Campaign for Congress: Ashley Ward hopes to fight climate change and access to education
Ashley Ward is not your typical candidate for Congress. She is a first-generation college student and attended community college, public university, and private university in North Carolina. She is a mother, granddaughter of sharecroppers in Durham and now works at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy at Duke University, where she is a climate and health professional. With no previous experience in elected office, Ward believes his background is what allows him to best represent Alamance County and North Carolina’s Congressional District 4.
“I realized that if I really want this kind of change, if I really want someone to push this conversation, maybe it has to be me,” Ward said.
Campaigning for change
For Ward, being elected to Congress would not just be a personal victory. If elected, she will be able to bring her specific expertise on climate change to the Congress. While Ward said it would be a great honor to bring climate change to the forefront, she wishes someone with climate expertise had been elected earlier and presented climate issues to Congress.
“There’s not a single thing — schools and hospitals and everything that’s part of our lives — that’s unaffected by climate change,” Ward said. “The idea that we have no expertise in Congress on this is astounding to me, but it also answers a lot of questions about why we are where we are in this debate right now.”
But climate change isn’t the only issue Ward is campaigning on. Ward said she would like to see free community college tuition, expand Pell Grant opportunities, and reduce the stigma around career education. As a community college graduate, Ward said she was very passionate about supporting community colleges in the area.
“I feel like community colleges provide a wonderful, affordable base for people to have,” Ward said. “There are things that need to happen for us to be able to support community colleges.”
In addition to community colleges, Ward said small businesses are a priority for her. Ward’s parents started a small business in Durham, so she sees the challenges business owners face.
“They’re the job creators, but we’re not supporting them in any meaningful way to actually fulfill that role,” Ward said.
Health is another issue Ward said she hopes to address if elected. As the mother of a chronically ill child, Ward said she is no stranger to medical bills and wants to deal with the difficult situations parents can find themselves in when their child is sick.
“What do you do as a parent, when you’re faced with a big medical bill or dealing with them?” said Ward. “It’s not just the parents. Anyone, we all put ourselves in this horrible situation where we have to make these horrible choices between taking care of ourselves, our well-being and being able to afford the payment of a house, rent or l ‘grocery store.
On the way to the polls
Ward is one of ten candidates campaigning in District 4 and one of eight Democrats campaigning in a Republican-leaning area. But Ward said she is focused on solving community issues, not political parties, and hopes voters will see that.
“The challenge is how do you get through all the noise and make meaningful progress?” said Ward. “Whoever gets a seat must represent everyone in that county, and everyone in all five counties. … It means that we work together to find those spaces where we can build coalition and consensus and we can really do the hard work to get things done for our community.