Deciding to run
Babs, like a lot of us, grew increasingly frustrated watching Jeff Fortenberry’s voting record in Washington. In particular, she mentioned his votes against transgender people, like herself, as well as his voting against equal pay for women, and his ‘present’ vote for the Violence Against Women Act, which she called “absurd.” But, unlike the rest of us, she stepped up to run against him. Guts.
She’s got what it takes
In addition to guts, she’s got moxie and pluck. Babs says she has what it takes to run Fortenberry back to Louisiana. She describes herself as “driven.” She accomplished her two year IT degree in one year. She was named a top person in the world, yes in the WORLD, for her work with county governments in the IT field. She came out as transgender while working at a trucking company. She’s raising two sons and hosting an exchange student. Move over Wonder Woman, Babs can do anything she sets her mind to.
From farm kid to tech wiz
One of the first things I learned about Babs is that she grew up on a farm in Iowa. Not only does she lay claim to having grown up in the town with the world’s largest popcorn ball, she has first-hand knowledge of farming and small-town life. She described feeding cows, bailing hay, and delivering meals to neighbors in need with her grandmother. While we in Lincoln like to think CD1 revolves around us, much of our district is classified as non-metropolitian by the USDA. This includes seven counties where the primary economic activity is farming: Burt, Butler, Cuming, Polk, Staunton, Thurston, and Washington.
After high school, one of Babs’s first jobs was in a Verizon store where the technology bug bit her. From there, she completed a degree in information technology at her local community college. She currently does tech work for CHI in Omaha. For those who want to see Lincoln as Silicone prairie, she’s got you covered there too.
We chatted about her priorities in serving CD1: working with farmers to tackle climate change; access to healthcare and mental health care for everyone; civil rights for everyone, but especially LGBTQIA+ folx who have increasingly been under attack under the current presidential administration; the family- and economy-friendly policies of universal childcare, parental leave, and ending the student loan crisis; and lastly, gun control.
Working with farmers to tackle climate change
Babs said, “farmers are at the forefront of climate and weather, they have to literally deal with it every day.” She also wants to see them at the forefront of addressing climate change through sustainable farming practices that research has shown can capture carbon from the atmosphere and regenerate soil for crop production. She wants to see farmers, who are already doing these things, come to the table to support the Green New Deal. She sees Nebraska, with its vast acreage of farmland, as having the potential to lead the way in sustainable farming. Likewise, she sees Nebraska’s untapped potential for solar and wind power –and ahem, the new jobs that come with those– and the opportunities for our public utilities to make that change and to draw on the community colleges in the state to train workers for those new, high-paying jobs.
Healthcare for everyone
Babs identified healthcare as an issue in the U.S. “forever,” citing FDR and President Truman and their desires to see universal healthcare. She notes we’re “literally the only developed country in the world that doesn’t have a universal healthcare system or a public option.” Babs would like to change that. She would like to see universal healthcare, “whatever you want to call it.” Rather than treat healthcare like political football, she wants to see systemic changes that won’t leave people choosing between crushing debt and death. She also wants to see a system that provides coverage to people wherever they happen to get sick or hurt, not just in-network; a system that isn’t dependent on the whims of employers to change plans, that has predictable and affordable co-pays, that has government pricing for pharmaceuticals, that covers mental healthcare and provides those services in rural communities, and that ensures that everyone has access to a doctor who understands and respects them and will not turn them away. As she said, “It is literally life and death for people.”
Babs will fight for equality for everyone. Period. She believes everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. We’re all struggling with healthcare and with paying our bills, and the wealthy have pitted the rest of us against each other for too long. But when people come together and get to know one another, they can build communities they want to live in. In Congress, she will strive to “federally ban conversion therapy, expand gender identity options on federal documents, and ensure LGBTQIA+ healthcare coverage.” She will also fight for equal pay for equal work, paid family leave for moms and dads, universal childcare, and reproductive rights for women. She also supports the rights of dreamers and asylum seekers and will fight for DACA and DAPA and ensure those fleeing violence and climate change can seek asylum.
Universal childcare and paid family leave
From her own experience as a young parent, Babs supports universal childcare and increasing the quality and quantity of childcare. “We need universal childcare, it has to happen.” She identified not only the economic boom to families but also the importance of child development. Babs also supports the pro-family policy of paid family leave for moms and dads. Speaking from her own experience again, she described not being able to take time off work when her first son was born as “devastating.” Drawing from research, Babs stated that “it is hugely beneficial [for babies and children] to spend time with their parents. It can change who they are and affect how they develop early on and later in life” (That’s about when my former pre-k teacher self squeed with joy). And Babs noted, once again, that we’re the only developed nation that doesn’t provide paid family leave.
Solving student loan debt
And like me and basically everyone I know, she spoke from experience of the deep need to eliminate college loan debt for the Millennials (read: people in their 30’s who should be buying homes, having families, and spending money in the economy, but who are trapped by hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt) and making college more affordable. She stated, “Our generation did not get what was promised to us. We were told go to college, that’s going to get you that awesome job that will pay you enough.” She noted our parents were able to put themselves through college working summers but is no longer possible to do that as “the rules have changed… we can’t buy houses, we have a hard time paying for cars. We have a hard time living.” She supports Sanders’ and Warren’s plans to cancel student loan debt. She said, and I quote, ” There have been studies that show by doing that we would have a HUGE boom in our economy because an entire generation of people in their 30’s, who are supposed to have money, actually do have money… to go out and buy a home and have children.” And she believes we need to look to other nations for ways to lower costs of colleges, such as funding community college and public four-year colleges through closing tax loopholes and increasing tax rates to 75% on the highest tax brackets, or rather returning them to the levels they were in the 1950s. “If we do that, we can pay for all of this stuff!” (Definitely where I wanted to give Babs a big hug).
Lastly, we spoke about an issue important to both of us: gun control. Gun violence is deeply personal to Babs as her cousin Valerie was killed at school by a boy who liked her and who then killed himself. She believes at least one solution is pretty simple: “Mitch McConnell needs to bring the assault rifle ban to the floor so it can get passed and signed into law again. It needs to be a permanent law. No one needs an assault rifle for hunting. I come from a family of hunters…I’m not advocating against hunting. I’m advocating against weapons that can fire hundreds of rounds in seconds… those are for soldiers who have been properly trained for military purposes only.” Preach, sister. Babs also identified safe storage laws across the board, at the federal level, as way to keep guns out of the hands of children to prevent accidental shootings and murders like that of her cousin. She notes the idea of “gun rights” is a recent fabrication of the NRA to line their pockets and those of gun makers (and really, just then, I nearly kissed her). She also supports red flag laws, background checks, and closing gun show loopholes as well as a licensing and registration system much like that for cars. Babs says she shoots for fun when she’s back home at the farm, but she says she knows these things are the right thing to do.
Get to know our new girl crush for yourself
If you would like to get to know this plucky lady, Seeing Red will be hosting a fundraiser for Babs on November 5th. Details here. And as always, we plug not only donations to campaigns (donate to Babs here), but also volunteering (Sign up here).