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tv   New Member Interviews - House Freshmen  CSPAN  February 16, 2021 12:24pm-1:17pm EST

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by america's cable television companies in 1979. today, we are brought to you by these television companies that provide c-span to viewers as a public service. >> next, interviews with four new house democrats as they talk about their lives, their careers and what they hope to accomplish. after that, three republican freshmen in the senate tell their stories. on january 3, more than 60 new members of congress were sworn into the house of representatives. in the week since taking their oath, they have been part of history. their first few weeks included debating challenges to electoral college votes, surviving an attack on the u.s. capitol and voting on whether to impeach the president's. before this, we spoke to several
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members about what brought them to congress. there are four of those members. teresa fernandez is a democrat representing new mexico's third district. she studied law and has worked for an advocate -- work as an advocate for tribal issues in her state. she has one of 13 new democrats in the house. host: i read somewhere that you grew up with seven siblings, is that correct? >> yes, you can -- i come from one of the huge new mexico families. my father had 14 siblings. we are 17th generous and should -- 17 generation new mexicans. you have a lot of it in the marriage with our indigenous brothers and sisters. host: what are some of the
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memories that you had growing up? what sticks out? >> i had a marvelous childhood. my parents were bilingual. they recognized keeping spanish language intact. that was true for everybody. they help pass the act by which native american languages such as spanish char spoken in schools. you can imagine, we have musicians, artists, just a wonderful group of people blowing in and out of our house. and then, we are a land of people. as we say, we love our land. we spent a lot of time going out, helping, flipping burgers. it was a full childhood.
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i got a head start. it was a very poor community in terms of monetary value. host: would you say you grew up in a political family? rep. fernandez: yes. my father, he ran for a couple of things but he did serve as a state senator. he really believe that the reason you served was to bring the power of your service and make things better for your community. he did that and beautiful ways. i sometimes tell the story of my grandmother who even though she was in hospice, they didn't call it back then, her hospital bed in the house, it was one of those long people right before
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next day. i am sending my grandchildren to pick you up. northern new mexicans have, for a long time, understood that who you elect from city council to school boards to president matters. so, northern new mexico in general is a very engaged constituency. host: you made a decision to move out your home at 17? go there. it gives you a rep. fernandez: it gives you the sense of the s.a.t.. i will go to santa fe, the big
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city, and go to the school called yale. each of those things but did not realize the culture shock i would get when i got to yale. i lived on my own, in essence, before i got to school. now they call it a gap year. back then, it was just i needed to save some money. i had no idea what i was getting myself into, but it was something that basically changed me. anytime you do something like that, it basically changes your trajectory. pedro: you show up at yale, you talked about culture shock. give us an example of that. rep. fernandez: for one thing, i am used to chicanos being around about speaking with a spanish accent. you go to yale and the texans we used to see in new mexico were terrorists and they would say y'all. but it was hard. i hadn't had the prep classes
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that most of the students had had. there was a little bit of -- i was an affirmative action baby, proud of it. but some felt that there were black students and latina students who were there because of affirmative action, and we might not have had the same preparation. some of us were migrant farmworkers. but what we did was take advantage of that opening, and fred used to say, we started a little behind but we all landed at the same time, which means we are just darn fast. so i took advantage of every opportunity from asking help, using tutors, but also becoming a leader in that community. [speaking spanish] i took cesar sievert as -- cesar chavez to yell and everybody showed up -- to yale, and everybody showed up to listen to him.
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that is what was important, that we were there to help others learn about parts of the u.s. that they did not know. that was the beauty of affirmative action. that is the beauty of present tatian. of having -- of representation. of having each other learn about your histories and your stories, and get a better sense of what america is. so it was a marvelous opportunity. pedro: what did you study? rep. fernandez: i got my degree in latin american studies, which meant that i could study economic development, but also the amazing writing and literature that was coming out of latin america at the time. we all love garcia masquez. i did economic development at ut austin, where i attended graduate school.
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what i followed my true voice. i applied to stanford and got in, and i found my true voice as an advocate. graduate school, i was not made out for that. we don't always know what our path should be. somebody encouraged me to go to law school and i agreed to apply and went to stanford. wow, this is what i good at. at stanford i was trained as a rebellious lawyer. your viewers might ask, what is rebellious, what does a rebellious lawyer do? the most rebellious thing we can do is listen. right? because we don't listen. we are not going to understand the issues are of those we want to work with and represent. so that is what i learned to do very well in sanford. rep. fernandez: there was a profile of you in the albuquerque journal. it listed your occupation as social impact lawyer. what does that mean to you? rep. fernandez: what that means is that the work i do, it's
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going to have a larger impact rather than i am just one individual, one business. like, i've help start multiple businesses in disadvantaged communities, but then they give back to the community. they were doing this before. we now have something called the b corporation. ben & jerry's is a b corporation, a benefit corporation. so you don't think of things solely as what are the short-term monetary gains, but how does this company serve the community in terms of providing income, providing vibrancy. so it's something like that. protecting voting rights, i'm a voting rights expert. i have fought against gerrymandering. i have fought to make sure they have access to ballot boxes. that they are being placed in native american communities that represented tribes and native american communities here for decades.
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but also done a lot of affordable housing. because when you create homeowners in a community, you strengthen that community, it becomes more vibrant. so the things i want to work on in congress, which are what are the things we need at a foundational level to help our communities, our businesses, to help our families thrive. so that is what i mean by a social impact lawyer. and the other thing is it is a lot of fun when you do that work. i have had a lot of joy in working with the people i have. you never do anything on an individual basis. it is always a collective and collaborative work. pedro: to that end, you have had some experience also with administrations, particularly under the obama administration. you helped advise them on historical and cultural preservation. can you talk about that? rep. fernandez: yes. president obama named me to the
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advisory council on historic preservation, and then after a year or two, elevated me to vice chair. with the advisory council, what they do is they advise both congress and the administration on issues of historical, cultural preservation. because we need to be able to understand our history. and to preserve it. and it cannot be just the mayflower. he needs to be all those things. difficult or beautiful. it means preserving our history at ellis island, about the immigrants coming through, and angel island where the immigrants came through, but we incarcerated them because they were chinese and we had the chinese exclusion act. it means the work of cesar chavez, the park in los angeles. a lot of what i did was try to expand, to make it more inclusive. because we need to remember all
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of our stories are part of the american story. and the only way we get past this moment of -- there's too much demonization of another. is if we recognize there is really not another, it's we are different. our strength is in our unity. so, that's the work i focused on there. i was appointed because i had done some of that work, and sued the united states successfully about trying to protect cultural resources along the colorado river, along the grand canyon. and some other work i had done. and i think that that's an important part. the way we say it in spanish -- there's not another, just an us. pedro: what prompted you to run for congress? rep. fernandez: so, i'll be real
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honoest. i've got a lot of experience in a lot of different areas. i have been trying to make a difference in my community in new mexico. i came home because this is where my love is, this is where my heart is. so i started getting calls when this opened up. some of the people that had been recalled pick up -- picked up the phone immediately and called me. this was the first time i had ever felt like i was responding to a call. not a phone call, but a call, a calling. my father behind me, when he wanted to get something done and make life better for the community, he would say let's do it now, we have to do it now. i really felt like now is the time i had to answer this call to try and take my experience and take it to a larger level. because i did have -- what struggles were on the ground. we talk about for representation
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that we need to have people who have lived experiences. my lived experiences are not just that i have been working on the ground and in the trenches on these issues. i know where the obstacles are. i have been creating opportunity in places of poverty for decades. and i have been looking at those things that heal us. so i realized that this was a calling, that this was something that it was my time to do this. and i was bringing some experience and some insight and some empathy, but more importantly, connection with my community, to this job. so i answered the call and that is where i am running. i ran on a platform of protecting what love. i wanted to put love at the center of my campaign. because when you ask from a place of love, it is a very powerful place and it means you are going to put the interests of others, of your community first.
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so i felt like now is the time that i have to act, to take some of the bold action that we all recognize we need to take now to protect the places and the issues we love. this pandemic has showed us how vulnerable we all are. but especially that there's been an undue burden of suffering on minority communities, communities of color, poor communities, and that we need to address those so that we have a more fair and equal society in the future. we really need to invest in our future. so i really wanted to participate in steering the country hopefully in that direction. pedro: one of those areas you are also interested in is energy. your state has two national labs that deal with these kind of issues. how do you hope to incorporate these issues? rep. fernandez: yes.
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i've had briefings with the labs, i've always looked at the labs. they do a lot of work on nuclear proliferation. but a lot of that work can be dedicated to solving other national crises. the climate crises is a national security issue. and for new mexico, we are a fragile environment. if we do not address the climate crisis with strong action, new mexico will not be what it is today, because we are so at the edge. too long of a drought will destroy our ability to enjoy this beautiful place we call home. the same way the coasts are very at risk. there are places in the united states that are more at risk than others, and new mexico is on there. we need to marshal all the resources we have to address that. part of it is stuff we already know we need to do. we know we need to go to renewable energy. we need to move our energy gri ,
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from fossil fuels. but we also need that innovation. and those labs are going to help us get there. and they are already working on it. so we need to increase the funding for those labs so they start working on those issues that will address that climate crisis, because that climate crisis, it is going to have a disruption that is so much greater than all the pain we are going through now. so we must address it with really bold action now, because we have lost too much time. pedro: we are talking with representative teresa leger fernandez of new mexico's third district. thank you for talking with us and interviewed singh -- introducing you to our viewers. rep. fernandez: thank you so much for the invite. announcer: deborah ross was born in philadelphia in 1963. she served more than 10 years in the north carolina house of representatives. she became interested in politics as a member of the league of women voters.
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a democrat, she represents north carolina's second congressional district. >> do you remember when you first became interested in politics? rep. ross: oh, yes. and thank you for reaching out and asking these questions to let your viewers know a little bit more about this incoming class. i remember my mom being so involved in the league of women voters, and working to get women elected to local government in the 1970's. my mom was more of a grassroots person. i grew up in a small town of less than 20,000 people. and she would go door-to-door, either raising money for a good cause, or letting people know that somebody wonderful was running in our local community. and she had me go with her. sometimes i would be on one side of the street and she would be on the others of the street, and
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we would connect with our neighbors and tell them how much it meant to get involved in their community. >> how old were you? what sort of reaction did you get knocking on the door of your neighbors? rep. ross: i have always been a pretty outgoing person and friendly. i was around 10 years old. that is my first memory of doing it. who knows if she had me doing it earlier. but when i was around 10 years old is when i started to do it pretty regularly with her and with other local governments in our town. that is the first time i ran for a position with student government in middle school. and i'd like going door-to-door. as a matter of fact, not being able to do that was one of the downsides of this campaign season. i have been in eight elections, and love meeting people in their communities. this time around it is all on the telephone, and i was a big
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telephone person as a teenager, so those skills came back too. greta: spent a lot of hours on the phone, huh? rep. ross: oh yeah. greta: did you always think, i am going to run for office someday? rep. ross: well, like i said, in middle school i started getting involved in student government. what i would say is -- and i realize now how unique it was, but there were a lot of strong female leaders setting an example for me and showing me that anything was possible in education and in my career. and then in government. i was born in philadelphia, but i grew up basically from second grade on in connecticut. and ellen was the governor of connecticut and barbara was in congress. this was normal to me that there
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would be women occupying very significant political roles and government roles. and i realize now how unusual it was for that time, but i think they and my mom and my junior high school civics teacher told me anything was possible. and they led by example. they got me involved in the community, which is the best way to learn whether or not you want to serve. greta: any other political mentors in your life? rep. ross: well, one of my biggest political mentors in the general assembly, and i served in the north carolina legislature for more than 10 years, was a two-term speaker of the house joe hackney. he was a mentor to me when i was an advocate for the civil liberties union. he was chair of the judiciary committee. i got to know him there. then i started to serve.
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and he gave me a lot of positions of leadership very early on, co-chairing constitutional committees. i ultimately chaired the judiciary committee twice and was a whip. we have very different personalities. much more outgoing, ready to move, and he is armor and a lawyer, very patient, keeps his own council. he taught me that there are lots of different ways to get things done in politics. and he taught me the importance of patience and grace as well. greta: did he have anything he would say to you, or do you remember a piece of advice? rep. ross: he would say, sometimes it's better to wait. so, if something was guaranty -- getting very hot and there were people on different sides, rather than trying to immediately pick a side or immediately come up with a
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solution, he would really let everybody speak. let everything get out on the table. give it a night, and ask people to talk to each other. and frequently, things could be resolved not in the heat of the moment, but after a good night's sleep and after having some good conversation. greta: you have been in eight elections. you have served in office at the state level. you ran for the u.s. senate. any moments along the way when you think, or you have experienced any sexist pushback from men? and how did that shape you? rep. ross: oh, all the time. i grew up in a different generation. i am in my 50's. i just let it roll off my back. sometimes i would handle it with humor. if it was, you know, sexual in
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nature, i would push back hard. i was framed and shaped by watching the anita hill hearing. i think a number of women in my generation said, you have got to speak up early. if i saw something or felt something that was inappropriate, i would always tell people in real time what was going on to protect myself. but it was a different time.when i first started in politics i was the youngest woman in the north carolina general assembly. and sometimes the pushback i got was from the women. i remember i tried to go into the member's cafeteria at the very beginning, and the woman who ran the cafeteria did not think it was a member because i was a woman in her 30's and there just were not very many of those in our general assembly. greta: how were you framed and shaped by the anita hill hearing? rep. ross: well, what i saw was
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people who didn't have an understanding of what really goes on in the workplace, and in society for women. what we hear, sometimes just walking down the street. and i am not the only person. that was the year of the woman forgetting women elected to congress as well. senator patty murray tells a wonderful story about how she was inspired by those hearings. but the way i was framed and shaped was to know that it is important to speak out. it's important to seek change. it's important to be in the halls of power. that we can't just expect somebody to protect us. we have to protect ourselves, and even more importantly, women have to protect others. greta: you practiced law for 25 years. what issues did you work on, and
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will you continue that work in congress in washington? rep. ross: well, i have loved practicing law. and i have also taught law at duke university, primarily to foreign lawyers, which was very interesting, sharing our legal facility to people who come from another legal system. as everybody knows, i ran the civil liberties union in north carolina for more than seven years, so i have a history of working on constitutional law, civil rights, civil liberties, the first amendment. and those are very, very strong values that i have. and i had a lot of success, both in court and advocating at the legislature, on issues affecting civil rights and civil liberties. and at this moment in our nation's history, we need champions for civil rights and civil liberties. and i plan to be that champion again, as i have been throughout my career. i have also practiced in private
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practice. primarily in infrastructure, economic development, and renewable energy. and right now i am closing up a law practice with a dozen renewable energy clients. everybody from people who are small hydroelectric plants, to solar energy, to biogas. in north carolina we have plenty of swing and poultry waste we are trying to use in an effective way. i am going to bring all that experience to congress too. i am hoping this will be a big session for infrastructure and for renewable energy, and for modernizing our electric grid. greta: deborah ross, representing north carolina's second district. thank you for your time. announcer: frank mrvan is the democrat resenting indiana's first congressional district. he is a second-generation politician.
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his father served for 39 years in indiana state senate. he worked as a mortgage broker and in pharmaceutical sales and entered politics in 20015, with a successful run for trustee of northwest indiana. he is one of two new members of the state. >> first, tell me, what is a hoosier? rep. mrvan: a hoosier is a bird, but most importantly, it's the name that we take. indiana hoosiers are resilient, hard-working, and always seeking out a better quality of life to help their neighbors. >> you are representing indiana's first district, which differs from much of the state. tell me why. rep. mrvan: it differs from much of the state simply because it is in the northern tier. we are northwest indiana, right on lake michigan. we are very close to the chicago market. but most importantly what differentiates us is we are the number one top steel producing region in the nation.
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our steel meals -- mills in gary, indiana and longley lakeshore are -- and along the lakeshore are vita how is thel. >> rep. mrvan: covid-19 has had its impact on the market. it's also had impact on production. currently it is running at about 67% of production rates. and ultimately we want to get into the high 80's and 90's and get all of our men and women who work in steel back to work, and ultimately do what we can to protect the steel industry through very solid and good trade agreements, and making sure that we are protecting the global market, that we are not getting steel from foreign countries dumped into the united states because they have a surplus. so as a member of congress, i
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intend to work extremely hard to make sure we protect the steel industry. a key phrase we learned in 2020 is supply chain. we want to be dependent and it comes to defending our nation. building ships, building airplanes, building tanks. we have to make sure we take our steel industry. we hope to pass a bill with a buy american stipulation. >> you were among the workforce before entering congress. what industry did you work within? rep. mrvan: for the last 15 years i was a north township
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trustee. i represented communities in northwest indiana. a very diverse socioeconomic set of communities. it was 180,000 people. my responsibility -- one of my responsibilities was emergency relief. families who had lost their jobs or were underemployed over the last 15 years. we have serviced thousands of people every year to make sure we stabilize their homes and to make sure we worked with social services and, you know, all different agencies to make sure those individuals who were vulnerable or living in the margins or needed a job, not giving them a handout, but a hand up in order to become employed. we are in a national crisis. people are losing their jobs, facing health care crises. that is what i have done for 15
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years. i bring skill sets of working with people who don't know where to turn. we offered direct relief and worked on workforce development, community colleges making sure people were prepared for the next generation of jobs. that is what i intend to do as a member of congress. to make sure we stabilize the economy, get people back to work, see what the next generation of jobs are, and train workers to be prepared for that. what i have done as a north township trustee is exactly the training necessary for the conditions or the time we face currently in our nation. in indian and my district. -- indiana and my district. >> i understand your father worked in local politics. talk about that. rep. mrvan: my father, a state
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senator, is a servant leader, represented the first senate district in indiana. he goes to indianapolis to make state laws. ultimately, he has fought hard for labor, working men and women, education, and he has been someone who has been invested and poured his life into making sure people had opportunities, and property owners and individuals were treated fairly. ultimately making indiana a better place. i would go to the union halls with him. i would go to the parades growing up. that gave me the skill set to make sure i used my talents to be able to assist people over the last, i mentioned, 15 years of my life as a township trustee. we have executed that. what it has taught me and the lesson i'm walking away from my father is to stay close to your constituency. make sure you are communicating with them.
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understand what is on their mind and take action. find out the needs of the community and fulfill those. >> tell us about your family life at home. rep. mrvan: absolutely. i married jane, my wife, we were high school sweethearts. we met in high school. i was a sophomore and she was a freshman. i was 16. we have been together ever since, i am 51 years old. i went to ball state, she went to perdue. we have always been together and connected. that's my wife. my daughters, i have genevieve, who is 17, and scarlett, who is 13. a senior in high school and an eighth grader. these are challenging times with e-learning, especially for a senior.
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it is all that generation is going through. as a family, we are going through that. but genevieve loves art and photography and fashion. she is a phenomenal writer. scarlett loves science and history and social studies and leg was arts. -- language arts. i have a dog, a golden dual. he is one of my best friends. that is my home life. >> had you plan to make the family life balance work with your travel back and forth with the hill? what you bring the dog with you? rep. mrvan: we will see. i don't know how truman is going to travel. it is about an 11 hour drive. i'm going to balance my home life and work life the same way millions of families do that every single day. i have a strong support of my wife and my family, who wants to see me be successful so that our district is successful and so
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that people get back to work and we get through this health-care crisis. ultimately, doing everything we can to include each other in our lives in washington, d.c.. in e-learning, we hope my wife's -- my wife and children can come out more frequently. with what lifework balance, another issue is making sure you are connected, making sure you are involved with family. no matter how big the subjects are or how overwhelming the challenges are we face as a nation, we always have to come home to our families. we have to remember that. i always have to keep in mind the support system i have to be for my daughters and for my wife , and to everything i can to stay connected. >> how is your district bearing with the pandemic, with the crisis now? rep. mrvan: it is faring equal
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to what the nation is faring. numbers are on the rise in indiana. we are a wright county which means we are at a higher percentage of positivity rates than most of the state. people are suffering, it is. the message is today that as a member of congress, to make sure we continuously listen to the cdc. things i want to work on are making sure the logistics of the distribution of the vaccines going forward are understood, communicated clearly, and we have a national plan. i want to make sure cdc, fema, and homeland security are working together in conjunction with our state agencies, our state health professional agencies and our county health professional agencies. when we do that, i believe we will have the best approach toward covid-19. to those families who are suffering and have lost loved ones, my condolences.
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we are going to do everything we can to work on this health-care crisis in my district, the state of indiana, and the nation, and also to everything we can as a number of congress to get people back to work. an economic stimulus package gets direct relief to individuals in the form of ppp to businesses and making sure our schools, hospitals, and first responders and our state and local and county governments are properly funded based on the reduction of the revenue they have seen. >> as a new member, is there anything you are looking forward to or excited about enjoying -- in joining the 117th congress? rep. mrvan: what i am looking forward to or excited about is using my skills and my past experiences coupled with my
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intentions as far as getting people back to work, making sure my district gets through this health crisis along with the nation, making sure we could stabilize people's homes, stabilize businesses, get our economy back on track, i am looking forward to the opportunity to participate in our government in the greatest nation in the world face with one of the greatest challenges we have had in 100 years. i believe i'm up to that challenge and these are serious times. i'm going to approach it seriously, but still try to have joy in my heart because i am serving. ultimately what i am looking forward to is taking steps necessary to get through this crisis, taking steps to get to the other side so we have economic stability, we have control over covid, and that we are working every day toward safe measures.
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enjoying the challenges of the job. >> thank you for joining us today on c-span. rep. mrvan: thank you very much and you have a wonderful day. announcer: carolyn bourdeaux represents georgia seventh district. now a professor at georgia state university, she is the first democrat to flip this seat held by a republican since 1995. >> you were born in roanoke, virginia. what was childhood like? rep. bourdeaux: >> the
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turning point in my life is when i was in high, my father burned out of teaching and decided to go into business for himself, selling on the street large colorful paper animal hats. every year the vans would roll out from my driveway and i would stand on the streets of different cities and talk animal hats -- hawk animal hats. that was one of the formative events of my life. >> what did that teach you? him leaving his profession to start a new business? rep. bourdeaux: the story took many twists. i was getting ready to go to college and wrote this cheeky college essay about how you sell a paper hat in the rain. young people from my community never thought about going to ivy league schools, but somebody handed me an application to yale university and i thought, i will give it a try. i slapped on that essay, which is about five pages, i send it
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in, and i got in. i was a very good student, but i attribute getting into el in part to having a very unique story about the paper hats. i went to yale, a wonderful experience for my family and my community, but while i was there , because of the recession of the early 1990's, the hat business went under. we went bankrupt and lost everything, including our house. i ended up going on a pell grant, loans, people in the community helped me make it through. i worked long hours and i made it. when i graduated, someone sent me down and said, you have a lot of debt, you need to get a job. my father sat me down and said, this country invested in you to give you a world-class education , and with that comes responsibility to get it back. that formed the core of my commitment to public service. i learned a lot from the hat business.
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you take risks, it can take you tonic spec that places. hard work, perseverance, and a recognition of a community that has invested in me, invested in all of us. and the responsibility that comes with that, to leave a future for our children. >> when your father had to declare bankruptcy, what impact did that have on you? >> it was a very dark time for my family. we did not have anything. i did not have $.50 to buy a coke. we had to work our way through that. at the end of the day, i knew i had a good education, and i would be able to make it because of that. that was also a very important lesson for me and my family. >> how do you think that experience shaped you today? rep. bourdeaux: i am somebody who is very good in tough places. i was director of georgia's
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senate budget evaluation office during the great recession. i worked under the republican leadership in georgia, worked with both parties to balance the budget in this tough fiscal crisis. the end of my time, i was honored with a special resolution for significant service to the state of georgia. this race for georgia's seventh congressional district, a very tough race. we have worked hard to make trance formative change in georgia and all of that comes from the toughness, learning how tough you have to be to make it through tough times. >> after you graduated and your father had that talk with you, what did you do next? rep. bourdeaux: that is it, my life is about public service. i took the train from new haven, connecticut to washington, d.c. i had to make a little money because i had a lot of student debt. i thought, i will start working in washington.
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i went door-to-door to door to any member of congress i had some connection to and i said, i am your constituent, higher me. eventually my grand mother's congressman's scheduler. i ended up working for him. >> what was that like? rep. bourdeaux: that was wonderful and i learned a lot about public policy, working for ron. he was somebody who is very progressive. he is fiscally responsible. every piece of legislation i worked on had a republican cosponsor. he had a commitment to good public policy and building the coalition to get it done. >> how did you end up in georgia? rep. bourdeaux: after working for ron wyden, i went back to school. i got a masters with a focus in public finance and i came to georgia in 2003 to teach at georgia state, the andrew young school of public policy.
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i have been very involved in the policy life of georgia ever since that time. >> how do you think being a teacher will help you in washington, d.c.? what traits do you bring to the table, having that background? rep. bourdeaux: it is very important to think about -- the thing about being a teacher is learning to listen to your students, to understand where they are in learning something you are trying to convey to them. one of the things i really believe in in public policy is sitting down and really having a dialogue with people in the community about what they need and how we work our way to a solution. a lot of my experience of that is grounded in learning how to teach. >> when did you decide to run for office, and why? rep. bourdeaux: i got into this race back in july of 2017.
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there were several pushes that got me into it. the first was the destruction of the affordable care act and the sense that our representatives had lost their line of sight. the people of the seventh district in georgia, there were 120,000 people without health insurance. it was inconceivable to me that our elected represent it would not be working hard to try to address that issue. uninsured people pay a very heavy price for not having health care, not having access to a doctor. it is also all of us who pay for it as well, because we pay for that uncompensated care in their own rising premiums. -- our own rising premiums. the other big push was the election of donald trump, seeing this president who is racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, somebody who did not seem to understand
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or respect the democracy itself. after that election, i sat down with friends and neighbors and said, we are not going to go down this way. we set up the race for georgia seven. >> you ran against a republican incumbent, you lost by only 433 votes. what did defeat teach you? rep. bourdeaux: in that race, we closed a 20 percentage point gap. he had never gotten below 60% of the vote, but with a huge effort, we closed that cap, came within 433 votes, flipping the seat. for people in the seventh district, this was like a victory. nobody thought that could be done. people would congratulate me on that race just because it was such a huge shift in people's expectation and people's
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understanding of their community and what could be done there. we turned around after that, congressman woodall decided to retire, i got back into the race , and we were all determined we were going to finish the job. rep. bourdeaux: -- >> you were one of the only democrats to flip a republican seat. what have you told leadership about the next two years and what you need to hold onto this seat? rep. bourdeaux: what i want to do is to help build a community in the seventh district and get things done on their behalf. that is really why i am here, why i am -- why i ran. we need investments in our community. health care is a very important issue. we also are a community with really highly valued -- that values education and we need
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infrastructure investment, not only just for quality-of-life, but also to unlock economic opportunity. key issues for me are health care, education, infrastructure investments, and in the democratic reforms, making sure we protect voting rights, campaign-finance reform, other key issues for people of the district. >> when did you become a democrat and how do you define it? rep. bourdeaux: i suppose i was a democrat, i worked for ron wyden and believed in the policies he advanced. when i came to georgia in 2003 i was faculty at the andrew young school. we provided a lot of support for the state legislature, for the governor, so i tried to take a nonpartisan stance. just focus on educating people about good policy.
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things changed, and i saw the destruction of the affordable care act, the election of donald trump. i turned back to my roots. democrats care about people and want to find ways that we can use government effectively and efficiently to solve problems for people. that is what i am very committed to. >> thank you for your time. rep. bourdeaux: thank you for having me. announcer: for a comprehensive source of video and information on the u.s. house and senate, go to c-span.org/congress. >> the 100 17 congress includes over 60 new members and this diverse group includes first-generation immigrants, state representative come as television reporters and former college and professional athletes. watch our conversations with new members of congress this week at
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8 p.m. and tonight we feature freshman members with backgrounds in progressive activism. watch interviews with new members of congress tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span, online at www.c-span.org or listen on the c-span radio app. 10 new members joined the senate this year. with their election, the senate is now equally divided with 50 in the democratic caucus and 50 republicans. the new senators have already been a part of history. their first weeks included debating challenges to electoral college votes, surviving an attack on the u.s. capital and witnessing the inauguration of a new president. before taking their oath, three of the new senators, who grew up on a farm or ranch, spoke to us about what brought them to congress and their life experiences and influences. we begin with wyoming republican

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