The Congressional Leadership Fund, retiring Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s SuperPAC, is littering the Los Angeles airwaves with opposition ads so ridiculous they may well help get out the Democratic vote. The ads targeting young, out bisexual Katie Hill, a candidate for California’s 25th Congressional District, are downright laughable.
CLF’s latest ad against Hill, “Expensive,” for instance, closes with: “Liberal Katie Hill. Immature. Out of Touch. Expensive.” And in their effort to paint Hill, 31, as “immature,” they show her as a real person laughing. But just as voters once preferred a candidate with whom they could imagine having a beer, like George W. Bush, in this hostile climate, women, young people and surely LGBT voters would much prefer someone with whom they can joke around than a ridged right-winger.
Hill’s campaign ads have been sunny and likeable, with a devastating opposition ad featuring her Republican opponent, longtime anti-LGBT Rep. Steve Knight on camera saying he thinks Social Security is a “bad idea.”
What a stark difference in values. Hill, the daughter of a registered nurse and police officer, is a CSUN graduate with a master’s in Public Administration. As executive director of People Assisting the Homeless, she grew the organization from a local non-profit to the state’s largest non-profit provider of homes for the homeless. She commuted to PATH offices in Silver Lake from her rescue animal farm in Agua Dulce, near Santa Clarita, where she lives with her husband Kenny and their dogs, horses and goats.
Hill spoke with the Los Angeles Blade Sept. 10, after former President Barack Obama visited Orange County to stump for Democratic candidates. Hill missed the rally to be with supporters.
“I had this event planned with labor for months,” Hills says, “and they had already recruited hundreds of union workers who are the working families of our district and who wanted an opportunity to meet with their hopefully next congressperson. It just felt like something that I couldn’t back out of, despite the fact that it was an honor and a privilege to be recognized by President Obama.”
One reason Hill decided to run for Congress was because of the Trump administration, finding the latest revelations about his presidency unsurprising.
“We’ve known for a long time that we have to put some kind of check on him and we’ve got to work towards getting him out as quickly as possible,” Hill says. “The first step is flipping Congress … to hold him accountable and right now we don’t have that.”
Steve Knight, she says, “is one of the many Republicans in Congress who, despite the fact that every single day a new revelation comes out about how problematic Trump and his administration are and how unethical and how much they go against the very values and core beliefs of our country, they refuse to do anything about it.”
Hill says that even though the district is “typically conservative,” Hillary Clinton won by seven points in 2016, “which is a pretty large margin. And that means that a lot of people who normally vote for Republicans voted for her because they believe that Donald Trump is unfit to be president.”
CD 25 includes Lancaster and the Antelope Valley, areas long associated with anti-LGBT white supremacists. And yet Hill felt comfortable enough to come out as bisexual as a teenager.
“I think most teenagers go through a process,” she says. “I started to really figure it out when I was about, I don’t know, 12. And then eventually in high school, I came out to a few close friends and then after high school, I came out to my now-husband and then to my family. So it’s kind of been an evolution.”
Hill always felt “incredibly accepted by my family” but finds that a lot of people have difficulty wrapping their heads around bisexuality. “Like, OK, you might be a woman and like other women, you might be a man and like other men but when there’s both involved, it just kind of confuses people sometimes…especially when you’re in a committed relationship. And so I feel like part of this campaign has really been kind of an educational process and I think that’s a big part of why representation is so important.”
In April 2011, Gary Gates, a gay demographer and scholar at the Williams Institute, concluded that there were roughly 9 million adults in the U.S. who identified as LGBT. And “among adults who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, bisexuals comprise a slight majority (1.8% compared to 1.7% who identify as lesbian or gay); women are substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual,” he reported.
Bisexuality is “exactly that you are who you are from whatever stage you figure out that you’re bisexual and you end up ultimately falling in love with one person and if that person is going to belong to one gender or the other—that’s how you end up in a committed relationship with somebody and you retain your sexuality. The way that I’ve explained it to people is like I could’ve ended up being married to a man or a woman and it just happened to be a man,” Hill says.
And people get that? “Eventually,” she says, laughing. “It’s made for some awkward conversations, especially, I would say, with folks above a certain age. But I think we’re getting there.”
Did she know that Lancaster and the Antelope Valley were once considered hotbeds for hate crimes?
“Oh, I definitely did. I lived in Rosemont in the early 1990s. I remember learning in elementary school about hate crimes because they had to shut down our school bathrooms to do a pretty extensive remodel because they’d been totally graffitied with Nazi symbols,” she says.
“Everybody’s process looks different, right? But I think in terms of my sexuality, something that I went through and I think probably a lot of other people go through is, well, is this a phase? And especially when you hear that over and over again from people who you respect, like, ‘Oh, it’s just a phase, you’ll get past this. You’re just experimenting,’ those kinds of things. So I guess, in some ways, that made it easier to not really have to face the fact that you might not be part of the hetero-normative society,” Hill says.
“And so I think I didn’t,” she says. “It’s not like I was dating women, just obviously, when I was in Antelope Valley when those kinds of things were going on. So it didn’t really hit me that much at that point. But by the time that I started to really address it internally and with the people I care about, I had moved to Santa Clarita, which, although it is also known as a kind of conservative area, I felt like I was around people who weren’t hateful.”
But she didn’t directly experience hateful people in the Antelope Valley, either. “It’s harder and harder for that to be acceptable anywhere in our region. And I don’t think it’s like that anymore in our district,” she says.
“I would say my top two issues [in Congress, if elected] are insuring access to affordable healthcare for everyone and insuring that we’re working on making housing more affordable for everyone. And those are issues that really do disproportionately affect our community,” Hill says. “I also think equal rights across the board is something that I stand for. As a leader that represents the face of the LGBT community in Congress, I would see that as something that I need to be a champion for and do so at every opportunity, whatever piece of legislation that looks like, let’s consider it through an equality lens.”
Hill gets upset over the transgender bathroom issue. “Every time I hear this kind of thing come up, it just bothers me to my core that we’re even talking about this,” she says. “If you talk to people in my generation, it is so obvious that, you know, if somebody identifies as a woman, let them use the woman’s bathroom; someone identifies as a man, they, of course, should use the men’s bathroom. Why are we even talking about this?”
Hill is also adamant about always being inclusive. “If you’re talking about passing legislation that’s going to protect people but you write in something that is inherently discriminatory or allows for discrimination, then you’re kind of missing the point,” she says. “’Okay, well sure, we’ll treat you like a human being but we still want to know what your genitals look like before you can use a bathroom.’ I mean that’s just stupid.”
But Hill has to get to Congress to make that point. “This is the most important election we’ve seen in our lifetime and frankly we’ve all gotta give it everything we’ve got and we’re gonna see the attacks coming against me in even greater numbers until the election and we need everyone’s help,” Hill says. “So whether it’s knocking on doors or donating, we’re asking everyone to dig deep, to get involved however they can and help us out because we can’t take anything for granted, realizing that this thing could come down a few hundred votes, it really could.”
And that’s no laughing matter.
For more, go to katiehillforcongress.com.