"I was told, 'A woman couldn't possibly beat Steve Knight," Democratic candidate Katie Hill told Refinery29 earlier this year. That's the feedback she received when she announced she was going to challenge the Republican incumbent in California's 25th District. And yet, here we are: The 31-year-old nonprofit executive defeated Knight in a dead heat election that was deemed too-close-to-call most of Wednesday. In the afternoon, he conceded.
The 25th District was a Republican stronghold for decades. But then, Hillary Clinton carried the district in the 2016 presidential election and Knight's seat became a target for Democrats hoping to flip the House. Hill, who will now be California's first openly-bisexual congressperson, never really thought about running for office. But after the Trump administration started enacting policies that ran counter to the causes she believes in, she was moved to action. "[I realized] the social issues I care about the most are completely dependent on having the right federal partners," the first-time candidate told Refinery29. With that in mind, she launched her bid.
That was 19 months ago. Hill ran on a platform that includes support for affordable healthcare, common-sense gun laws, criminal justice reform, affordable childcare, and defending reproductive rights. But she also emphasized the need for bipartisan collaboration in Washington and approached these issues with a straightforward middle-of-the-road Democratic lens. Like other insurgent candidates this election season, Hill out raised Knight through grassroots donations, refusing to take corporate money. And now, she's made history.
"I didn’t quite realize what big of a movement I was gonna be part of," Hill said in our interview. "What I realized over the past year is that this is a tidal wave, a shift in our democracy in terms of changing the face of what Congress looks like. Not just Congress, but what politics in this country look like."