Katie Hill Is Considering A Congressional Comeback

Returning to Washington may be part of Hill's healing process, but she shouldn’t feel pressure to prove she can overcome her trauma.

Illustration for article titled Katie Hill Is Considering A Congressional Comeback
Image: Mario Tama (Getty Images)

Former Democratic lawmaker Katie Hill has mostly stayed out of the spotlight following her resignation from Congress in October 2019. The then-freshman congresswoman’s decision to step down was fueled by a bitter divorce from her estranged husband, whom she alleges leaked nude photos of her. The photos were then obtained and published by a right-wing website, RedState, which also posted an exposé alleging that Hill had a sexual relationship with a campaign staffer and member of her election campaign. (Hill denies having an affair with a staffer, but says she had a relationship with a member of her campaign).

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The smear campaign had its desired effect and then some: Hill received death threats and suffered from suicidal ideation; she said she felt like a pariah.

But now 33-year-old Hill is ready for a fresh start. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Hill revealed that she’s considering another Congressional run in the California swing district she flipped blue in 2018:

She is thinking about running for office again, though she worries about the toll, including the effect on her mental health and risks to her safety.

“I don’t feel like I have an obligation to [seek office], other than to show that people can recover from things, and if you’ve had a mission to do something and people try to derail you from it, don’t let them,” Hill said. “But I don’t know if that’s a good enough reason.”

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The district she briefly represented has fallen back into GOP hands, represented by Mike Garcia.

“I mean it’s really the question that kind of hovers in the back of my mind all the time, and especially when I see Mike Garcia and the stuff that he does,” Hill said. “I won by almost 9 points; Biden won the district by 10 points. It’s not a district that should be represented by somebody who’s that conservative.”

She plans to make decisions about her future around the end of the year.

But that’s not her primary concern just yet. At the moment, Hill is pushing for a revamped Violence Against Women Act, updated to make the nonconsensual distribution of intimate photos a federal crime. The VAWA proposal passed the House, it has yet to pass the Senate, where it will undoubtedly face strong Republican opposition.

Meanwhile, Hill has her own legal battles to contend with: In April, a judge dismissed Hill’s lawsuit against RedState and the site’s managing editor, Jennifer Van Laar, accusing them of violating California’s revenge porn laws. As of last week, Hill has been ordered to pay more than $200,000 in legal fees, including $84,000 in attorney fees for Van Laar and $100,000 to British tabloid The Daily Mail. The Los Angeles Times reports that the case was dismissed due to “an exemption in the law that allows the publication of provocative pictures if it is in the ‘public interest.’”

How the photos were of interest to anyone other than obsessive right-wingers is a mystery, but it’s no wonder Hill is fighting to make it so that others don’t have to go through her very public hell. While this is admirable, and while Hill’s tentative interest in a congressional comeback is entirely her prerogative, her rationale is subtly heartbreaking. Survivors should be seen, heard, and treated with empathy—and it would certainly help to have them more widely represented in Congress—but they should never feel pressured to prove that they have risen above their trauma, as Hill suggests.

If Hill believes that returning to the gauntlet of Washington is part of her healing process, so be it; Washington could use more Hills and less, say, Greenes and Boeberts. But she shouldn’t feel the need to convince us, the public, that she can overcome what happened to her.

Staff writer, mint chocolate hater.

DISCUSSION

aslan6
aslan

It feels like there are dueling narratives here and one has overtaken the other. The first, which is definitely true, is that Hill was a victim of revenge porn and other abuse from her former partner. The second, which seems to have gotten lost beneath the weight of the first narrative, is that Hill was accused of abuse by former staffers, and an employee that she’d formerly been involved with accused her of trying to “ruin politics” for her and “isolate her.” It seems that Hill resigned at least in part because there were going to be more stories about her abuse of others coming down the pike if she didn’t.

She deserves a chance to speak about the allegations against her, but what she’s said so far hasn’t impressed me much. And I hope that if she runs again, her former staffers are willing to speak to the media and make it clear what working with her was actually like.