Meet Congressional Candidate Krystal Ball (Yep, Real Name)

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Political blogger Nisha Chattal introduces us to Krystal Ball, a young Democrat running for Congress in Virginia.

I first met Krystal Ball in August at the progressive bloggers conference Netroots Nation. She walked into the room during our Youth Caucus and quietly sat down while people were making introductions. When it got to her turn, she announced that she was not here as a blogger: She was running for Congress in the First District of Virginia. And she's just 27 years old.

Heads turned instantly. A 27-year-old running for Congress? And a woman? There has never been a woman under 30 in Congress. And that name!

I had the chance to catch up with Krystal recently and chat about her campaign and life in general. Aside from running for Congress, she's married and has a baby daughter. It's incredibly inspiring to see her take the political world head-on -- especially when you consider how few women run for office (and even fewer young women run).

What made you decide to run for Congress?

I really got the fire to run after my daughter was born. She's about a year-and-a-half old now. I began looking at the world a little bit differently once I became a mother and thinking about what things would look like for Ella when she was my age. I realized that we really are at a turning point. We've had the same people arguing about the same issues without a lot of progress for really most of our lives. Things like health care and education and the environment -- we've been talking, but not making any real progress. What I realized is we keep sending the same types of people to Congress and getting the same types of results. It's like that old Einstein quote: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results."

What was the reaction when you announced you were running?

When I first announced, I was shy about even saying how old I was. I tried to keep that quiet. But when I actually started talking about my age, I realized it wasn't that much of an issue. A lot of people say, "You know what, I think that's great. I think we need more young people to be this engaged in the process."

What are some of the obstacles you're facing as a young female running for Congress?

It's certainly an uphill battle. There are good things about being young and being a woman. But I think one of the big reasons more young women don't run is because it's so hard to fund-raise when you're only 27. Your friends are just starting out in their careers and they don't have $5,000 to give to your campaign. And we've had to be really out of the box in our approach to fund-raising because the same things that work for a 50-year-old man are not going to work for a 27-year-old woman.

How has your name affected your life, and has it at all affected your campaign for public office?

It's a little funny because it's always been my name, so it's hard to look at it from an objective standpoint.

It's hard for me to say if it affected my identity growing up. I really don't think so, but I've never lived the life of a person with a "normal" name. But since I was born and raised in the same place and went to preschool with the same kids I graduated high school with, they always knew me as Krystal and so they really didn't think about the fact that it was odd -- that was just my name.

Growing up I really didn't get much attention for it. When I went to college, though, that was different and now I'm getting the most attention as I've ever gotten for my name. I will say that it didn't affect my decision to run for office at all, though it is a benefit because it gets people's attention.

What advice would you give to young women who aren't engaged in politics? And to those who are scared to run for office?

First of all, I think part of the reason why women, young women in particular, don't run is because we tend not to value our experience in the same way that a man of the same age would. We still have this stigma that we have to be twice as smart and twice as prepared and twice as experienced. So then we wait to run until we're 55 years old, but it takes a long time in politics to work your way up and build the seniority to achieve the highest levels of power.

So I guess what I would say to young women is that we really need you to be engaged. We need you to be involved in the process. You're missing, and it shows.

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