Wendy Carrillo on What It’s Like to Run for Congress

Wendy Carrillo won a special election in Los Angeles on December 5th, 2017, the last in a series of four special elections that effectively reshuffled the political landscape in L.A. 

Have you ever met someone whose story makes you feel like you can do anything? Meet Wendy Carrillo. And thank me later.

Wendy is a formerly undocumented Latina and indigenous journalist and activist. She is also one of the over 4,000 women who expressed an interest in running for office after November’s election. She’s never run for office before and is engaged in a fierce campaign in Los Angeles’ 34th Congressional district — shaking up the old guard and engaging new voters at a surprising rate.

Her story of how she got the call to run, literally and metaphorically, is the stuff of myths. I can’t wait for you to hear it. I also can’t wait for you to hear just how fearless she is.

Have you seen that tote bag/coffee mug/IG post going around that says, “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man”? (If you’re reading this and you’re a white man, don’t be offended. Unless, deep down inside, you know you’re arrogant and mediocre, in which case…*Kanye shrug*)

That’s the kind of confidence it takes to run for office, a confidence I wish more of us had. It’s a confidence that says, I don’t really care what anyone else says about me, I don’t care if the establishment recognizes my experience as good enough, I don’t care if I’m doing something that isn’t the norm for someone with my background. I will not wait to be asked. I may not have a million dollars (which, as it turns out, is pretty helpful in running an election), but I am competent, passionate and committed.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Let this week’s episode light a fire under your ass to do more, be more and run. If not for office, than towards your wildest dreams.


Erica: There’s a big leap between [journalism] and deciding to run for Congress. How did you get to that place [where you decided to] run for Congress? A year ago, you were a journalist…You’d been a journalist for many, many years. Then, what happened? Where did this turning point happen?…What was that moment like?

Wendy: Coming of age in a time when the economy kind of fell apart, as soon as Obama got into office — and I worked my ass off to ensure that a little-known senator with a funny name got elected in a time when that wasn’t popular — even back then, Hillary Clinton was still at the forefront of the conversation. (I’m so glad that he won, because I would have for sure been blackballed out of politics forever!) For me, the call to action comes when I continue to see weak-sauce Democrats that need to be lobbied and called and persuaded to push for policy that their community will benefit from. Democrats that need to be lobbied and asked to support the DREAM Act. Democrats that need to be lobbied and asked to support DACA. To not support Jeff Sessions as our new Attorney General. The fact that the Democratic party is no longer a party that represents the people is at the forefront of the conversation.

My call to action to run for Congress actually came at Standing Rock.

Erica: Tell me about Standing Rock. How you got there.

Wendy: Sadly, the social-news startup we founded closed its doors in August. This was obviously after the primary. I was very disappointed with the Democratic party and what happened during the primary election. I decided to get out of my little bubble in LA, and I rented a car and drove across the country and talked to voters. Outside of Los Angeles, and outside of California, all I saw were Trump signs. I drove from LA to Louisiana, to New Orleans specifically, and I passed through Texas (and Texas seemed like it was never going to end). And all I saw were Trump billboards.

People say lawn signs don’t make a difference, but you know what, they sure do make an impact. They give a tone to something. I didn’t see any Hillary signs when I was driving through Arizona, or Texas, or Louisiana…

From Louisiana, I drove up to North Dakota…to Standing Rock. I was supposed to be there for about a week and a half, and ended up [being there] for close to two months. I could not leave. I had been covering human-rights violations around the world, and to see them happening here at home, to see the development of a militarized police state that caused chaos against people that were only praying and trying to preserve water and sacred land, and who were constantly threatened by rubber bullets and tear gas and mace…to see police do that to elderly women, to young women, to men and young boys, to hit horses with rubber bullets at close range…these are all things that I saw when I was there.

Collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt. 

Erica Williams Simon

Erica Williams Simon

Erica Williams Simon is the host of The Call.

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