Nanette Barragan is a democrat and candidate for the 44th Congressional District. 2 Urban Girls has selected Ms. Barragan, as our Urban Girl of the Month, due to her strong commitment to the environment and working on behalf of underserved families. She has also picked up the endorsement of a national women’s group, Emily’s List. Ms. Barragan interviewed with us to share why she has decided to step down as Mayor Pro Tem on the Hermosa Beach city council to run for Congress. The Primary Election will occur in June 2016 with the General Election following in November.
Can you tell the 2UrbanGirls readers briefly who you are and why you are running for the 44th Congressional District?
My story starts with my family. My parents emigrated here from Mexico and settled in Southern California. I grew up around Carson – I went to Stephen M. White Middle School, I learned to swim at the Carson pool, and I studied at the Carson library. I guess you could say that growing up in the 44th District helped shape the person I am today and I want to run for Congress to give something back to the community. My parents’ story is similar to a lot of the stories in this district. Regardless of nationality, age, race, or gender, people here want to know that they have an opportunity to succeed. I believe the 44th District deserves a fighter who is committed to serving the interests of the people who live here. Frankly, we already have enough people in Congress who put big business, big oil and big polluters ahead of the people they’re supposed to represent. We don’t need more of them. I want to support the families who make our cities great by fighting to improve the economy, create jobs and provide access to healthcare and quality education.
How does your education and experience make you a qualified candidate for this seat?
First of all, I know how hard it can be to get a college education. I had to put myself through UCLA undergrad and the USC Gould School of Law, but I knew that’s what I needed to do if I wanted to make a difference. I was fortunate that those two schools provided me with a solid foundation to launch my career in public service. That career began in Washington, D.C., where I worked for the White House Office of Public Liaison as a facilitator between the public and the President and then at the NAACP, where I worked with the Director of the Washington Bureau on social justice issues. From there, I knew I wanted to focus on issues that impact the lives of others, particularly the people of Southern California. In my time as a lawyer and as a Hermosa Beach Councilmember, I have been committed to the people in my community and to finding solutions to real problems that affect their daily lives. I plan to bring my passion for the people of this district to Congress in order to make sure our voices are heard.
What do you see as the biggest issue(s), facing constituents in the 44th Congressional District?
Broadly speaking, I think the biggest issue is the lack of opportunity. People in the 44th District are willing to work hard. They don’t give up and they don’t back down. They’re not looking for a handout, but I think we can do a better job of creating opportunities for them to succeed and providing access to those opportunities. More specifically, that means creating fertile environment for business in order to promote job growth in the region so that job opportunities become more readily available. It means giving parents easier access to high-quality early learning for their children and making sure students who want to go to college have the opportunity to do so. It means making sure families have quality, affordable healthcare. And it means protecting our environment from polluters. I see that as a quality of life issue, but also an economic and healthcare issue. Building opportunity is crucial to have thriving cities and a strong economy.
How do you feel you will be able to contribute and/or impact, the issues you describe?
I think I bring a fresh, new perspective to Congress. I know how to work with people to forge coalitions to get things done, but I’m not part of the old politics that have brought Congress to a standstill. I’m not beholden to any special interest and I don’t prioritize any industry over the interests of the people of the 44th District. I choose to believe that even one person, with a clear vision and a commitment to getting things done, can make a difference in Congress these days.
You made your name advocating on behalf of the environment and more specifically, banning increased oil drilling in Hermosa Beach. How did you get involved and more importantly, why do you think your efforts resonated with Hermosa Beach voters?
Environmental conservation has always been one of my passions. I see it not only as an issue that impacts our quality of life, but, especially in our community, it’s an issue the impacts our economy and our health. So when a major oil company wanted to drill into the Santa Monica Bay, a space that is particularly sacred to the members of our community, I couldn’t let that happen. I took up the fight against Measure O because I’m committed to the needs of local residents, not major industries. The beaches where the oil company wanted to drill are places that individuals and families enjoy every day. They attract visitors to our communities and help stimulate the economy. The people in Hermosa Beach knew I was on their side and wasn’t going to cave to corporate interests. Together we were successful and were able to maintain the beauty of the beaches for what will hopefully be years to come.
Latino’s around Los Angeles County have been vocal of what they perceive as a lack of representation, on various elected bodies, in cities where they represent the majority of the population. You have also mentioned the 44th is primarily composed of Latino’s. How do you plan on getting them out to vote?
First of all, as I said before, the urgency of opportunity in this district is blind to nationality, race, age, or any other demographic identifier. People of all backgrounds want the opportunity to find a job, they want the opportunity to give their children a great education, they want the opportunity to find affordable, quality healthcare, and they want clean air and water where they live. So I think talking about those issues will appeal to Latino voters because, ultimately, they want the same thing everyone else does. But I think, because I am the child of Mexican immigrants, I have a more unique understanding of the challenges Latino families face and I am committed to making sure that their voices are heard in Congress. I’m confident that having the opportunity to vote for a Latina who has experienced many of the same challenges in life that they have will help encourage more Latinos to get out and vote in 2016.
An article ran recently in the Los Angeles Sentinel (http://lasentinel.net/hermosa-beach-mayor-resigns-abruptly-to-challenge-isadore-hall-for-congressional-seat.html), which describes you as “abandoning” your seat on Hermosa Beach city council, to run for Congress. Would you like to address any of the concerns about your “political aspirations”?
I don’t think I’m abandoning my position any more than my opponent is abandoning his seat in the California senate that he won less than a year ago. I’m running for Congress to give back to the community that has given me so much. I grew up in Carson and it holds so many memories for me. I want to make sure that the families and individuals who live in the district have a representative who understands their lives and their stories and can voice their concerns in Washington. That’s the end of it, plain and simple.
Some see you as the lesser known democratic candidate in this race, yet you managed to raise more campaign contributions as opposed to the supposed “front runner”, according to 1st quarter filings. Do you directly attribute that to your efforts in Hermosa Beach?
In this campaign we work as hard as we can every day. We never quit and we never slow down. That’s the way I’ve always done it, throughout my career. Maybe that’s because, growing up, my sisters and I knew we’d have to work harder to keep up with the other kids. Or maybe it’s because my parents taught me at a young age to stay focused and be committed to accomplishing the things I want in life. Whatever the case, any success we have in this race, including fundraising success, is because we work incredibly hard and because we have a great team of supporters who are willing to give their time and their money to support our cause.
Your endorsements are ethnically diverse and you have strong support in the City of Carson. How will you work to abolish racial tension in the 44th Congressional District?
It’s important that we create a dialogue. So many of the problems we face in these California cities and in places across the nation stem from a lack of communication about what a community needs to thrive, and sometimes, just survive. I plan to work with community leaders and leaders across Southern California to identify and address the major problems individuals and families face and what we can do to help alleviate them.
You can get more information about Ms. Barragan’s campaign at barraganforcongress.com