I love eastern Washington and the communities that make this region unique. As the fourth generation of my family raised in Spokane’s Hillyard neighborhood, I learned hard work and a fondness for the great outdoors – swimming, hiking, camping, riding horses, visiting orchards. My family didn’t have much money, but we had a lot of love and pride. I was aware from a young age that I had to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way, if I wanted to work my way out of poverty, and couldn’t rely on family connections or resources.
At 16 years old, my senior year at Rogers High School, I moved out on my own, began taking classes at the community college through the running start program, and worked part-time. I graduated high school in 2000 with a year of college completed, finished my AA at Spokane Community College in 2001, and transferred to the University of Washington, finishing my Sociology degree in 2003. I went on to law school in Los Angeles, CA, graduating from Southwestern Law School in 2006. I was the first in my family to obtain a 4 year college degree and graduate degree. But for the people in my community to guide me and support me, I certainly would not have made it to the finish line.
I am very proud of these accomplishments. I worked hard, pursued my education, and reached my goals. However, it was hard, really hard, and came at great hardship and cost. Throughout my educational journey, I struggled to meet my basic needs. I didn’t have health care, I experienced homelessness and food insecurity, and I took on insurmountable student loan debt. I believed the hype, that a degree would bring a high paying job that would allow me to pay back loans, help my family and plan for my future. That was not the reality I encountered when I graduated law school in 2006, in the midst of a global economic crisis. While I saw our government bailout wealthy bankers who bankrupted our financial markets, I saw family and friends losing their homes and investments. I was fortunate enough to save my mom’s home from foreclosure and keep her housed. This added to my personal debt and kept me from starting repayment on student loans and saving for the future.
I know I’m not the only one who’s experienced these struggles or had to prioritize family over debt. No one should have to struggle the way so many of us have had to in order to obtain an education or a good paying job. And we should not expect young people to be exceptional just to survive the circumstances they are born into. Resources to pay for school, housing, and health care, should not be the reason we do not have enough plumbers, electricians, educators, nurses, doctors, or lawyers, in our communities.
In 2016, I came back to Spokane to raise my children close to family, started my own law practice and began serving on nonprofit boards to get more involved in my community. In 2020, I ran for Spokane County Democrat Party Central Committee Chair to support future candidates for office, and lost. I was not deterred though.
In 2021, I was appointed to Spokane County’s Bi-Partisan Redistricting committee. I was the only “unknown quantity” at the table. I brought a different voice and perspective in helping to draw 5 new County Commissioner Districts through a fair and transparent process that resulted in proportional representation for the largest county in our district, for the first time. During this work, I built strong relationships with our 3rd Legislative District eclectic officials, State Senate Leader Andy Billig and House Reps Marcus Riccelli and Timm Ormsby, as well as State Director of Commerce and former Senate Majority Leader, Lisa Brown. With their support and endorsements, I decided to take my shot and run for U.S. House of Representative for the 5th Congressional District.
I know there are not a lot of people with lived experiences like mine in Congress and that’s a problem. I am running for Congress to lift up all communities and bring leadership back to eastern Washington. I truly believe we have more in common than differences and I will fight for the interests of people across our region. Whether you’re in rural, suburban or urban regions in our district, I can promise that I will listen, learn and lead us to more fair and just policies that serve our collective interests and shared values.
Our campaign is people powered and will focus on strengthening Unions and labor, investing in children, families and our environment, and protecting our democracy. As an attorney and advocate for over 15 years, who has taken an oath to uphold our constitutional principles in service to the people, I am well prepared to do this work.
I share my story, my accomplishment and my hardships, in hopes of inspiring others to find ways to get involved in their local communities, whether as a volunteer, an organizer, an advocate, or a run for elected office. I believe there is and must be a place and space for everyone to help shape their community. I also hope to shed light on the difficulties those less-resourced and connected face to pursue the ever-fading American Dream.
In 2022, we have a real opportunity to vote our values, to reign in the far-right extremism that does not define our region, and focus on how to improve systems for all people. So, let’s look past the party labels and focus on what’s important – our lives, our liberties and the pursuit of happiness. Let’s Go!