studies and tracks political advertising.
“That’s definitely something new,” Ridout said. “There’s probably an expectation, a hope, that something like this will go viral and get media attention. … It’s so different from what we expect to see in a political ad. Sometimes we do see politicians’ families, but we don’t see something as intimate as breastfeeding in political ads.”
The video was released a day after a statewide poll showed her garnering only 0.3 percent support in the crowded Democratic gubernatorial race.
A campaign press release about the video described it as “groundbreaking,” though it didn’t specifically mention the breastfeeding moment.
In an interview, Roys acknowledged her breastfeeding was part of the reason for describing it that way, but she said the moment wasn’t scripted.
She said the video highlights that she’s running as herself.
“In 2018, people are hungry for people who speak the truth and say what they mean and are authentic,” Roys said. “Having my kids in this video shows people that I am highly motivated to make this state a better place for them and for all our kids.”
Roys, 38, gave birth to her second daughter last fall while she was assembling a gubernatorial campaign. She was a legislator representing Madison from 2009 to 2013 before she ran unsuccessfully for Congress.
In the ad, Roys talks about working on legislation that banned children’s cups with the chemical bisphenol A (BPA).
The video includes shots of her with her husband, baby and 4-year-old daughter.
At one point, the 4-month-old can be heard crying on the set and Roys asks to hold her while the camera continues to roll. She then lifts her sweater and begins breastfeeding while the camera pans up to her face.
Roys said the video was a long shoot and her family was there, so when her daughter was crying she did what she usually does.
“I was right in the middle of talking so they just kept rolling figuring they would be able to use the sound,” Roys said. “They knew the baby was going to be there and they knew I was going to be taking care of the baby sometimes.”
Roys was outspoken about breastfeeding during her time in office, helping pass legislation that protected a woman’s right to breastfeed in public without being asked to move or cover up in 2010. During the 2011 protests over Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining law, now known as Act 10, her office became an informal nursing room for mothers to escape the din inside the Capitol rotunda.
Roys said the tide is turning for women in politics, noting U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois became the first senator to give birth.
“I don’t view it as a downside, the fact that I have kids,” Roys said. “I view it as my greatest motivator and I think there are parents all over the state that will relate to that because they want the same things for their kids as I want for mine.”