WHETHER OR NOT THE BLUE WAVE IS A TSUNAMI OR A TRICKLE WILL DEPEND, NOT ONLY ON VOTER TURNOUT, BUT WHO TURNED OUT TO SUPPORT CANDIDATES BEFORE THE MID-TERM ELECTION ON NOVEMBER 6.
Politically divided as the country is, 26-year Topanga resident Melanie Rothschild, a Democrat, knew she would vote but felt helpless that she couldn’t do more to restore balance in the U.S. Congress.
“Like so many of us,” she wrote to the Messenger Mountain News, “I am in a panic about our current administration. Finally, I found a way in which I can make a difference and I want to share it with this community.”
What she shared was an e-mail from friends who discovered Swing Left, a website that lists districts where the winner of the last House of Representatives election was determined by a thin margin (swingleft.org).
They learned that “one of the most hotly contested Congressional swing districts in the country was just a few miles north in Santa Clarita’s 25th District, where Katie Hill, a kick-ass, 30-year-old woman is currently running neck-and-neck with the Republican incumbent, U.S. Congressman Steve Knight. Swing Left has identified this seat as officially ‘flippable;’ Hillary Clinton actually won this district by a mere six points.
The district is less than an hour’s cruise up the I-5 freeway on a delightfully traffic-free Sunday morning.
“For Topangans,” Rothschild suggested, “this is a potent opportunity to pitch in where it will really count. An increasing number of our fellow Topangans are starting to go out there in weekend posses. Door-to-door canvassing campaigns have been proven to work in swaying election results and this is something you can do to make an impact at a time when it’s never been more critical.”
The Messenger Mountain News decided to hitch a ride with Melanie to meet Katie Hill and experience what it was like to canvass for a candidate who seems to have appeared from nowhere to challenge the entrenched incumbent. The race is very close.
CANVASSING FOR KATIE
Katie Hill’s headquarters in Santa Clarita’s District 25 sits between a gun store and a Vape shop. There was no “KATIE HILL FOR CONGRESS” banner fitted above the door; the space, in fact, was blank. Posters in the windows were not noticeable from the street unless you were looking for it, as my driving companion, Melanie Rothschild, was. Inside, millennials sat behind computers waiting to sign in volunteers and register those who were there to meet Katie Hill and walk the district for her on a hot, sticky, sunny Sunday.
Katie Hill grew up in California’s 25th District and currently lives on a rescue animal farm in Agua Dulce with her husband, Kenny, and their dogs, horses, and baby goats
On her website, she declares that “she will fiercely defend the rights and dignity of workers, women, seniors, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and the disabled. She will push hard every day for a VA worthy of our vets, criminal justice policies that work, healthcare that puts patients before profits, and the 21st century infrastructure for a sustainable, equal-opportunity economy. Hill says she is running to be part of a new generation of leaders in a new House majority, and she is eager to put her energy and dedication to work in Washington.” (katiehillforcongress.com)
Hill appeared at the headquarters around 10:30 a.m. to accept the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC.org).
Jo Dee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political affairs for HRC, said, “Katie Hill is the clear choice for voters who believe in fairness, justice, and equality for all. We look forward to working with her in Congress to advance LBGTQ equality.”
“I am deeply proud to have the support of the HRC, an organization that champions and provides necessary services for the LGBTQ community,” Hill said. “I know how LGBTQ people are disparately impacted by issues like homelessness and lack of access to health care.”
Hill is challenging incumbent U.S. Congressman Steve Knight, who in 2016, according to HRC, voted to add an anti-LGBTQ provision to the National Defense Authorization Act that, had it become law, could have permitted sweeping anti-LGBTQ discrimination in all federal agencies and jeopardized President Obama’s executive order prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in federal contracting.
Thanking about 50 volunteers who were ready to walk the district, Hill proclaimed, to great applause, “We’ve knocked on 100,000 doors since the primaries.” As Hill left, volunteers took off in pairs to raise that number.
Rothschild’s assignment had 107 addresses; it took five hours to visit 60 houses. When people weren’t home, volunteers wrote notes and signed their first names on Katie’s flyers and tucked them under the doormats.
Rothschild was encouraged that two people requested that signs be placed on their properties and one woman, a Republican, refused to plant a sign in her yard, but said she will vote for Hill.
Two hours and 20 houses into what became a marathon for me, shoes I thought would be comfortable were unbearable. We made a run to Target, but even a new pair of Skechers and $50 later, nothing could save my feet. I sat out the last round in the car with windows and doors wide open to catch what little breeze there was, while Melanie took on the another 20.
That was a long day.
“This area is amazingly diverse,” Rothschild observed at the end of the day. We both thought this area was largely Republican, but it’s considered to be purple, a swing district that might go blue this time.
This was Rothschild’s fourth time canvassing and she is committed to driving to Santa Clarita every Sunday until Election Day (November 6).
WHO IS KATIE HILL?
Her mom, a Democrat, was a nurse, and her dad, a Republican, was a cop. She went to all public schools in the area and embodies that district with her very being. She graduated from Cal State Northridge with a master’s in Public Administration and became executive director of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH). After the 2016 election, she realized that many of the gains realized in her work with PATH would likely be undermined by a Trump agenda. She felt the “call” and beat out three other candidates to win the Democratic primary.
Her opponent, Steve Knight, has the third highest Congressional record for voting with Trump, and plenty of money from corporate sponsors and the Republican Party.
Hill explained that she doesn’t take corporate money. Her strategy is to clobber her competitor with a volunteer ground force, who go out every weekend, canvassing door-to-door in the expansive district. The power of face-to-face contact is what has made Katie a serious contender for unseating this deeply entrenched incumbent. A lot of people in the area still don’t know Katie’s name; some of them don’t know there’s an election this fall.
To see Katie and her team in action, check out the two segments that Vice News ran about her earlier this year: “How a Campaign Really Gets Made,” https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/9k88ea/heres-how-katie-hill-just-won-a-primary-everyone-wanted-her-to-lose; “Inside the Most Millennial Campaign Ever For Congress,” https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/mbkav4/inside-katie-hill-campaign-for-congress
For more about Katie Hill and the campaign: katiehillforcongress.com.
Malibu Democratic Club: malibudemocraticclub.org
Pacific Palisades Democratic Club: palisadesdemclub.org
Westside Democratic Headquarters: www.facebook.com/westsidedemhq.org
Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains: PDSMM.org