Back in October 2018, I had the pleasure of personally interviewing Katie Hill during the peak of her election campaign. It was a great experience and I came away quite positively impressed about Katie’s authenticity and commitment to public service.
Katie said to me at the time:
“I recognized I’d been blessed in life to be directly qualified as the right public servant at the right time to make change happen for our district. I’ve been given a lot. It’s my responsibility to give back and I can impact positive change most as our representative for the 25th Congressional District.”
By most accounts after her decisive victory over Steve Knight, Katie Hill had quickly ramped up to the rigors of her new congressional representative job. So much to learn and so little time, and yet she emerged as one of the leading “freshmen” who crashed the congressional gates last election. In her short time, she’d done a good job representing our 25th District interests, even as President vs. Congress turmoil fully boils over.
But then, those missteps and mistakes of judgement which exploded first on political hit sites and then the national press…
During the election, Katie told us she was bisexual. She spoke about it a few times and interestingly, for the most part, everyone let it be. Maybe we as voters had moved on from personal sexual judgements. Maybe it seemed just an abstraction to voters. Maybe we needed change so badly our “conservative family values preferences” didn’t matter so much. But whatever, sexuality then was “no big deal” as Katie went on to trounce a genuinely masculine Steve Knight, by nine full percentage points.
And then Katie’s missteps, bad judgements, and sexuality-in-practice came to light through a rough divorce and a ravenous political site. Intimate photos of Katie’s “threesome” relationship with a campaign subordinate. A photo with pot. Rumors of heavy drinking. Threats of far more intimate photos to come. Katie’s sex life as well as bad professional judgements were broadcast, literally stripped naked, to the world.
Then, accusations of another relationship with another subordinate in D.C. This, against House ethics rules. And then, even more threats from dark sources of even more damning intimate photos.
Katie apologized sincerely and promised better. But with urging from Nancy Pelosi, Katie buckled. A bright shining star become a shooting star – and gone. Sad all around, fully preventable, extremely tragic, damaging to many and also telling about all of us and about our value systems. There’s much to be learned here, and not just about Katie’s complex and flawed life. Also about who we are and how we judge.
All sorts of other, (usually male), politicians have made far, far more serious “errors” than Katie, yet either retained their position or quickly reformed their image and made comebacks. We have a p***y-grabbing president, a man whose charitable trust was shut down for fraud, whose “university” was a sham and paid restitution, who’s denied straight to the camera knowing the very prostitutes we’ve seen the very checks he paid to silence. Who has been accused of rape by dozens. Who’s stilled hundreds with hundreds of millions in defaults and bankruptcies. And for many, the answer to these crimes and much more is, “So what?”
“So what?” Katie Hill doesn’t get a “So what?” Is it because Katie is female?
Because she’s bisexual? Is it because she’s young and imposing? Or is it because we love a salacious story of personal failings and fallings – especially with pictures.
Yet, Katie’s infractions are laughably small by comparison to the president’s and so many others.
But these are impeachment times. These are no times for tolerating lascivious violations while attempting impeachment of the president for abuse of power. This is no time for mixed messaging, and Katie had to go.
This story is so human, so tragic, and as complex as life can be.
Back in my October interview with Katie, I asked her what she’s given up entering this congressional race. Her answer proved prophetic:
Katie took a pause from the quick peppering of question and answer and thought for a moment… “Everything,” she said, slow breathing out. “My job. My family time. Nineteen months straight of continuous non-stop effort with no breaks. One hundred thousand dollars of my savings to pay for living without an income. Our plans for having kids delayed and put on hold.”
“That’s sacrifice,” I replied. “So why do it?” I inquired.
“Because now is a unique and urgent time requiring real solutions managed by capable representatives faithful to their constituents in Washington. It can’t be put off any longer. Lingering problems like health care, infrastructure, and homelessness must finally be honestly addressed.”
Indeed, Katie Hill sacrificed everything…
Katie Hill was and will still be, an earnest public servant. Katie truly yearned to serve — yet she was young and flawed and made serious judgement mistakes and today’s time and setting has disallowed present redemption.
But redemption will happen. Katie will heal and steel back up. Eventually, we’ll see a more judicious Katie Hill back in service again in a capacity where she can best serve.
So many of us wish her the very best in her life and in her future service.
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.