'So they broke the news that I'm in labor, yeah?' Maye Quade asked the audience as she took the stage for her speech.
For months Minnesota state Senate candidate Erin Maye Quade's campaign team joked about it. What if Maye Quade—pregnant with her first child—gave birth on April 23, the day of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's District 56 convention where delegates would gather to vote on who would be the party's nominee for the race. As fate would have it, the 36-year-old was in active labor Saturday, the day of the convention, while she delivered a speech to roughly 200 delegates in attendance. A video of her speech, captured and shared on social media by attendee Karrah Marie Cheruiyot, is now bringing widespread attention to the difficulties expectant mothers face.
Minnesota state Senate candidate Erin Maye Quade was in active labor while she delivered a speech to delegates at the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's District 56 convention. https://t.co/MEbBkL4i0E— ABC News (@ABC) April 29, 2022
"So they broke the news that I'm in labor, yeah?" Maye Quade asked the audience as she took the stage for her speech. Even as her contractions intensified, she spoke to those in attendance in the hopes of wooing delegates to win her party's endorsement. "This is our moment to build our future together—to unlock the powerful, life-affirming, transformative kind of politics that means we can help achieve safe and stable communities, create economic opportunity and prosperity and safeguard our civil and human rights, and strengthen our human and public infrastructure. Excuse me," she said, pausing briefly while she doubled over and gripped a nearby surface with both hands, visibly in pain.
Many in the crowd responded with a few cheers as it had now become obvious Maye Quade was in active labor. After a few deep breaths, she proclaimed, "I'm good!" and continued with her speech. They were approaching the first round of balloting, where either Maye Quade or her opponent, Justin Emmerich, might receive 60% of the delegates' votes to win the party's endorsement outright.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Maye Quade's campaign manager, Mitchell Walstad, revealed that she'd texted him at 6:15 a.m. that day to let him know that she had gone into labor four hours earlier. "We weren't sure she was going to make it," he revealed. Nevertheless, Maye Quade arrived at the convention hall, gave her speech and even labored through the question-and-answer period that followed the speeches.
"It was like 10 questions back and forth," Walstad said. "At one point, they had to switch up the order, I believe, because she was having a contraction in the middle of when she was supposed to answer." According to Maye Quade's team, when she approached Emmerich to ask if he would support suspending the convention to move on to a primary (since neither one of the candidates looked likely to secure the nomination outright at the point), Emmerich did not agree. However, in a statement, he disputed that he told Maye Quade no outright. "After the first ballot had been completed, I received word from a member of my campaign that the results showed me leading by 55-44 percent (1 percent abstaining)," he said. "I was on my way to talk to my floor manager to verify this information when Erin pulled me aside."
Minnesota state senate candidate Erin Maye Quade eventually withdrew from the nomination procedure and went to the hospital. She gave birth hours later. https://t.co/YQvB04hO8d— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) April 27, 2022
"She asked if I would be willing to suspend the convention and take the race to a primary since it appeared to be about even," Emmerich added. "I responded by saying I hadn't verified the count yet and would get back to her. She said that was fine. However, before I was able to speak with her again, she made the decision to suspend her campaign." When the votes from the first round of balloting were tallied, the results showed Maye Quade's prediction was correct. Eventually, Emmerich won the DFL party's endorsement after Maye Quade—who was at her "breaking point"—withdrew from the endorsement process so she could go to the hospital instead of remaining to try to convince delegates to switch their votes to her, Walstad said.
This Minnesota state Senate candidate delivered her campaign speech while fighting through labor contractions.@ErinMayeQuade went into labor the same morning her party's delegates voted for nominees. She was forced to withdraw from the race to have the baby. pic.twitter.com/bXybXCMbqH— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 27, 2022
Emma McBride, the political director of Women Winning and one of Maye Quade's supporters, who was at the convention Saturday, said Maye Quade's campaign did not make a formal request to suspend or postpone the convention. It would have required the support of at least two-thirds of the delegates; something they thought was unlikely since Emmerich did not agree to Maye Quade’s personal request. She also expressed her disappointment in party leaders as no one stepped in to suspend the proceedings when they witnessed Maye Quade in active labor.
I have seen a lot of justifications for the decision to just keep right on running the convention and endorsing when Erin Maye Quade had to go to the hospital to deliver a baby and wow is it ever a vivid example of the structural ways in which women are shoved out of politics. https://t.co/pMX0STozLr— Naomi Kritzer 🦕🦖 (@NaomiKritzer) April 24, 2022
"Erin had a contraction during her speech in front of a room of 200 people and then again during her Q&A," McBride said. "While her opponent continued on answering the question, she was bent over in the chair holding her wife's hand—and then immediately afterward was handed the mic and expected to answer a question, which she did and she did flawlessly." Maye Quade's supporters are now pointing out that had a candidate been experiencing any other medical emergency—like a seizure or heart attack—the convention would not have proceeded as it did on Saturday. "While we were in awe of her strength, it was actually horrifying to watch a woman go through this vulnerable experience with nobody with the power to do so stepping in and putting an end to it," McBride said.
Clare Oumou Verbeten, a candidate for another state Senate seat, said in a Facebook post that it hurt her "to see this very public display of a Black woman pushing through pain. Black women are always expected to be so strong. We deserve tenderness, care and rest." Walstad revealed that while it is unlikely that Maye Quade's campaign will appeal to the state party, he would like to see the process become more inclusive and respectful of all people's health and well-being. "Like, if someone was like, 'Hey, Erin had a heart attack.' There's no way that the people would have got up and said, 'Well, we have to endorse by acclamation!'" Walstad said. "Definitely the feeling we got was like we have to prioritize politics over health because otherwise, we're just... out of luck, you know? And that's not a good system."