Lauren Ashcraft is the progressive alternative to Wall Street-friendly Upper East Side Democrat Carolyn Maloney. The district they’ll be contesting is no longer just Maloney’s Silk Stocking sliver of Manhattan; it also includes progressive-friendly areas like the Lower East Side, the East Village, Alphabet City, Gramercy, Kips Bay, Tudor City, Turtle Bay and then over in Brooklyn, Greenpoint and Williamsburg and in Queens, Astoria, Long Island City and Sunnyside.
Lauren Ashcraft is also the newest Blue America endorsed candidate for Congress.
We’re endorsing her not just because she’s on the right side of every important issue and because she’s a courageous and competent candidate but because we think she will make a great and productive representative for working families in Congress. This week she sent us this note we thought we would share with you.
Please consider contributing to her campaign by clicking on the Blue America 2020 congressional thermometer.
As I write this, I’m on a bus back to New York after meeting my fellow Brand New Congress slate-mates in Washington, D.C. I wish I had the words for the passion, dedication, and energy I witnessed among this group of amazing future members of Congress, but I could never do those moments justice. Sitting here, I feel immense hope as I think about next year’s races, and I wanted to take a moment to pen my thoughts about this journey.
If I had to summarize what it’s like to run for Congress in one sentence, I would say that it’s already the greatest privilege of my entire life. Imagine having the honor of being invited into all of your neighbors’ homes, one by one, and having them open their hearts by sharing their stories and concerns with you. And then imagine that you had a plan to improve every one of their lives, and you could actually make it happen because your community is standing with you.
Of course, this journey has its challenges. I am running against an entrenched Democrat who accepts mountains of corporate PAC money, while Team Ashcraft is deeply moved by each one of our $35 average donations. I am fighting the institutional sexism that faces women candidates. And on a personal level, my social anxiety makes asking strangers for money on a daily basis extra flavorful.
That’s where my team comes in. It includes people I have known for years, and people I met last week. All of whom are working tirelessly because they believe so deeply in our mission to bring true representation to our district and country. Some of whom have seen me during tough moments, such as in May when my beloved grandmother and hero died the day before I had to perform in my first Congressional fundraiser as a standup comedian. My team has held me, carried me, and helped me back on my feet time and time again. Someone asked me once why I keep saying “we” when talking about my campaign. It’s because I can’t separate my journey from theirs. I could not do this without them.
I should warn anyone considering running for office that you will go through some pretty difficult times (I know this and I’m not even half-way through my race). If you are doing this for the same reasons I am, you see unrealized potential for your district and country and are passionate about your ideas to improve people’s lives. But you will realize that many of the organizations you have staunchly advocated for, and people who you thought would be on your side, aren’t who you thought they were. That even within our grassroots, David v. Goliath, The Little Engine That Could movement, there is some alarming toxicity that will shock the hell out of you. And I hope you, too, refuse to give up, and stay focused on what matters most.
But when you start to lose hope, you will be moved by the kindness that people show you. You will receive donations from people who are struggling to survive but find hope in your campaign. Strangers will be willing to open their homes to host strangers for meet and greets, because they believe in you. People you have never met will get up early and go to bed late, working on your campaign, because your platform is what they want for their community. And you will never be able to thank them as much as they deserve, but you give everything you can to win. For them.
If I could tell a passerby one thing about being a candidate, it is that we are human beings, too. Boy, are we human. And we get nervous. We worry about how to grow an entire team and movement who want us so desperately to win, without letting them down. I worry about potentially causing any discomfort for my family or partner, who are holding their breath as they walk on this journey with me, and sometimes reading other people’s thoughts about me. And you will miss your partner who is probably sitting right next to you, as mine is right now.
This journey has made me MORE human, more empathetic. All people, regardless of their successes or failures, life journeys, and goals, are… people. Just as being a cater waiter in college has caused me to go way out of my way to be kind to all service industry employees, running for office has made me view all grassroots candidates with much more respect. As I saw in others on the Brand New Congress Slate this weekend, grassroots candidates put their lives on hold for the entirety of their campaign, doing everything in their power to make a difference in people’s lives. And it’s all worth it when you realize you can make a real difference.
With all of this said, I actually cannot explain what it feels like to stand up for what you believe in against all odds, and to have SO many people and organizations stand behind you, one-by-one. I am so honored that Blue America is one of the organizations that has vetted my vision and path to victory, and is fearless in backing me. And I would be incredibly honored to earn your support on my quest to bring true representation and equality to my home, New York’s 12th Congressional District.
Thanks for always doing what you can to make a better world,
Howie, for the entire Blue America team