Amanda Frankel on Her Campaign To Primary Jerry Nadler

Amanda Frankel, a Democrat from Kensington, New York, recently announced that she’s running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler in the primary in New York District 10. 

She’s a bit of a wunderkind: at age 25, she’s the youngest woman to ever file to run for office federally. She’s worked on Wall Street and in cryptocurrency and has had a robust political life so far, organizing get out the vote initiatives and teaching folks financial literacy.She also has an adorable rescue dog, a terrier mix, who she regularly shares with her followers online. 

Frankel sat down with She Spends to discuss her campaign, which includes fighting for equal pay and equal work. Read on to learn more. 

(editor’s note: this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity).

What made you decide to run for office? 
I have no background in politics. I am not wealthy, I am not part of the New York City elite. I live in an apartment in Kensington. The campaign came out of this growing gut feeling that I wasn’t being represented. I grew up as one of four kids with a single mom, now one of seven with my step-sisters. I was always acutely aware of money. I started working was 12 years old.

Inequality is growing, not shrinking. We’re looking at potentially devastating climate change happening in our lifetimes. The politicians out there now are not fighting for you and me, they’re fighting for the corporations that finance them. If I don’t feel represented, my community probably doesn’t either. After speaking with people in the community, I felt like it was time to run. 

What were you doing before you decided to run for office? 
I worked for Stoic Capital. The things about crypto and blockchain that always excited me were how you could use them to solve big problems like creating sovereign identity, or using blockchain for microgrids. I was attracted to that space very early on. The things that came out of the crypto space for me was this idea that we were living in the 21st century and we need to address our 21st-century problems. In the industry, there’s an ethos of being open and transparent.

Was the decision not to take corporate PAC money easy? How did you know it made sense for you?
The idea of not taking corporate money was an easy decision. There’s a wave of people in my district and in the country believe that the government is not working for them. It’s an intimidating decision. Your campaign is run entirely differently. We focus more on community centers, volunteers and engaging folks on the ground level. People have to buy into your mission and be aligned with it. 

Your opponent is Jerry Nadler, who has been in Congress for quite some time, and seems to be getting a lot of press because of his role on the Judiciary Committee. Why are you a better candidate for New York 10 than he is?
This is my district. This is my home. If I’m going to run, I’m not going to move districts to challenge someone easier. That’s not why I’m doing this. Jerry Nadler has been in Congress since 1993. That’s coming up on 26 years. He has been in office longer than I’ve been alive. The way that these political dynasties come into place and rule over everyone is wrong. While he is progressive, he has only really had one real primary challenger. A healthy primary ensures that the interests of the government are aligned with people. 

I think about things like climate. To be honest, the final decision that pushed me to run wasn’t a professional thing. It was that I sat down with my partner, and talked about how I’m afraid to have children in the world we’ve created. The permafrost has melted, the political vitriol we face is huge. That’s a scary thing to contemplate. When you think of what you need to take on those battles, you don’t need good, you need great. You need people who will make change, not people who are cosigning change. With Trump, for example, Nadler has tabled impeachment proceedings twice. Our district deserves someone who is fighting for them every minute of every day. They need a regular person who gets stuck on the F train and is dealing with mice big enough that they can eat my dog. 

Why is equal pay one of your major campaign planks?
Equal pay for equal work for me is interesting. It’s just common sense. When I think about my policy platforms, I don’t think a lot of it is radical. How do we treat people fairly? There’s a pretty black and white answer to that. When we think that women of color are paid something like 62 cents on the dollar. That doesn’t make sense. Compensating people fairly makes sense. Having different people in the boardroom has better financial returns. It’s the right decision to make people’s lives better. 

We’re running with three key focuses in mind: an open and honest government. It’s this crazy and revolutionary idea that our government works for us. Things like creating voter registration systems that are automatic. The second platform is the climate. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we have an equal and fair existence if we don’t exist. We are firm supporters of the Green New Deal. I want to turn part of Rikers Island into part of a solar farm. I want to retrain workers. Anything that gets us to a world that still exists. The final platform is a safe and successful America for all. It’s a basic human right: access to housing, education, equal pay, equal protection under the law. This crazy radical idea that people should be treated fairly is key to what I’m building. 

How do you manage to get everything done? Do you have specific tools that help you? Are there online resources or books that have inspired you?
The first is for better or for worse, I use my calendar to do everything. I use the free version of Headspace. I think about making mental and physical health a conscious choice something that’s active. Running a campaign takes physical and mental health. I get up at 4 or 4:30 a.m. and I don’t go to sleep around 11 p.m. I try to make time in my life for the things that matter and the people that matter. Any type of meditation is great. When I think of management tools, just using my calendar is important. Scheduling time to call friends. We’re so focused on proving ourselves, there’s a view that you can’t have your relationships to be successful. But they’re important. I called my mom for five minutes this morning, which I had scheduled into my day on my calendar. 

What advice can you share with readers?
The first piece of advice is if you want to do something and someone tells you that you can’t, screw it. I’ve been told to drop out at least two dozen times to drop out. Specific to running for office, I encourage everyone to look into groups like Emily’s List, Run to Win, Vote Run Lead. I’m a big believer that if you can take a risk without worrying about getting evicted from your apartment, it’s worth the risk. Anything that uplifts yourself and other people is going to be hard work. 

How can readers who are interested support your campaign? 
The single easiest place to go is my campaign website. Through there you can view my biography and platform. Donate, sign up to volunteer, and there’s an Ask Amanda Anything. That goes to my inbox and I reply to those emails.