The 2018 midterm elections were defined by a big wave of women who managed to win vital roles at all levels of government, many of them in their first-ever attempts at seeking political office. Katie Hill of California is one of the women who surfed that wave right into a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, an achievement that will become official next month when the new Congress is sworn in.
Hill, 31, who faced criticism during her campaign for being a “millennial,” scored an upset victory over incumbent GOP Representative Steve Knight in the congressional race for California’s 25th District — marking the first time in decades that the district will be represented by a Democrat. But despite complaints about her youth, Hill says it was precisely because she’s a millennial — a term she embraces — that she was able to achieve her stunning victory in the first place.
“We make up the largest voting bloc in the entire country right now,” said Hill in an interview at Fortune’s Most Powerful Next Gen Summit in Laguna Niguel, California. “And that to me is this disparity that is completely unacceptable. Especially when you’re talking about the issues that impact our generation — those are the ones that we’re going to be facing collectively for decades and generations to come … College debt, caring about whether we’re going to have a planet, health care, housing, and being able to enter into this stable kind of American Dream idea that has become harder and harder for so many to achieve.”
Hill, who currently serves as deputy chief executive officer at People Assisting the Homeless, said her decision to run came after the group managed to pass a landmark bill to address the homelessness crisis. Concerned that the Republican-controlled House would pass legislation that would undermine her group’s work and funding, Hill said she grew increasingly preoccupied with Democratic efforts at flipping the legislative body.
“I wanted to be involved in some capacity, so I started looking into the nearby districts,” she recalled. “It turns out the one I’ve spent my whole life in, that I was currently living in, was one of those top districts. I had followed the race somewhat the last time around and I felt very strongly that this was a district that could be taken by a Democrat, but it’s got to be someone who truly understands the community, who really gets the nuances related to a district that is full of cops and firefighters and nurses, building trade workers … that has this conservative leaning tendency but is moving in the direction of being progressive.”
“Ultimately, I was complaining about who was going to run,” she continued. “I was like, ‘Somebody has to run and win this,’ and finally a friend of mine who works in county politics told me, ‘Well, maybe you should run.’ I finally looked into it and decided, ‘You know what, if ever there was a time, this is the time. And if ever there was a need, it’s now.’”
Millennials came out in droves to support Hill — at one point, she says, 5,000 people volunteered to go door to door for her over the course of just four days. Donald Trump’s election, she added, had galvanized her and countless other young people into realizing that they needed to be more politically involved.
“The fact that he was elected really woke a lot of us up. Women in particular, young women in particular, who said, ‘This isn’t who we are. This isn’t who we should be,’” said Hill. “That energy that came out of the Trump election is what enabled us to be so successful.”
Watch Hill’s appearance at Fortune’s Most Powerful Next Gen Summit below.
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