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Democratic leader pushes community involvement

Robert Houk • Dec 21, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Kate Craig, a leader of the Washington County Democratic Party, believes there are many ways to get involved in the community and local politics.

“There isn’t a wrong way,” Craig said. “We just all have to be doing what we can because every little bit matters.” 

Fast Facts

Dog or Cat: “I’ve adopted one dog and three cats, so it would be disingenuous to say I was either a dog or cat person. I’m an animal person.”

Favorite book:” My favorite books are (because I don’t have just one) are “Americanah,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and “Stone Butch Blues,” by Leslie Feinberg.

Ideal way to unwind: “I enjoy reading quietly alone in a local brewery or restaurant, as well as at home with my pets, binge-watching political dramas on Netflix, or working on writing my latest novel.”

What do you do for a living?

I devote my days to community work. This includes serving as chair of the Washington County Democratic Party, chair of the First Congressional District under the Tennessee Democratic County Chairs Association, co-chair of the Women’s March and founding organizer for the Tennessee Democratic Party Rural Caucus.

I see my job as community building, regardless of the partisan label. I know that a community is strongest when all of the voices are represented at the table and that’s not yet something we’ve achieved.

What’s the part of your job you enjoy most?

My favorite part is watching someone believe in the power of their own voice for the first time. Part of my job is to recruit and train candidates to run for office. It’s helping someone believe they can change the outcome of an election, the narrative of the conversation, by exercising their voice and running for office.

When someone realizes their own potential, they illuminate and I know our community will shine a little brighter because of their light.

Who has had the greatest impact on your life?

To name one person wouldn’t be accurate. Specifically, it’s been the communities of the women in my life who have had the greatest impact. From my mother and grandmother; to teachers and professors; to networks of professional political women (on both sides of the aisle); to community leaders, community activists, elected officials and candidates.

These women who step up to the plate every day, face insurmountable odds and continue to raise their voices inspire me. These women push me forward, help me grow, are sounding boards when I need advice and megaphones to help amplify my message. These are all things we do for each other.

What led you to get involved in politics?

My first foray into politics was as a student at East Tennessee State University when I organized a statewide walkout and voter registration drive in response to the budget cuts to higher education passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2003. But I’ve always been active in politics.

There are three things that specifically drive me:

• As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have watched my rights be up for discussion and compromise as part of the political discourse. Nothing about who I might love is political, and yet it has become an act of bravery to be out or hold a future girlfriend’s hand in public. 

• I survived a terrible motorcycle accident that changed the course of my life in 2013. I’ve had 13 surgeries to date — all from the accident — and the only way I’ve received treatment was through the Affordable Care Act. My access to affordable health care, because of a motor-vehicle accident that wasn’t my fault, has also been part of the political discourse with promises from elected leaders to repeal it or remove protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

• Because of my motorcycle accident, I have life-long disabilities. The first year after my accident I spent in a wheelchair. I’ve spent significant amounts of time on a cane. I live every day with chronic pain. Therefore, accessibly is incredibly important. Accessibility includes American Sign Language interpreters at festivals, accessible seating in front of the stage at festivals and accessible spaces and aisles inside restaurants and stores.

These three things are what drive me as I strive to build a more just world.

What advice do you give people who want to become active in politics?

I tell everyone that their voice matters. I wish I could gather everyone who has told me their voice doesn’t matter in a room— if there was a room large enough— and have them look around and understand that they would be a force to be reckoned with. Our democracy demands that we participate.

People fought and died for us to have this right and therefore it is our responsibility to carry the torch forward as we continue building this more perfect union. This starts at local levels with writing letters to the editor, making phone calls or knocking on doors for candidates you support, donating to candidates you support, joining local organizations and political parties that align with your values, running for leadership positions in those organizations, and even running for office. 

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