If We Don’t Run, Nothing Will Change

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Lauren Underwood is running for Congress to represent the Illinois 14 district. Lauren is a registered nurse and is getting #OffTheSidelines to fight for her city, the medical community and the patients who need care. Click here to learn more about Lauren and get involved in her campaign.

Earlier this year, the Republican congressman in my district held one — only one — public event to discuss the American Health Care Act. He sat on stage in front of about 800 of his constituents and promised he wouldn’t vote for any bill that took away coverage for preexisting conditions.

I was really pleased to hear it, because like so many Americans, I suffer from a preexisting condition and rely on those protections to afford care. But just weeks later, he voted for the AHCA — a disaster of a bill that would have made coverage for preexisting conditions too expensive for millions of people like me.

I knew I had to run. Right then, I decided, “It’s on.”

For me, health and health care are personal. When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia. Essentially, it means my heart sometimes goes into this loop where it just races, sort of like I’m running a mile or I’m really anxious about something. What’s different is that when you’re exercising, your heart rate will slow down once you stop. But mine will just stay in that loop.

I’ve been able to manage my condition with the help of great doctors and nurses, folks who inspired me to become a nurse myself and then go on to work on health policy, including service in the Obama administration helping to implement the Affordable Care Act.

When my congressman voted to take away health care after telling us he wouldn’t, it stood counter to everything I believe government to be. Government doesn’t remove the net from under us, or make people more vulnerable; it helps empower people to live well, chase their dreams and care for others. That’s not to say the Affordable Care Act doesn’t need to be fixed; it does. But after their party-line effort to eliminate this law failed, Republicans just moved on.

I’m a 30-year-old black woman, and I have not felt like I’ve had a voice in the United States Congress. I’m running because if I don’t — if we’re still not heard — nothing will change.

For the longest time I’ve been telling myself … someday. Even after Trump won and lit a fire under the women’s movement and we marched across the country, it was still “someday.” But I had professional and training experiences that prepared me. So when my congressman told us he would stand with us, only to break that trust, “someday” became today.

I’m back home in Naperville, Illinois, and I’m running to become my community’s voice — a voice for my city, my family, the medical community I’ve served in and the patients who need care. I’m running for working families, women and women of color. I’m Lauren Underwood, and I’m off the sidelines and in this fight for our future.

Off The Sidelines is @SenGillibrand’s movement to help women run for office—and win.

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