On Nov. 6, Democrat Katie Hill will face off against two-term Republican incumbent Steve Knight for a seat in the 25th U.S. Congressional District. At press time, the race is neck and neck, with current polls showing Hill to be slightly ahead but well within the margin of error. But the former executive director of PATH, the nonprofit that advocates for people experiencing homelessness, is feeling confident.
“The margin is definitely on our side and frankly, right now it’s a turnout game,” Hill says. “We have the best field operation that I’ve ever heard of in a congressional race. We’ve knocked on, including the primary, a quarter of a million doors. We’ve got an incredible team of volunteers. We’re seeing some amazing enthusiasm, and it’s all about making sure we don’t do something stupid in the next few weeks.”
Hill is keen to highlight the fact that she is, in her own words, a “regular person” going up against a career politician. She isn’t accepting money from corporate PACs and so she says she won’t be beholden to anyone should she win.
“Really, the biggest thing I want to highlight is that I was not planning on becoming a politician,” Hill says. “I’m running this campaign as a real person. I haven’t changed my positions to try to be more electable, I’ve been incredibly transparent during this entire process to the point that it stresses out every consultant and every organization that has endorsed me. People across the country right now are stepping up and saying, something is fundamentally wrong with our system. It had allowed us to get to this point where we’ve had decades of dysfunction, partisan politics and elected officials who are putting special interests and corporations above the needs of real people.”
This, Hill believes, marks a huge difference between her and Knight, who she believes is accountable to big corporate donors and who will sell out the people of his district given the opportunity. (The 25th, the only district covering any part of L.A. that's represented by a Republican, includes part of northern L.A. County and part of Ventura County; it contains the cities of Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Palmdale and Lancaster as well as the northern part of the San Fernando Valley.)
“He’s someone that will tell you one thing and then do completely the opposite,” HIll says of her opponent. “He’s a very typical politician. The truth is, he will literally sacrifice the people of his district to keep Kevin McCarthy and the Koch brothers happy. He voted nine separate times to repeal the [Affordable Care Act]. He’s someone who believes that women shouldn’t have an abortion even in the case of incest or rape. So his policy decisions are horrible, and yet all the while he’s painting himself as a moderate because he knows he’s in trouble in his district. What I have the biggest problem with is the fact that he’s dishonest about all of it. If he just said, ‘Yeah, I’m a conservative, take it or leave it,’ then that’s fine. I mean, it’s still something I wouldn’t agree with, because I think that it doesn’t represent our district anymore. He’s basically two-faced and is untruthful.”
Hill worked with PATH for eight years and she believes that the experience, already invaluable, would prove particularly vital if she wins this coming election. She knows just how complex the issue of homelessness is but she also has a head start when it comes to tackling it.
“Homelessness itself is the culmination of so many other things that are wrong with our society,” she says. “The criminal justice system, inequality, poverty, mental health and substance abuse. Oh, and the biggest one is affordable housing. The lack of affordable housing in our communities, high rents and low vacancy rates — that’s the No. 1 correlation to homelessness in any community across the board. So being able to deal with that crisis has to be our first priority. Right now we have 435 members of Congress, 100 senators, and none of them have expertise in the issue of homelessness or affordable housing. It’s something that I want to be a champion for. I believe I can be a much-needed voice, and it’s really becoming more of an issue across the entire country.”
Meanwhile, Hill has been running on an immigration policy that is both tough and fair. She describes her approach as “common-sense” — a need for laws and regulations, but the absolute necessity for empathy and decency.
“I believe that it’s totally possible for us to have border security while at the same time a completely humane approach to immigration,” Hill says. “Recognition that we have people like the DACAs who have been living and working here for their entire lifetime and deserve to be able to — they’re already effectively citizens in every way except for the rights that they deserve. People who came here as adults but who have been contributing members of our society for so long. Study after study has shown that the economy was formed to allow for immigration. But at the same time, I believe that we need to be taking precautions and measures to ensure that the people coming across the border are not criminals, and that drug trafficking is not happening, sex trafficking is not happening, and if people are here legally or illegally, if they’re committing violent felonies then we need to deal with them appropriately.”
If she’s victorious in November, Hill says the first thing she and her fellow Democrats need to do is restore the people’s faith in the democratic process. She’s right, too — thanks to a president in power via the electoral college, dark money and possible Russian election interference, people are disillusioned.
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“To me, that means making some pretty aggressive moves on how we’re going to do things with campaign finance reform, transparency, and really showing that we’re here to try to change this government,” Hill says. “We have to show that we are going to be accountable to the people of this district, and the nation as a whole, rather than the typical partisan politics or the special interests that have been driving the political process for so long. A lot of the laws that we’re going to be dealing with were left unsaid because basic human decency would say that you can’t do these kinds of things, but apparently no, in this day and age we have to put them in writing.”
Hill wants to change these things, because she believes it’s her moral duty.
“The reality is that there’s no one else who is going to fix this system for us,” she says. “It’s up to us. We have a moral duty to do everything we can to save our democracy. We have incredible power if we stand up and vote. We can’t deny that power.”
For more information about Katie Hill, go to katiehillforcongress.com.