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Show Notes

In this episode, our hosts Bruce Lesley and Messellech “Selley” Looby chat with pediatrician and former congressional candidate Dr. Annie Andrews and political strategist Renee Harvey about their new political action committee (PAC) for children, Their Future. Our Vote. Dr. Andrews, a children’s hospital doctor, highlighted the invisibility of children in policymaking during her recent run for Congress. When the race didn’t end the way they’d hoped, Harvey and Dr. Andrews created the PAC to offer financial support to urgently needed kid-first policies, such as improving the Child Tax Credit, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and child care while also opposing efforts to ban books in our public schools and libraries.

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Full Transcript

Bruce Lesley 0:04
Hey Messellech, I have a question for you.

Selley Looby 0:06
What is it?

Bruce Lesley 0:07
Is there any chance you would ever think about running for office? I mean, we talk all the time about how we need more child advocates. Is that something you would ever think about?

Selley Looby 0:17
Absolutely not. Don’t think that’s my ministry, it’s, you know, between the invasion of privacy, the cost, you know, the toll on your family, I don’t think it’s something that that I’d be willing to sign up for.

Bruce Lesley 0:31
I hear you, as people have approached me at various times about running for something like school board or something, and I just just not my not my gig,

Selley Looby 0:40
the funny thing is, is some moments you wish that you were on the other side making the decisions, but to get there is just very special people.

Bruce Lesley 0:54
For first focus on children. This is speaking of kids, I’m Bruce Lesley,

Selley Looby 0:58
and I’m Selley Looby. Speaking of kids is a podcast that puts kids at the center of public policy.

So Bruce, you know, we see people at all stages of advocacy, right? ,

Bruce Lesley 1:14
Yeah, absolutely. But when you’re thinking about it, what are you thinking of?

Selley Looby 1:18
you know, for me, I’m really thinking of the range. You know, starting from our ambassadors internally here at first focus, there are boots on the ground, our grassroots network. And then, you know, we have our actual champions for children, policymakers who have taken direct actions as it relates to kids, either they sponsored a bill, they wrote a bill, they held a briefing, they’ve taken direct action to advance, you know, the lives of kids in their districts and across the country.

Bruce Lesley 1:48
Yeah. And we know that in politics, the fact is for kids, right, that they don’t vote, they don’t have a political action committee. They don’t have lobbyists. And so they really lack the power that a lot of groups have, you know, AARP, for example, has millions of people who are members, and they all vote, and they have tons of money, and they have lobbyists, and that’s the opposite for kids, kids don’t have any of that. And consequently, we see year in year out attention raised to senior issues time and time again, but less so kids.

Selley Looby 2:28
And I think now having worked at first focus over 10 years, and we’re working very closely with our policy team and with you, it’s been an eye opener to just really understand the way.

You know, it’s that same thing where there’s this illusion out there that kids are fine, kids are okay. And when we go and visit them, you know, we oftentimes have to do a lot of education and background and stats, right, showing them the statistics from either their district or nationwide, their state or nationwide as to why these things are important, not only for children, but for the future of our country.

Bruce Lesley 3:19
And information is helpful. But it doesn’t necessarily get them to act. And that’s what’s really, still lacking. Even when we go through those steps. Kids don’t get on the radar screen, because they just don’t have that political power and money matters. And elections. And it’s just a fact. And we all know it. And this is one of the things I do believe that we’re really excited about our guest today because they really are going to bring to the table this concept of having a political action committee for children. ,

Selley Looby 3:53
Yeah, I mean, that’s really what it boils down to right is money does matter. And elections are expensive. And it’s a tough battle to balance,

Bruce Lesley 4:03
I think to the great thing is, you know, as you’re talking about this whole range, we’re going to hear from our guest today, Dr. Annie Andrews, and she is a pediatrician. So she claims that at this whole topic, from the standpoint of, you know, seeing it firsthand of the needs of kids and their health care, but also sort of other things that affect their health, and really decided to get active, and she actually ran for Congress, something that neither one of us would ever do. But she really brings that to the table. And then our other guest is Renee Harvey, and she is really more like us. In some sense. She’s an advocate for children. And so anyway, the two of them are bringing this whole sort of new vision and this idea of political action committee to the table in terms of becoming a force for children that were you know, I think that we’re pretty excited about

Selley Looby 4:57
absolutely and ended up we’ll hear from both of them in a little bit. But, you know, to your point, I love to hear everyone’s origin story, you know around what made them run. What was it? Maybe we just haven’t gotten there yet, Bruce, maybe there’s an event that will happen that will spark us to just say, You know what, we just have to do it.

Bruce Lesley 5:15
Yeah, I don’t think so. But I’m very impressed that people like Dr. Andrews, who do I agree. So for any of you who do get excited like us about the emergence of a true kids political action committee, this episode is for you.

Selley Looby 5:35
Dr Andrews is a pediatrician and mom, who after working at the children’s hospitals for 15 years decided to run for Congress. She was the Democratic nominee in South Carolina’s first congressional district in 2020, to her first race, and he is currently a clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she cares for children and adolescents at Children’s National Hospital. She’s also a senior adviser to every town for gun safety, and Moms Demand Action.

Bruce Lesley 6:05
We’re also pleased to be joined by Renee Harvey, she’s a passionate advocate and political operative. In 2022, Renee joined the Dr. Anne Andrews for Congress campaign, as her finance director, despite the election night loss remain, and he got back to work. As a result, a new heavy hitting children’s political action committee was born called their future our vote.

Selley Looby 6:30
Annie, Renee, thank you so much for joining us today.

Annie Andrews 6:33
So happy to be here.

Renee Harvey 6:35
Thanks for having us.

Selley Looby 6:36
Let’s kick things off. Annie, can you tell us a little bit you know why you got into medicine and more specifically, why kids?

Bruce Lesley 8:01
So Renee, we’d loved in your bio, about all the work you do in community and how you’ve dedicated so much time and energy to working as an advocate in various forms of civic and community engagement, both in your job but also as an advocate, including work in the arts and dog rescue and other projects throughout Charleston. So you have an MBA and you’re doing just all this other stuff as well. So what drove you to that passion?

Renee Harvey 8:28
I’ve always been involved in a variety of things, was also raised in a pretty political family. So it kind of felt like it came naturally to me. I do get asked a lot, you know why kids because I’m not coming at this from where Annie is as both a parent and a pediatrician. I’m coming at this from a non parent, but just somebody who simply cares and sees an investment in children as an investment in our future. So that’s why I’m here. And there’s nobody I’d rather rather be doing this with and Dr. Andrews, absolutely.

Bruce Lesley 9:06
Well, that gets to sort of the how you guys came together question Dr. Andrews, like what made you decide to run for Congress and what were the issues you most talked about on the campaign trail? .

Annie Andrews 9:17
So you know, I evolved from just a very traditional hospital based pediatrician, I was actually an asthma researcher and did a fair bit of medical education work. I did not grow up in a political family. I was not inherently a political person or so I thought, until I spent every day of my career in children’s hospital and realized that politics are failing our kids, and our elected officials are failing our kids. And so I started to see the connection between what I saw exam room to exam room at the hospital and what was happening in my own state capitol and in Washington, DC. So I sort of taught myself about this landscape. I got involved in child health advocacy. I got involved in gun violence prevention, advocacy. and everything just sort of snowballed, because the more I paid attention, the more I realized that children need authentic voices representing them in the halls of Congress and in state houses all across this country. And the more committee hearings subcommittee meetings in Columbia, South Carolina, I tuned into, I realized I was more than qualified to have a seat at that table, or really any table where decisions are being made. It really demystified the process for me. So I started to realize I’m qualified. We need voices like mine in these spaces, I got involved in some local campaigns. And that’s actually how I met Renee. We’re here in South Carolina, which is a relatively red state. So progressive folks tend to get to know each other, and we became friends. And then, you know, she was one of the first people I called when I started thinking seriously about running for Congress. I remember we had breakfast together, she was incredibly encouraging. She thought it was a good idea. And I took that as a positive sign. And I’m not a super analytical person, I’m pretty instinctive. And it just felt like the right thing to do. So I did not sit down and make a huge pro con list about whether or not I should run. I just felt like the moment was calling me it felt like an incredibly urgent moment for children in this country. And so I kind of just dove in headfirst. And I knew I had the support of people like Renee.

Renee Harvey 11:21
It’s funny to Bruce, because when she sat me down to tell me that she was running for Congress, I didn’t really have the heart to tell her then that we had already thrown her name around as the best candidate to take on Nancy Mace. So I kept that to myself for quite some time. But I was happy that she came to the decision on her own.

Selley Looby 11:42
It sounds like that was the start of your relationship. But then you took that to a whole nother level by the launch of the pack. Can you tell us a little bit more about “The Future. Our Vote.” and you know how you guys really started to team up together for that initiative and why you felt like the time was right to launch that?

Annie Andrews 12:02
Yeah, I’ll start and then I’ll let Renee chime in as well. So you know, Renee ended up working on my campaign, she was the finance director. So we work together every day for at least the last eight months of that campaign and worked really well together. And we, we have a lot of similarities. We are very type a very hardworking and efficient people. And so we got along very well. And then, on the night of the election, November 8, last year, we were standing in the hotel suite next to each other, and it started becoming really clear that things weren’t going to work out in our favor. And we both went into that night thinking that there was a real shot, we could win, even though the district was deeply gerrymandered in the middle of my campaign. We really felt like we had some momentum behind us. And we did, but we looked at each other when we realized it wasn’t gonna work out. And Renee said to me, Well, what’s next? And then a series of conversations really that started that night led to where we are now.

Renee Harvey 13:03
It’s funny that Annie wanted to do this with me or have me come along with her for this after spending so much time with me on the campaign. But I’m glad that she did. Like any said, I just remember standing there and watching the results or the returns come in on the TV. And at the beginning of the night feeling incredibly optimistic about the campaign that Danny ran, which was an extremely positive campaign. Every single issue that we talked about, was about how it impacts children. We want over a lot of white suburban women, I think, on that campaign that probably would have ordinarily gone to the polls and, and voted for Republicans. But in that moment, I knew that there was going to be something next with Annie, I was going to let us both take some time to kind of come down off of the loss because it was extremely depressing. I mean, I remember, for a couple of days, just feeling kind of defeated and sad. And then a couple of days later, I actually have a screenshot of the texts that Andy and I exchanged. And here we are today, probably the most rewarding work I’ve ever done with one of the best people to do the work with.

Bruce Lesley 14:15
I think it’s really great that you all talk about how all issues are kids issues. For a lot of people. I think that’s eye opening to them. They don’t think of it that way. But once you sort of pointed out, they’re like, Oh, yeah. How are you thinking about operationalizing that and when you sort of get into the policy and the politics? Are you thinking about this broad all issues, or are really concentrating on a few.

Annie Andrews 14:40
So it became really apparent to me during the campaign once I got sort of a behind the scenes view of how politics in this country works that there was this huge gap in the landscape that children don’t have a strong voice in Washington DC in a political sense. We have people working on advocacy. I’m working on policy. And of course, everyone in this conversation wakes up every day and thinks about the relationship between policy, politics and kids. But there is just this huge missing piece that we need political power behind the children’s agenda. One of the things I think about all the time is how you hear these platitudes from candidates that we are a nation that values its children, I love children, and it’s like, show me show me how we are a nation that values its children. Because if you pay attention to the conversations that happen in the halls of Congress or in state houses across this country, it could not be more clear that that is not the case. And I think a really good corollary or good comparison is we think about what the AARP is. The AARP is a household name, it is a political powerhouse in Washington, DC, their agenda is always a priority in the halls of Congress. And if you look to the other side of the age spectrum, we don’t have that for children. And like I said, we have so many great people like you all working on the policy side and doing advocacy. But you have to be willing to get down and dirty in the mud and throw some sharp elbows on behalf of children. And that’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what we’re willing to do. Because we know we have to get political for kids because we see what happens every day in this country. When people use kids in their politics. We need to start using politics for kids, and what you said about how you narrow your agenda, because we all agree every issue is a children’s issue. But we knew as an organization, we had to stay focused. So we have our five main agenda points, which include healthcare, education, gun violence, child hunger and poverty and climate change. So we have a kids first agenda that we ask our potential endorse candidates to review and pledge to support. And they are very sensible, sensible legislative priorities. But we have to shift the political conversation in this country so that people when they walk into the voting booth, and they know that they care about their kids, first and foremost, they know who they should be voting for.

Selley Looby 17:14
I love that. And we recently had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who, as you may know, is a pediatrician and mom, that also felt the void. She didn’t go as far to run for Congress, but she’s doing some amazing things, check out the episode. And I’m also a mom of three as both of you know, and I think it definitely does shape the way that you view the world and the way that you take these issues very seriously, right? Like, we know that investments in kids today will give us the highest return on our investment and also position us as a nation, right to be more competitive. And so, you know, for us, we are all speaking the same language. And we definitely love everything that both of you are doing, you know, with this effort.

What are some of the challenges that you’re seeing so far? Like? Are you seeing people understanding why this is important? And getting behind that?

Renee Harvey 18:16
A lot of what Annie and I hear is that, well, yes, of course, there’s no organization like this for children, because children don’t have money and children don’t vote. And frankly, I can’t think of a better reason to have an organization like this for children than those two reasons. They are our most vulnerable citizens. It’s an investment in our future. And we should be investing in children and their well being their education, their health care, everything, just like we’re investing in a 401 K, because those returns are going to pay you off exponentially for us.

Annie Andrews 18:56
And it’s a challenge. It’s an uphill battle. I think one of the reasons an organization like this doesn’t exist is because it’s really, really hard. You know, I feel the pressure every day because it is so clear to me that this is needed. And I don’t want to mess it up. I want to do this, right, because it has to succeed. For our children, we have to start to build the future that they all deserve. But it is a huge uphill battle to get your foot in the door in these members of Congress’s offices to help them see that this is a viable political strategy to help the Democratic Party understand the value of messaging around children’s perspective. We’re doing this for our children’s future and the future of this nation, but it’s also a pretty politically savvy thing to do because children are incredibly unifying. So if you start to connect children to people’s votes, that is a politically strategic thing to do. And if we are successful in electing people who support our kids first agenda, if we elected kids first majority to the US House of Representatives in 2024, which is our goal, then we can finally start to turn those policy papers into policy and change for children in this country.

Selley Looby 20:26
Coming up after the break, Annie and Renee detail how they’ll utilize their future our vote pack to help people understand the collective responsibility for advocating for children and all of our futures.

Leila Nimatallah 20:41
Making the world a better place for all children can seem like an impossibly huge task. Some of you may be thinking, I am just one person, what could I possibly do to make a difference? I’m Leila Nimatallah, Vice President of advocacy and mobilization at first focus on children. And I’m inviting you to join us and become one of our volunteer advocates, whom we call our ambassadors for children. Ambassadors are our most active child advocates who raise critical issues with the US Congress, and with the administration related to child policy and funding decisions, both for kids in the US and worldwide. But don’t take my word for it. We asked one of our ambassadors to share her experience.

Speaker 1 21:31
Hello, my name is Emmett britches, also known as Dr. B. And I live in Louisville, Kentucky. The welfare of children and their families is a deep concern for me, and really always has been, especially those from marginalized communities. I care about equity in education, resources and health. I’m not quite sure what it’s going to take for our elected officials to invest in our children, and I mean fully invest in our children. It really boils down to the haves and have nots. It’s a selfish attitude if an elected official does not consider children as a priority. I say selfish, because if you think about it, other countries with less resources can provide universal preschool as an option for families, then why is it that our country can’t do that as well. I am proud to be an ambassador for first focus on children, because they are serious about the work they have done, are doing and will do in the near future. Their efforts are relentless. Think about being an ambassador for them being a voice for the voiceless. I can’t think of anything else more worthy. Thanks for listening. And it’s been my pleasure to talk about what is near and dear to my heart. And that is children. Thank you for your time.

Leila Nimatallah 22:53
So please join us, won’t you? Check out campaign for backslash ambassadors, on how to become a first focus on children ambassador and to link up with our fabulous community of committed child advocates.

Selley Looby 23:23
First, focus on children is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority and federal policy and budget decisions.

Bruce Lesley 23:31
First Focus on children moves beyond individual issues to serve a more important role. child advocacy, we educate lawmakers and the American public about the issues facing children.

Selley Looby 23:41
children. To learn more about our work and ways that you can become ambassadors go to first focus dot work.

Bruce Lesley 23:48
Coming up on our state of play. We will welcome Tim Smith, our digital director to talk about the 2023 champions for children awards and our legislative scorecard. Every

Selley Looby 23:57
year, our sister organization first focus campaign for children bestows awards based on members of Congress’s legislative activity around child advocacy.

Bruce Lesley 24:07
Those champions and defenders are coming up, stick around.

Selley Looby 24:10
Let’s get back to Annie and Renee, you’ve

Bruce Lesley 24:13
sort of answered these questions already. But I kind of just want to dive a little bit more into them. So what are the issues you think are most important to kids that politicians are missing right now? And then also, how does your organization help achieve those goals?

Annie Andrews 24:29
So hard to narrow it down to a few legislative priorities, but that three things that pop into my head and Bruce, you and I had a conversation about one of these months and months and months ago, but the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the child tax credits, and universal background checks. You guys know that I come at this with a history of being a gun violence prevention advocate and gun violence prevention researcher and so I’m always going to talk about gun violence, which is now the leading cause of death for children in this country, which is shameful. We know that universal background checks if passed. would save lives. On day one. We also know that 90% of Americans agree gun owners, non gun owners, Republicans, Democrats, we all agree we need background checks, we just don’t have the leaders with the moral courage to pass this law. The Child Tax Credits lifted so many children out of poverty, it was a remarkable policy success. And I think that there was a little bit of we missed the boat on the messaging front on that people did not know where that money was coming from, they didn’t understand the incredibly positive impact it had on children all across this country. And that’s why I go back to my job as a pediatrician and my privilege to walk into the hospital room of normal children and their families every day who are struggling to make ends meet. And so I could see the impact of the Child Tax Credit, in my day to day work as a pediatrician, and I just wish more people understood that, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, we need to invest in our children’s health, we need to ensure that they can grow up to be the healthiest version of themselves, because healthy children turn into healthy adults. And it is a wise investment as a country to invest in children’s health. And I think we can all agree that children deserve that.

Selley Looby 26:13
Absolutely. For this initiative. It’s it’s almost two prong I feel like Right, like on one on one side, you’re trying to get policymakers to buy in and elected officials to buy in. But at the same time, I imagine there’s also a healthy balance around educating voters. And for us, it surprises us too, right? Where it’s like, is there a lack of understanding around what the impacts around these things are? Like, what exactly is the disconnect? And so in your experience to date, what’s the piece around voter engagement or voter education that you’re seeing? And are you seeing a shift? And just what does that look like, on the other side of that?

Annie Andrews 26:55
Exactly, right. I think of it as a two pronged mission as well. So there’s the PAC mission, which is to elect the right leaders, and by supporting them financially, forcing them to talk about these issues and prioritize these issues. But the second piece is really a messaging piece direct to voters, that’s our nonprofit, their future, our vote, the 501 C four arm of our organization, is meant to be incredibly public facing with persistent, consistent cohesive messaging so that the average voter understands which candidates are willing to fight for their children. Because we learned on the campaign trail, if you walk up to your average, busy, suburban mom of kids, and you ask them which political party in this country today is fighting for your kids? They don’t know. They don’t know, because there is no clear cohesive messaging out there in the public sphere. And one of the reasons that is and the reasons people don’t link their kids well being to politics is because there’s very few political consultants in this country who are going to tell a candidate, you know what, you spend that hard earned money, let’s film some commercials about kids. Let’s talk more about kids, because that’s just not the way the political class in DC operates. Except for the few that worked for us that we brainwashed into letting us do that. You know,

Bruce Lesley 28:15
we’re getting we’re entering 2020 for an election year. And so what are you hoping to accomplish for children, families with their future our vote in sort of your first full year of the organization? And what would success be to you?

Renee Harvey 28:32
We have decided as the pack we are also getting involved in some of the primaries. And so I think, at least as I see it right now, success for us would be getting our our candidates or endorsed candidates elected, I think that would be a big win. There’s a lot of work that’s been going into choosing these candidates meeting with these candidates and their teams, getting them to message on kids. And that’s how I would define our success is if our candidates pull out on top, which I think they will. And

Annie Andrews 29:05
I think it’s important to add to that, you know, because we are getting involved in some primaries where technically probably everybody in the race wouldn’t be able to check our boxes. But we were looking for people who are like authentic vocal champions for children who it comes naturally to them to lead on these issues. So we have endorsed some incumbents, including the two pediatricians that are currently in Congress, Representative Kim Schrier in Washington eight and Representative Udyr care Aveo and Colorado eight and then representative Greg Landsman, who is a father and a former teacher in Ohio one, we don’t have to tell them how to talk about these issues. They are out there everyday beating that drum and they just need more support and they need folks like us to draw attention to how amazing it is that they lead on these issues. And then in these primaries that we’re getting involved in again, we’re looking for people who are going to go to Washington DC and be leaders. They’re not going to have To be reminded to talk about kids, they’re going up there for kids. That is our strategy and success will be when we elected kids first majority on election night in 2024.

Bruce Lesley 30:09
What’s your long term vision? And then also for our listeners, how can they engage with you guys to help with the success of the work you’re doing? You know, and how can they reach you.

Annie Andrews 30:20
So a little bit tongue in cheek, but we want a building and a budget as big as the AARP. That’s a great goal. But you know, this year, we’re focused on US House races, because I ran for the US House. And that felt like a natural fit. And I think it is clearly within reach that we can elect to kids first majority to the house. But next cycle, the cycle after that, we want to engage in races all up and down the ballot from town councils to the presidency. But we have to have the support and budget to do that. So we will grow as fast as we are able based on the amount of support we get, because this is completely reliant on donations from people who believe in what we are trying to do, we cannot afford for this to fail. And I challenge you to find two harder working people who believe in this mission more than Rene and I do, but it will fail if people do not support it. And that looks like grassroots small dollar donations from all across the country. Or if anyone listening has a billionaire uncle who also believes in building a brighter future for kids, that could help as well. People can support us in lots of different ways. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool. So they can follow me at Andy Andrews, MD on Instagram, and Twitter slash x, they can follow their future our vote on both platforms easy to find, if you find me follow along with Rene and amplify the work that we’re doing. And you know, join our mailing list go to their future ar or their future There’s a million ways to follow us. And we need to build this grassroots movement, and we cannot afford to fail. And we really can’t afford to wait another day or another election cycle to make this

Renee Harvey 32:10
happen. Caring for children in the issues that impact them demonstrates a commitment to the welfare of some of the most vulnerable among us. And it also sets a lasting example for generations to come. This transcends parental status, it transcends profession. Rather, it’s a collective responsibility. And so this organization is not just talking to parents and pediatricians, it’s talking to everybody who sees the need, and the importance in investing in our children.

Selley Looby 32:45
Yeah, definitely. And, again, for those listening, the fundraiser in me just has to point out to that billionaire Uncle, you can also write a check out first focus on children.

Annie Andrews 33:01
I’m happy with that.

Selley Looby 33:04
Perfect. We love the work you’re doing. It is so important and so needed. And we believe that there’s a real opportunity to change, you know, every day citizens, especially parents are feeling it at all levels, right? Like you don’t have to be in extreme situations to feel just the pressures of what it’s like to raise kids, but then also to see the beautiful potential that they have. And to see the need for necessary investments. We are developing a pretty strong soundtrack to this podcast. You know, Annie, you mentioned earlier, you and Renee have worked very hard, you know, there’s so many days that it just gets really tough and you feel like you’re just hitting a brick wall. And so when that happens, is there a particular song Is there a particular album that you lean on to kind of boost your energy and keep you going

Bruce Lesley 33:57
when I usually go first?

Selley Looby 34:01
Yeah, Renee, definitely go first. We’ve had Coldplay Aretha Franklin, some Afro beats it’s been all over the map so there’s no weird answer a quirky answer. Hey, I’m

Renee Harvey 34:11
a swift D. So if it’s Taylor Swift

Bruce Lesley 34:14
on good, any particular song? Oh, gosh,

Renee Harvey 34:17
what is it? Only The Young is a good one. Clean is a good one there. Anything by Taylor Swift?

Selley Looby 34:24
My daughter just discovered Taylor Swift. There’s like a Netflix special that we just watched yesterday. From like 2018 Miss Americana. I

Renee Harvey 34:33
know exactly. Yeah.

Selley Looby 34:34
I’m a Beyonce girl. So I’m like now leaning into Taylor Swift.

Annie Andrews 34:42
It’s funny you asked about music because Renee and I have gotten into the habit of sharing good songs for our running playlists. Because Renee is a an avid runner and I just tried to get out there every once in a while. It’s

Renee Harvey 34:52
mostly me sharing music with you and he let’s be honest, I’m creating for running playlists.

Annie Andrews 34:59
Very one side I did. I had a few songs I listened to a lot during the campaign. And, you know, the campaign came with so much personal and professional sacrifice. And it was the hardest thing I ever did. But we had so much fun. You know, we had zero personnel turnover, we just had this incredible tight knit group of people who believed in this mission are so fun. So when I hear songs that I listened to during the campaign, it just takes me back and it just I’m like, flooded with positive memories. And one of those songs was fight song by Rachel Platten, which I just love, and it makes me feel like I can take on the world. Oh, I

Unknown Speaker 35:33
love that.

Bruce Lesley 35:35
It’s so great. Well, thank you both so much for being with us today on the podcast, but also just for all the great work you’re doing. And we’re love being partners with you all in our joint quest to make kids a priority in this country.

Annie Andrews 35:51
Thank you both for the work that you do. And for welcoming us with open arms into these spaces. I’m so optimistic about what we can build together. And I think we have the momentum at our backs. And I just can’t wait to see what’s in store in the future.

Selley Looby 36:14
It was so great to have Annie and Renee with us to talk about their future our vote. They’re doing important work by supporting candidates that really prioritize children in Congress. In today’s state of play, we have Tim Smith, our team member that leads up our digital strategy. He’s our Vice President for digital strategy. And, you know, we want to talk about a little bit around some of the initiatives that first focus has developed over the years to also prioritize children. You know, Bruce, we have our our bill tracker, or legislative scorecard, which all kind of translates and funnels up to our champions for children. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that?

Bruce Lesley 36:52
Yeah, absolutely. So at first focus on children, we really thought about how can we identify policymakers who are the best for kids, and even some of those who are not doing so well. And so what we did was we really thought about creating a scorecard. And so other organizations like the NRA, and then actually National Education Association in our space, they all have scorecards, and they sort of rank order members of Congress based upon how well they take votes on various issues of importance to their cause. And what we found was that there’s really very few votes, it’s sort of gets back to our fundamental point that children are often an afterthought in Congress. So there’s rarely votes in Congress, they’re important to kids. So we devise a new way to sort of approach this, what we wanted to identify was, when is it that members raise their voice for kids, it really do prioritize kids, our scorecard tries to create a mix of things like votes, but also things like introducing bills and CO sponsoring bills and those kinds of things. They’re really I put their name out there and identify themselves as a supporter of kids. And so we’ve been doing that for close to 15 years now. And it really does help and it does give ability for us to thank members of Congress, particularly for being a champion or defender of kids. But it’s this really crazy elaborate scorecard that you can’t even imagine the back end of it. And that’s what Tim is responsible for. So that’s why we’re so glad to have you, Tim. So thank you for joining us today on the standpipe.

Tim Smith 38:34
Glad to be here. Glad to be outside of a spreadsheet for one.

Selley Looby 38:39
Tim, do you want to take a minute and just you know, walk us and our listeners through how this comes together?

Tim Smith 38:46
Sure. As Bruce said, there are a couple of factors that we look at when we’re scoring folks. The main one that every scorecard looks at would be votes. But as Bruce also said, there aren’t a ton of votes. This year, actually, we we had more votes than we’ve had in previous years. The last couple of years, there were 25 votes that we scored. A majority of those were amendments on one bill. So that’s a lot of times we have kid focus things that go in amendments, so we will score those as well. But as Bruce also mentioned, that we have to look at in the in between and what are the other things people can do. So that’s introducing legislation, co sponsoring legislation. We also look at the reality of Congress that a lot of times it’s a team sport, and voting against your team’s leadership is a big deal. And that doesn’t often happen. So we do give extra points when someone takes a stand for kids, even if that isn’t the team vote, so to speak. So that’s one thing we look at. We also look at sort of a range of miscellaneous things as well that could range from floor speeches to letters to introducing hearings and things like that, because we know that also the reality to get bills to the finish line. They just don’t come out of nowhere. They have to say Start with having people talk about it, having people bring experts to Congress, and then getting bills, they’re getting support from their members of Congress getting a bipartisan support of that, before we actually even get to the point of voting, we can score that. That

Selley Looby 40:13
was really helpful, Tim, thank you. And, you know, we just wrapped up and announced our latest round of champions. Ken, can you share some key insights?

Tim Smith 40:21
Sure, sure. One of the biggest things that we saw, which is a second verse, same as the first, we always see that women are over represented in the scorecard. When we look at what the breakdown of women are in Congress versus how they are represented on the list there. They’re usually between two and two and a half times as likely this year, they’re nearly three times as likely. And for the first time in the history of our scorecard, they actually outnumber men, which was a huge thing that we’ve seen. That’s a trend that’s been that’s been growing, but we saw a big leap this year. And I think a lot of that is in addition to just women taking charge on these issues, it’s also just been the changing face of Congress, we’re in fact, the number of women of color is the same as white men on our list. And for the first time, the majority of our list is under 65, which is just not the way that Congress looks in general. But our list is now majority under 65 For the first time. So

Bruce Lesley 41:19
for our listeners, like what are some of the types of things that you really see that that really is in play where women are definitely more likely to lead on various issues? In the scorecard?

Tim Smith 41:31
That’s a good question. I think we see the breakdown of our list and the things we score and not necessarily the votes that happen, which is I think key but Child Health is something that is the overwhelming majority, if you had to put a topic a lot of our bills have have cross sector and cross issue relevance. And it’s not just we can pin pigeonhole them as one thing. But the overwhelming majority of our bills are child health bills or child nutrition bills, they’re about coverage and access and Medicaid and CHIP. I don’t know if I would look deeply into the data to say that that women are more likely to support those, but it’s champions are more likely to support those bills, that’s for sure. Because we see a lot of support on each of those, those bills as they get across. And unfortunately, only a few of the votes this year had anything to do with health, most of them had to do with education a lot this year. So we see that in the data as well,

Bruce Lesley 42:22
historically to like, I think some of the things that we’ve seen have been builds on like childcare, for example, you know, the big leaders on childcare in Congress are, are all women right now. So Russell DeLauro, and in the house, and then Patty Murray and Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, for example. And so from year to year, then what kinds of fluctuations Do you see? Do you tend to see a lot of the same people who are, you know, champions for children? And, and then also, do you see some people sort of come in and out? Who may honestly single year like do a lot of things for kids and and then other years sort of drop off?

Tim Smith 42:59
Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, every year, Bruce and I will take a look and go back and, and try to make sure we’re tracking down the data as far back as we can go. And, and well, before I was at first focus, the champions List was a full page ad, I believe, that we put out so we still have those copies. So we still see the faces and still see the names. And it’s really interesting to see some of the same faces, in some cases, the same congressional portrait, which I think should call into question, and maybe they should get a new picture. But a lot of those faces are the same. And you mentioned some of them, and a lot of the women have been leading on this issue for the majority of my life, Barbara Lee and, and Rosa DeLauro, Jan Schakowsky, these names you see year in year out the really interesting things. We also look at what the tenure is. And I think, just because the way that Congress works, when you’ve been there longer, you can introduce bills, you’re able to step forward. So it makes sense that the bill would skew itself not away from those new faces. But I think Congress is just changing in that sense, and that people are coming in with a lot of intention, you know, the freshman. I don’t know if that’s even the right name, the freshman class or folks that are two years or under. We saw a ton of people and it’s and it’s a bipartisan list. So is this folks like Mike Lawler and Laurie Chavez to Reamer. On the Republican side, there’s Jasmine Crockett and John Fetterman. Peter Welch counts as a freshman in the Senate. But obviously, he’s been there in the house for a long time. But, uh, but we’re seeing a lot of folks who just got to Congress and somehow got their names onto bills and got things moving forward and our champion. So I think that’s really a moment for optimism, when we see these these new faces really just taken lead from the very beginning. And

Selley Looby 44:38
Tim, you know, to that point, that’s really our goal, right, like even taking it back to our earlier interview with Annie and Renee, and you know, their work around their future. Our vote, is we’re trying to build champions and make this not just a fad, but a growing point. In terms of how every day Americans view their members of Congress and applying pressure to how they vote. Right. So it does seem refreshing to kind of hear your take and some of the points that you just highlight around some newer members and their level of engagement. Can you just share a little bit about we alluded to this a little bit, but what’s our hope for ambassadors that are listening? And you know, just for folks that may be curious, what are we ultimately asking both from our ambassadors, but then also for these members, right purpose of these awards, as it relates to supporting their interest in their desire to change the future and support investments in our kids,

Tim Smith 45:40
I think it has a lot to do with accountability. I think people need to know that a bad vote, a lack of support is going to be scored. And the folks that are behind them, they need to think, what is first focus? What is the kids community? What are the first focus ambassadors gonna say, am I gonna get a phone call? Am I gonna get a meeting, if I don’t do this on behalf of kids. And I think all members of Congress would like to say that they care deeply about the future, they care deeply about children and what that means. But I think they have to know that kids are humans and their constituents right now. And they need to take action. And it’s not just a nice to have it. These are really critical bills to get across. I think it’s also just showing on the positive side, just what the support is, I think there are some folks on that list that, that maybe are doing these things, and we talked to them a lot of times a lot of these champions, Bruce’s always one of his first questions is what makes you a champion for children. And it’s never, I don’t want to get a bad grade on you know, the the equivalent of the NRA scorecard. It’s, I am a mom, a dad, I I care deeply I work on these issues, I came out of the school system or things like that. And so I think it’s just an added to say this is also an issue care about, but there is a is a wealth of support and voters behind you. And you know, that’s what were the one of the first things we do every year after we release champions is is blast a message out to our lists to say thank you to their member of Congress, if they’re a champion and say, That’s really great. I appreciate that you’re there, I hope you’re there again. And we also send it out to the folks on our list who don’t have a champion who’s their rep or their senator, and encourage them to write a message and say, I hope to see you here next year. And here are the all the folks all your all your colleagues that are on this list that are doing the right thing. And I wish you were one of them, because we’re paying attention. So I think it’s about accountability and saying, Yeah, I’m paying attention. And I’ll be behind you if you take these actions on behalf of kids. So Tim,

Bruce Lesley 47:38
where can people find our scorecards, if they were interested in looking up to see whether their member is what a champion or defender or not? And then as you said, you know, if they are we would love for them to contact a member and thank them, but how can they find our scorecard?

Tim Smith 47:54
That’s a great question. I always ask the digital guy what the what the URL is? I’m always happy to answer that question. So that the scorecard itself has its own URL, which is FF cc If you don’t remember that one, it’s also just on our on our campaign website. So campaign for Right at the top, you’ll see Bill tracker on the side, you’ll see Bill tracker, you can’t get away from it, hopefully, but you can get it right there, right there and also FCC Well,

Bruce Lesley 48:24
thanks so much, Tim, for being on with us today. We really appreciate it. And we hope our listeners will definitely check that resource out. And so between our scorecard and the work that our guest today, Annie, and Renee on their pack, we hope that people really engage with their political leaders and to really make children a priority. Yeah. Thank

Selley Looby 48:44
you so much, Tim.

Tim Smith 48:46
Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Bruce Lesley 48:52
This is speaking of kids. Thanks for listening. I’m Bruce Leslie.

Selley Looby 48:55
And I’m assemblage Looby special thanks to our guests Dr. Andy Andrews, Renee Harvey, and our teammates Hayley winter and Tim Smith.

Bruce Lesley 49:04
Speaking of kids as a podcast by first focus on children, Elizabeth Windom

Selley Looby 49:08
is the supervising producer and Julia Windham is the Associate Producer Leilani

Bruce Lesley 49:13
Matala is the advocacy mobilization producer and the senior producer is Jay Woodward. Our

Selley Looby 49:18
theme music is don’t look twice by Sam parish. For more information

Bruce Lesley 49:22
about this week’s episode, go to first You can find all our links in our show notes.

Selley Looby 49:29
If you have any thoughts questions or interest in becoming a first focus on children Ambassador email us at speaking of kids at first and

Bruce Lesley 49:38
please follow rate and review on Apple podcasts Spotify, or YouTube. Speaking

Selley Looby 49:44
of kids is produced by Woodhaven productions and blue J Atlanta.

Bruce Lesley 49:48
For more information about this week’s episode go to first You can find all of our links in our show notes

Annie Andrews 6:43
So ever since I was a very little girl, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I told my preschool teacher that when I was a grown up, I wanted to be a doctor and a mommy with three kids. And that’s exactly what I am, I have no idea where I got the idea to be a doctor, I didn’t have any doctors in my family. It was just always something that I knew I wanted to do. And I never really wavered from that path. But my path into pediatrics was a little bit different. I went into medical school not really knowing what kind of physician I wanted to be. But the first moment I stepped foot in a children’s hospital, I knew that’s where I wanted to work. There’s just something really inspiring about spending your day taking care of sick and injured children, and helping their families navigate what is often one of the most stressful experiences of their lives. I find working with kids to be so inspiring because most of the time, they’re not sick or injured because of something they did wrong or some life choice they made. It’s just bad luck. And the other great thing about taking care of children is most of them get better. We have incredible medicines, incredible medical technology that helps kids heal, it is always an incredibly rewarding experience. And it is such a privilege to get to do that everyday.

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