Comment Writer Kit Parsons interviews Reverend Wendy Hamilton to gain perspective on her involvement with politics, and praises her as ‘exactly the type of person America needs’
More people need to run for office. The age of social media activism is blooming, however despite this, incumbents are unlikely to be beaten in an election. The solution to this is bolder people, with great ideas stepping up to the plate and running for office. An example of someone who is doing this is Reverend Wendy Hamilton. Rev. Wendy has worked on Capitol Hill, and has fought for criminal justice reform, environmental progress, and economic equality. She was also Andrew Yang’s Spiritual Advisor during his 2020 Presidential Campaign. To learn more about running for office and Rev. Wendy’s experiences doing so, we had a conversation where we discussed a range of topics from how she got involved in politics, to D.C. statehood, to becoming ‘famous!’ I hope you find the interview interesting and learn about what it takes to run for Congress. I hope it inspires you to get more involved with politics, and to support the candidates that you like.
We began by talking about how Rev. Wendy got involved in politics.
Rev. Wendy: With Andrew Yang’s campaign I joined the campaign very early on in 2018, around three months after he announced. I saw an article in the New York Times here in DC, and it resonated with me as I was reading about the ideas that he wanted to move forward, he was talking about automation and the threats of automation and how people were falling through the cracks, and we needed to help them with something tangible. So, he started talking about a Universal Basic Income and it jumped of the page at me, particularly because politicians are normally talking more theoretically. Can’t we just give people money?
I reached out to the campaign via email and I said ‘Sir, I don’t know who you are, but my name is Reverend Wendy Hamilton, and I’m here in Washington D.C and I love everything you’re saying in this article, and I’d love to meet with you if you’re coming to Washington D.C, so I can host something for you to come and talk to some folks, anything!’ And they wrote me back, the campaign said ‘of course we’ll be coming to D.C, we’d love to connect with you’ and then about six months later Andrew himself wrote back, and he came down six months later to D.C and the rest is history. Working with him was a great experience, he is a wonderful person. I’m just grateful to have met him.
Kit: What’s it like for you now being the candidate?
Rev. Wendy: That was not my intention. I always had an interest in politics, I keep up with what’s happening. Before the Yang experience, the most I had done was maybe some phone-banking and canvassing particularly for President Obama when he was running. Other than that, it was just more of an interest. Finding the Andrew Yang campaign put me in a position to see the behind the scenes and see how the actual making of a candidate works. But even then, I didn’t have in my mind necessarily to run myself, but looking back on that now, I see it as some inspiration and preparation. What happened also, was Donald Trump and what was happening here in the United States in the summer of 2020 with the pandemic, we weren’t sure how the election was going to turn out. I don’t think the United States would have made it another four years under Trump. All of the civil rights leaders were passing away; John Lewis, people that I admired. I literally said, ‘Ok, you can pack up and move, or you can stand up and fight.’ My spirit has always been to stand up and fight as often as I can. I felt one of the ways that I could contribute to protecting and preserving our democracy and my ideals was to run for office, as a representative, in Congress for D.C.
Kit: It’s great how you are stepping up to the plate. You’re not just talking, but you are acting. I was wondering, what is it actually like, on a day-to-day basis, to be a congressional candidate?
Rev. Wendy: Well, let me say this, I am a congressional candidate, but I also am maintaining a full-time job. I work in the public school’s system here in Washington D.C. I wish that there were ways for me to be a full-time candidate, that would be ideal. But unfortunately, the way our systems are set up here, particularly if you are running for federal office, you cannot get matching funds or public financing. They have those for local offices and state-wide offices, but federal candidates can’t get matching funds. So, I am a grassroots candidate and I have to raise money from small dollar donors, which we’ve been able to do. If I were full-time doing this, then I would have more time to make more connections, to make more money, or even in some cases, candidates for congress can pay themselves a salary out of their donations, due to a change that was made to the federal election commission rules here. But I’m not in a position to do that, and I still have personal bills to pay, so I have to keep my full time job, and do my candidate work like the minute I leave my day job I switch to candidate mode, and I’m out and I’m having meetings and I’m attending events and I’m talking to people on calls, I’m raising money and funds and it makes for a long day, let’s just put it that way.
Kit: I guess that could lead quite nicely to my next question, which is, if you had to pick, what would you say has been the highlight of the trail so far for you?
Rev. Wendy: Absolutely the voters, absolutely getting to know the voters on the trail, meeting them in their element. You know, going and sitting at some of the outdoor events, the senior citizens events, folks are just telling their stories and listening to stories now, you know with what we’ve just been through in this world, with the pandemic, I think it is even more vital and more important and so for me it has always been and always will be getting a chance to connect with the people.
A moment I’ll never forget is that over the weekend, a young man had his two sons with him and I was campaigning, and talking to folks, networking in the room and the father saw me and he said to his son ‘Ask her who Reverend Wendy is’ cause I had on my campaign shirt, that says Rev. Wendy for Congress, so this young man, probably about ten years old, he comes over, to me and says ‘Who’s Reverend Wendy?’ and I said ‘Well it’s me!’ I had a chance to tell him, and the dad used it as a teaching moment, in that this is what someone does when their running for Congress. And so, it turned into a teachable moment. Then he had a younger son, and he took one of my campaign cards and asked me to sign it. He asked if I was famous! I said I don’t know about that, but I will sign it for you.
Kit: It’s nice how you have this focus on the actual voters, because at least for me looking into American politics, it seems like you have the establishment, who seem to put their own views and priorities before the people, so I think it’s nice and refreshing how you have this strong focus on the people.
Rev. Wendy: Yes, and that’s where you have to take your message, and even within local politics, here locally in D.C. there is an establishment, if you will. I’m running against a thirty-year incumbent. And a lot of people feel as though a thirty-year incumbent should be able to decide when they are going to step down. At the end of the day, the government is of the people, for the people and by the people. The people get to decide who they want to represent them no matter how long someone has been in an office or not. So, for me, I understood that at the time that I have to take our message directly to the people, go around the establishment and what they think I should or shouldn’t be doing and talk to the people, because at the end of the day, it’s the people who are going to decide my fate one way or the other.
Kit: That’s really refreshing, I think that’s great. So, moving on, I was wondering if you could speak to the issue of D.C Statehood and its impact on your campaign and your job if you were elected.
Rev. Wendy: So of course, D.C. statehood is the priority, it is the premier issue when it comes to D.C, politics, D.C. voters and for D.C.’s future. Because right now, we have seven hundred thousand residents in our city who are not represented, we do not have representation in Congress. Now let me clarify, the role that I’m running for is in Congress, in the house, it’s the delegate role and it is a non-voting delegate. So, I will be able to speak, I’ll be able to write bills, to join committees. I’ll be able to do everything else a regular house representative can and could do, just not vote. We don’t have senatorial representation. We are at the call of the federal government here in D.C. Whatever other things are decided upon by other states, we have to submit what we want in our budget to the federal government and ask their permission for what to do on behalf of our residents. And that leads to us getting the leftovers because we don’t have senators. These folks don’t spend much time on Capitol Hill and come over into the city, yet they are making decisions about our city, having not spent any time in it, and that’s not fair, and that’s not sustainable. So, statehood is certainly a priority and something I will fight for. But we also have other needs here in the District of Columbia that we can be addressing simultaneously, while fighting for statehood. At the end of the day, statehood has passed our house of representatives twice, but it gets stuck in the senate. Until we can get some movement on it in the senate, there are other issues that we can be working on, that residents in D.C need and that’s part of what my campaign is about. It’s about statehood and beyond.
Kit: Great, it seems crazy to me, and almost anti-democratic in a way that you can have American citizens, people who don’t have the same level of representation as everyone else, that seems crazy to me. But following on from what you just said, there, what’s your pitch? Why should people vote for you?
Rev. Wendy: Until we are given what is rightfully ours, as a state, until we are made that fifty-first state of the union, what are some other things that are concerning D.C residents? One of my other primary policies is Universal Basic Income. As I go and talk to residents and talk to voters, they may say ‘Statehood is important, we definitely want representation, but statehood is not going to help me pay my bills. So, what can we be doing to help solve some of the immediate problems in my life that I’m having until statehood gets here?’ I’m looking at things like Universal Health Care, and at things like affordable housing. So, my pitch is, yes, we’re going to do statehood, because we deserve it, and I will continue to work hard for that, just as I am for tangible things that we can deal with right now because we are not a one-dimensional city. We can want more things than just statehood, and so here are my top things that people told me that they’d like to see implemented. We’re having a lot of issues with crime, here in D.C., just as a lot of American cities are. What I’d like to see is some reallocation of police resources so that we can get more collaboration between local law enforcement and social workers, social service agencies, that do some of the responses to some of these calls. So, I’ve got some very tangible things Kit, that I’m also bringing to D.C residents so that they can look and see that they are being fully represented and know that representation is being manifest in their lives.
Kit: I wish I lived in D.C., so I could vote for you! You’ve won me over!
Rev. Wendy: Thank you!
Kit: That’s ok! I don’t want to keep you for too long, so I’ll limit myself to one more question. I want you to do well, so where can people find you and help support your campaign?
Rev. Wendy: The first place to go is my website. And that’s revwendyforcongress.com. On there you can find the place to sign up to volunteer to get on our email list. And of course, there is a donation button. As I said early on, in this conversation, I am 100% grassroots funded candidate which means I’m not taking money from corporations, I’m not taking money from influencers, in that regard. My money is coming from the people because I want to be a representative of the people. I’ve gotten donations from all the fifty states around the country, folks have given a dollar, five dollars, every amount makes a difference. So, if you could go to revwendyforcongress.com and donate, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it. We are also on over social media; all those handles are also on my website. So, we are really trying to get the word out and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today because this is also another avenue and way for us to tell our story and let people know that my heart really is in this thing. This is not just about me, it’s bigger than me, it’s about my city, it’s about this city that I love. I feel like I’ve been called to serve, I am a minister. Public service is ministry, it is a form of ministry, and it is the one I’ve been called to in this moment.
Kit: Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
Rev. Wendy: Alright, thank you so much, take care and God bless you.
I really enjoyed my conversation with Rev. Wendy. I think she is exactly the type of person America needs. She will put the interests of the people before those of the establishment and fight for policies like a Universal Basic Income that will have an immeasurably positive impact on the people. It was a very refreshing and enlightening conversation. I hope it inspires you to stand up for what you believe in and fight for change, just as Rev. Wendy is doing.
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