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Kristie Holmes: What It’s Really Like To Run For Office Part 2

By Rachel L. West
Advocacy Consultant

This is Part 2 of the interview with congressional Candidate Kristie Holmes. You can read part 1 here. Kristie is running in CD33 out in California for a seat soon to be vacated by Henry Waxman. It is a hotly sought after seat. Holmes, a social worker and professor at USC School of Social Work, is one of 21 candidates running in this race.

How to get in touch with Kristie:
Website: http://www.kristieholmes.com
ristie’s Blog: http://www.kristierunningforcongress.blogspot.com
witter: @DrKristie
To donate to the campaign: www.donatetokristie.com

PSW: What are some of the key issues you are running on?

KH: Corruption- up, down, left, right

Education, especially in the state of California- I think we are #47 for spending per student in our public system.  Education- college, student loans, and the issue of contingent labor on higher education (more than 75% of college instructors are “temporary” and most of those earn somewhere around or below minimum wage, without benefits and heavy student loan debt).  We pay minimal lip service to our young voters, without actually listening.  Part of that is the age gap in Congress.  If the average age of first appointment is 49 years old (even older for females) -logically, interest and focus is going to be a less diverse perspective.

Aside from the standard and generally expected issues for social workers:

Ballot Mandates for women– see IPU report, John Hendry.

  • Our place on the global platform is essential, but we are slipping as an example.  Nordic countries are fast approaching the 50% mark and we languish at 18.5% in Congress.
  • This affects our economy, and appearance to others in the world.
  • At two different sessions I attended at CSW 58, the US was reprimanded for our “backwards” ways with regards to female leadership.  That we continually pose as leaders of equality when we have never had a female president or even VP, and our participation in the House is abysmal.  We “Say” how much better we are doing/ getting here in the US, when the math simply doesn’t work for equity by the current means of elections (incumbents get elected 90% of the time, and vast majority of men).

…and I am backing the legalization of marijuana.  I live in a state where we already have medicinal marijuana (along with 20 others including DC), and are also on the border of Mexico where drug cartel activity continues to increase rapidly.  There are tunnels being constantly built when another is shut down, and literal pipelines between here and there- to push (mostly) marijuana through.  The Sinaloa cartel took a 30% hit from Colorado’s law. Marijuana is their biggest moneymaker, and driver behind much of the violence on our borders and increasingly on our side of the border.

Aside from this I think it’s another issue that revolves too much around semantics and faulty logic considering our country’s issues with big pharma drugs and the ease in which you can get a “prescription”. The patchwork of state laws makes it an enforcement nightmare where cartels actually become interested in the “legal” states within our own borders to mail it to “illegal states”.   We have 2 million citizens in prison at great expense to taxpayers, which is racially biased and much due to our Drug War.  It’s a revenue stream, and CO projects 1Billion in sales in the first year.  You can designated where tax profits go.  In the case of CA, we need it to go to schools and updated transportation.

I’m aware that this may be controversial but it’s also realistic.  What we have been doing is not working, and is actually causing a lot of harm.  We cannot afford the outcomes of the “war”.

PSW: The primary you are running in takes place in June, so you’re still very much in the middle of everything. However, from the experiences you have had so far what advice can you give to social workers interested in seeking public office?

KH: Don’t wait to tell everyone you know once you have made the decision.  For some reason, it is scarier than imagined.  People will come out of the woodwork to help you.  My friend David Green who I went to grad school with (we graduated in 2000) and interned together at DCFS has ended up being one of my loudest supporters.  He has been doing amazing things, and led the charge for the social worker strike here in Los Angeles for 6 days and after decades of increasing child safety failures, things are finally changing.  But it was controversial and took great organizing.  We only have a couple of months, I can only imagine what we could do in 9 months! (http://articles.latimes.com/2013/nov/05/local/la-me-ln-social-worker-lawsuit-20131105).  SEIU honored social workers yesterday, and they had me come to speak- gave me the best introduction on my life, and such support!

(*as a side note- SEIU had already given Ted Lieu the endorsement, long before they knew I existed).  I’m still learning about endorsements, but it really isn’t a focus for non- established politicians- as endorsements generally go to well funded “horses” (not my words).  I haven’t done enough research on the effect of endorsements on a race.  I am pressed for time, but after this is over, I have a running list of things that have raised questions of influence in my mind that i want to look at when I’m not in the middle of it!

PSW: How can people help with your campaign? (Details on how someone can volunteer and/or donate money or any other type of activity that would be helpful)

KH: Most needed: Those who have experience in building online networks where we can send “blasts” to each other when it is important.  i.e. direct to SMS.  Knowing who is committed to vote in the district will be very important in the future to winning the votes.  We don’t want to spam each other.  But limited, timely communication which gives us all what we need to make the difference in our clients lives, micro to macro.  Engaging micro social workers in even this limited way would be a game changer.  We need the database.

Money coupled with negativity is the current winning strategy (so I have been told, more times than I can count in 6 weeks), but we have enough of us to change an election.

Donating is important, at least until we can get the laws changed.  I personally don’t think we should fundraise even $1 towards campaigns.  It is a corrupting, biasing influence to even the best people.  We feel burdened by favors, and it alters voting on legislation.    But as I am repeatedly told, you need to fundraise something in the current system or it is nearly impossible to even let voters know that you exist, especially when you are shut out of candidate forums if you haven’t raised 100-250K proving that you are a “real” contender.  All campaign expenses will be transparent.  I am perfectly fine with being accountable to my fellow social workers for every penny raised and spent.

You can indicate at http://www.kristieholmes.com what you can volunteer for:

Knocking on doors
Helping at an event
Hosting an event
Displaying a lawn sign
Making phone calls from the campaign office
Making phone calls from my home
General / other activities (BE CREATIVE 🙂


  1. donate – mostly printing costs, canvassing
  2. Tweet unique awareness raising on this issue in your own voice.  VOTE IN THE PRIMARY OR WE LOSE. Or at least retweet and share with followers if you have no time.
  3. Sharing fundraising requests on Facebook is kind, but it’s actually the one of the least effective ways to raise funds (recent studies).  Those who are not fearful of phone calls can be especially helpful.
  4. “Sponsor” town halls or Google “hangouts” for questions.
  5. Blog about this on your blog: pick something that lights your fire, and get others interested in making change.  Be unique in your message.  It’s hard!
  6. Commit to a certain number of voters:  i.e. I will get commit to get 100 voters to the polls, including contact day of voting to make sure it happened (or that they mailed an absentee ballot in time).

If you live in the district:

1. Happy to come to your home and talk to your friends and neighbors, or have an event.  Help us pass out flyers in the district – it is ENORMOUS. We don’t have much time.


Posted by Rachel L. West

In addition to being the founder of The Political Social Worker blog, I am a consultant. My consulting practice offers advocacy and community outreach solutions to nonprofits, social good organizations, and private practitioners. Additionally, I offer career coaching to macro social work students and professionals.

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