“Women have absolutely had it with powerful men trying to keep them down”
House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler is facing a tough opponent for his New York Congressional seat: Democrat Lindsey Boylan. The 35-year-old progressive is challenging the incumbent Democrat in the 2020 primary for New York’s 10th district — almost à la Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Congressman Joe Crowley back in 2018. We chatted with Boylan about what is motivating her to run, and why she wants to see more women in positions of power on Capitol Hill.
Katie Couric: You’ve said that you decided to run because of your “daughter’s future.” What specifically does that mean for you, in terms of what you hope to accomplish if elected?
Lindsey Boylan: Immediate action to address inequality and climate change and protecting our democracy from the tyranny of the Trump administration are at the top of my priorities. For the first time in the history of the United States, my generation is financially worse off than our parents. Since 1980, the average pretax income of the top tenth of Americans has doubled, it has tripled for the top 1%, and that of the top 0.001 percent has risen more than sevenfold, yet for the bottom half of Americans, it has stayed almost precisely the same. It’s simply astonishing that there has been no growth for the bottom half of Americans since before the internet. This stark inequality is untenable and it’s immoral.
Likewise, we can’t wait to act on climate change. This isn’t a problem for the future; we’re experiencing it now. Almost 250 Americans were killed last year because of extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. And those events cost us over $91 billion dollars. It’s only going to get far, far worse for us here, too. Over a third of properties in lower Manhattan will be at severe risk of storm surge by 2050. We need a massive mobilization of investment to transform our infrastructure and communities. We have to think big — as in a pragmatic Green New Deal — and act fast before it’s too late.
Tell us a little bit about your background and why you’re drawn to public service…
The year that I graduated from Wellesley College, the activist Jane Jacobs died. Because I read about her life’s work and her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, I fell in love with urban planning and decided to move to New York City. I moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan with no job and less than $100 in my bank account, like so many young women who come to this city — basically not sure how it will all work out, but completely confident that we’ll find a way.
My first job in the city was with urban planner Alex Garvin. I read that he had worked with Jane Jacobs, so I reached out to him and basically pestered him until he hired me. From there I went on to oversee Bryant Park. I later got my MBA from Columbia Business School while working full time. That led me to working for New York State, where I served the state as deputy secretary of economic development and special advisor to the governor. I’m very proud of my work for New York State. It’s where I helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars for underfunded public housing in New York and was instrumental in creating new job growth in the state. I was a strong advocate for passing Paid Family Leave; I helped lead the fight for a $15 minimum wage in New York; and I led the state’s efforts to provide assistance for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
I admired your moxie in standing up to the Democratic donor who criticized your decision to run in the Democratic primary. How did that exchange help to embolden your decision?
Thank you, I appreciate that. Being talked down by a major Democratic donor who thought he could make me doubt myself or make me feel small, that only strengthened my resolve to run. It’s much bigger than me. It made me angry on behalf of all women, particularly women who haven’t benefited from access to the same kinds of opportunities I’ve had. We’re at a turning point. Women have absolutely had it with powerful men trying to keep them down.
What inspiration do you draw from other women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley who challenged longtime incumbents and won? How did their victories make it clear that you didn’t have to “wait your turn” as women so often are told…
I have been told repeatedly that there’s no point in even running against Jerry Nadler, as if he’s somehow entitled to his seat in Congress. Women, especially women of color, are constantly degraded and pushed to the sidelines, while others make decisions about their lives. We don’t need anyone speaking for us. What we need is more seats at the table. For women of all experiences. For mothers too. Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley’s wins showed us that, despite what the establishment tells us, our time is now.
You’ve been very vocal about your belief that President Trump should be impeached and that “Democratic leadership hasn’t fought hard enough or risen to the challenge that’s in front of them.” What’s your own vision for your leadership if elected?
In Congress, I’ll be guided by my core values as I have been during a lifetime of public service. I will speak out even when it is inconvenient and I will act to solve the most pressing problems of our day and our future. I won’t just be fighting for the future of my daughter’s generation, but for my mother’s generation and everyone in between.
This originally appeared on Medium.com