Right before this interview started Dr. Kimberly Hardy rescued two dogs that had wandered into her neighborhood. By the end of the interview she had connected with their owner and they were on their way home! Kim approaches everything she does with enthusiasm. In her first ever campaign, the 2020 primary, she worked hard to unseat a Democratic incumbent who she felt was not taking the right votes for her community. Now she moves into a competitive general election against a Republican opponent and we’re thrilled to be on her team.
She took a few moments from campaigning (and rescuing dogs) to chat with our Program Manager, Devon Roberts.
Why did you decide to run for office?
It was starting to look at the national level like society was out of control. it felt out of control and the state felt out of control. The incumbent I ran against in the primary voted for HB2 and I couldn’t understand how a democrat and a person of color would vote for this and marginalize trans people. There’s a lot more in that bill that is equally as oppressive and horrible to people in the state and he voted for it. It made us a national embarrassment which we should have been. It cost the state a great deal of money. Then the incumbent voted that Duke shouldn’t cover costs of the coal ash. Why would we let these folks get off the hook for damage we don’t even understand the effects of yet? Now their customers pay for it.
Lastly, the events of 9/11 last year and the veto override bill. What I felt when I saw the 9/11 veto override was that the Republicans damaged the people of North Carolina by betraying their ethics and the peoples’ trust by taking a vote when they knew the opposition wouldn’t be there to stop them. I think the Dems trusted that on that day – of all days – the Republicans would yield to their better angels. It was disgusting and craven. They were determined to have a budget that didn’t pay teachers or expand Medicaid. It just got to where it looked like state and national politics were out of control. I tell my students that to make significant change you have to do it at the macro level like holding elected office. This was my time to try to fix things and make change. I’m a social worker and at my core I spend my professional life advocating for marginalized communities or teaching people to do that. If I want to make change it can’t solely be through the work my students eventually do. It has to include what I do. This is my moment.
What can the government do to help women and families now and into the future?
Pre-COVID I would have said expand Medicaid. Now I say expand Medicaid and economic support. This is not the time for people not to have healthcare. They also need economic support. It’s the government’s job to take care of people, especially right now. No one is chomping at the bit to get back to work, they’re trying to access a paycheck in the only way they know how. We can provide people the financial means to take care of their needs by getting them the unemployment they’ve requested, providing rental assistance to tenants and landlords to keep from having mass evictions, and expanding Medicaid so people are afraid of getting sick in a pandemic. These are the most important things.
What are you hoping to accomplish for women and families when you’re elected?
Poverty has to be something I champion on the campaign trail and in office. There are folks using food banks for the first time in their lives right now. People who were food insecure already are burning through food faster than ever. The homeless population has no means by which to “stay home and stay safe.” So many financially fragile families are headed by women with children whose incomes were already lower before the pandemic. Now many either had their hours cut or have been laid off. One to two missed paychecks and any of us could be standing on the edge of despair. All of this stuff is tethered to poverty and I intend to champion these issues.
Do you think there are any advantages or disadvantages to being a woman on the campaign trail?
The sexism is real. We had three mansplaining incidents in one week. Someone told one of my female volunteers that “politics is for manfolk.” I met another man who asked why I was running and he told me to calm down because I was getting passionate. Later that week, at a Democratic women meeting where I had to say a few words a man asked to walk me out and started to give me advice. He told me not to call myself Dr. Kimberly Hardy because using “Doctor” made me seem like I was above other people. He told me to smile and just call myself Kimberly Hardy.
I like that women, especially women of diverse cultural backgrounds, are seeing the possibility of their involvement in politics as a candidate. For so long the political process has been ceded to anyone male and white, but a diversity of thought, experience, and frame of reference are essential to ensuring that the voices of the people are truly represented.
Why are you a champion of reproductive freedom and gender equity?
Body autonomy is a universal right. You should be able to decide for yourself whether or not you’ll be a parent, when, and how many times. When you are pregnant and scared you don’t also need to be thinking “what will society think?” or “what will society make me do?” It’s not an easy situation. Knowing people who have had an abortion, the last thing they needed to think about was “is the law going to tell me to do something I don’t want to do?” This is a healthcare decision to be made by a woman and her doctor; it’s no one else’s decision because it’s no one else’s body. If we don’t get to weigh in on other elective medical procedures then why this one? If men can control their bodies, women can control theirs.
What are you doing to find joy during these times?
I am using this time to read for pleasure which I never get to do. I’m trying to tackle projects that day to day life doesn’t have time for. I’m spending time with my son and we try to do fun stuff together.