What it takes: How a Hill staffer runs for DC city council … during a pandemic … while raising a toddler

“For years … we’ve been having conversations about online learning,” she says. “‘Oh, the flexibility for the child’ and all of this other stuff. And now that we’re experiencing it, we are learning, “Oh no, no, trying to do online learning for pre-K3 and pre-K4, even kindergarteners and first-graders for that matter, is just a really, really difficult endeavor. And it doesn’t work.”

Henderson is currently a legislative assistant for Schumer, a New York Democrat. Before that, she spent four years as a policy adviser for the D.C. city council after her first Hill staffer job for former North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan. Henderson says she runs for office on her own time and would resign her position in Schumer’s office if she wins.

During our conversation, Henderson, a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, slips in and out of policy and politics, sometimes coming off as a wonk, but also a savvy political strategist. She’s had to adjust on the fly, as many candidates have, since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“No one ever anticipates the first time that they run for office will be during a global pandemic,” she says. “So what my plan was in November was very different than what my plan was at the end of March, when it was very clear that the stay-at-home order was going to last longer than two weeks.”

The at-large seat Henderson is running for has a field of more than 20 hopefuls, but only five stand a chance, she says. The large field can be attributed to two factors, according to Henderson. Because of the pandemic, candidates were required to collect only 250 signatures to get on the ballot, instead of the normal thousands. There’s also a new public financing program, which was actually one of the first bills Henderson worked on during her time as a council staffer.

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