Democrat Wendy Reed is planning to run against Kevin McCarthy in 2018. Reed announced her intention to take on McCarthy in the race for California's 23rd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in a phone interview with the Daily Independent Wednesday.
Reed ran against McCarthy in 2016, garnering 30.8 percent of the vote. She said she had no plans to run again, but circumstances have persuaded her otherwise.
“These are dark times,” she said. “All the things that we are losing. We are losing hard-fought rights, losing programs, losing agencies, losing international status, losing jobs and employment, losing opportunity.”
When Reed ran last year, her campaign largely centered on her contention that the political process itself needs to be cleaned up.
“During the campaign in 2016 I was fond of saying that the 2016 election was not about political parties, the 'blue team' vs the 'red team.' The politics itself was the problem — what it was about at its heart was corporate control over the government vs. elected representatives who represent the people who elect them.”
Reed said that what was then an academic argument now seems to have become real and she feels a new urgency from the many people urging her to run again.
A long-time resident of the Antelope Valley, Reed described herself as having been “a reluctant candidate” in 2016 but not in the upcoming race.
“I am told by data statisticians that a second time candidate has the best chance of winning as compared to any other candidate. That rings true to me and not just because I believe in math.”
She shared her position on the hot-button issue of health care.
Reed is not a supporter of the American Health Care Act in its current form, saying with a laugh that the AHCA “puts the ‘hell’ in health care.”
“In terms of health care specifically, I have consistently supported single-payer health care for all,” she said. “We pay more per capita per nation for health care and get worse health care services than any developed nation, and that's because our health care system is focused around health insurance policies and insurance is not health care.”
Reed said she agreed with some aspects of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). She said she approves of the universal coverage of pre-existing conditions as well as allowing adult children to stay on their parents' policies until the age of 26, which she said “looked at the reality of modern American kids going to college.”
In addition, “the exchange and the subsidies did allow previously uninsured people to be able to purchase insurance and stopped the rest of us from having to pay for their care.”
Overall, she said “the ACA tried to help a bad system which it seems the AHCA is looking to restore.”
Reed said she fully supports expanding Medicaid.
“Why would you want to take away people's health care? These are veterans,” she said. “These are elder people, these are disabled people. Why would you want to pull back their health care? That's not what's broken. I don't understand why they think that it would be a good idea.”
Reed said problems with the ACA include the expense of insurance policies, especially for middle class people. In addition, she said, “some of the co-pays of the policies are so high that they kind of discourage us from going to the doctor anyway.”
She added that in actuarial terms the ACA relies on the vast majority of people participating, so that young healthy insured people balance out the older insured people.
“What we want to improve about the ACA is to get the insurance profit out,” she said.
Reed advocates a fact-based and science-based approach to solving problems, especially when it comes to clean water, clean air and consumer protections.
“I absolutely believe it's the government's role to establish rules to protect its citizens from harm,” Reed said.
This includes preventing big corporations from polluting the environment, she said.
Reed said she thinks California needs a holistic approach to solving water problems that is based in science.
“Scientists and other academics have to come to good understanding in how we live on this planet. We need to invest in [their work],” she said. “We are overpopulated, we need to figure out the best ways to move forward sustainably. This is the smart common-sense [approach].”
Asked what she would do differently than McCarthy if elected, Reed did not mince words.
“What I would do differently begins with the presumption of whether government should be run as a business to make profits for rich people or whether government is established by the constitution for the welfare of the people,” Reed said.
She added her “underlying philosophy”of government is “diametrically opposed” to McCarthy's.
“I believe my job is represent the interest of all the people, which includes large businesses,” said. “But their profits are not my primary concern over the education of a child or the health care of a citizen.
Profits are not what we are supposed to be doing in the government.”
Reed brings a colorful life history to her political candidacy. She was raised in New York and New Jersey. Her early life gave few hints of a future political career.
“I started life as a musician. I wanted to be an opera singer,” she said. She sang in a band called Wave, played guitar and keyboards and “even doubled up on bass.”
She opened for Bonnie Raitt.
“I played music with Muddy Waters and met Joni Mitchell. Mick Jagger smiled at me,” she said with a laugh.
An early stint in folk music led to playing jazz rock. “When disco took over, I sang country music,” she said, laughing again.
Finally at the age of 30, she decided she didn't want to be a backup singer or a bar singer and focused on other things. She got married, had a son, and ran a home business. She went back to school, earning a BA from CSU Bakersfield (with a minor in economics) and a Masters of Public Administration from CSU Northridge.
Reed became involved in politics over land use and is a part-time administrator of her local land conservancy, which she helped found in 2005. Her website contains a long list of community activities, many to do with environmental concerns.
She has been married for 27 years to Wendal Reed and they have a grown son. Reed said she enjoys gardening and recently put in California native, drought tolerant landscaping in her own yard—doing the work herself.
Although relatively new to being a candidate, she said her political passions reflect her lifelong personality. “Even in the sandbox I was the kid who stood up for the kid who got bullied. I have always been the one to stand up for others.”
This article has been edited to correct a typographical error.