The New York Times. April 04, 2020

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In the past week and a half, Cori Bush
has been hospitalized twice with short-
ness of breath, sore throat, fatigue, loss
of taste and a headache.
Told at first that she had pneumonia,
she was sent home, only to return to the
emergency room when her symptoms
didn’t improve. A coronavirus test came
back negative, but she was admitted
anyway. She was discharged on Wednes-
“I’m worried about the bill I’m going to
receive,” she said. “I drove myself to the
emergency room, even though I should
have taken an ambulance, but I didn’t
want that bill. And now the bill from the
hospital stay, the bill from being admit-
ted, and the doctor’s bill, which is all sep-
Ms. Bush, 43, doesn’t have health in-
surance. She is also a candidate for Con-
gress, trying for the second time to de-
feat Representative William Lacy Clay of
Missouri, a 10-term incumbent, in a
Democratic primary. She is one of sev-
eral Democratic congressional candi-
dates who gave up their employer-spon-
sored insurance when they decided to
run for office, and whose platforms in-
clude expanding access to health care.
The choice between keeping their own
health insurance and trying to help oth-
ers get such coverage wasn’t one they
made lightly. Now, with the coronavirus
outbreak putting electoral politics on
pause across the country, they must take
extra care to protect their health as they
fight to maintain momentum around
their campaigns.
“It’s a difficult balance, and I have to
be real with you, it’s a little scary, be-
cause I want to be out there,” said
Samelys López, 40, who is running in a
crowded Democratic primary in New
York’s 15th District and is seeking to suc-
ceed her former boss, Representative
José E. Serrano, who is retiring.
“What if something does happen to
me?” she said. “I have to be even more
vigilant because I don’t have health in-
surance at the moment. And I think that
is the reason we need to make the case
for universal health care. We should have
these things as a human right — I should-
n’t have had to make that choice.”
Nabilah Islam, one of several Demo-
crats running to replace Representative
Rob Woodall, a retiring Republican, in a
district north of Atlanta, has not had in-
surance since 2018.
“It was something that I forwent be-
cause running for office is cost-prohibi-
tive, and it’s expensive to pay for health
care,” she said. “I can’t even qualify for
Medicaid, even if I wanted to.”
Georgia is one of 14 states that have
not expanded Medicaid under the Af-
fordable Care Act, and Ms. Islam is one of
more than 100,000 people in her district
who are uninsured.
“God forbid I do get the virus,” Ms. Is-
lam, 30, said. “I would go into medical
debt, and that’s not just me, that’s over 20
percent of my district.”
As expensive as it can be to run for of-
fice, candidates without health insur-
ance face even greater financial risks,
since an unexpected ambulance ride or
emergency room visit could put them
thousands of dollars in debt.
Ms. Islam lost her insurance in 2018,
when she left her job as the Southern
states finance director at the Democratic
National Committee. She bought a flimsy
off-market plan the next year, while she
was working with local campaigns in
Georgia. But now that she’s running her-
self, she has no protections at all.
“When you run for office, you can’t do
this part time. The deck is stacked
against you if you do it part time,” she
said. “And if you are a wealthier person,
you have the advantages of not really

having to worry about health insurance.
You’re able to run more freely.”
The prospect of going without health
insurance, pandemic or not, can deter
people from running for office, particu-
larly those who are political outsiders.
“It’s one of these additional barriers
for candidates who are working class,”
said Hannah Nayowith, who served as

campaign manager for Jessica Cisneros,
who narrowly lost a primary race last
month to unseat Representative Henry
Cuellar, Democrat of Texas.
Ms. Cisneros ran a grass-roots cam-
paign while uninsured, even though she
provided insurance for her full-time staff.
There were times she had to cross the
border into Mexico for procedures and

medication, because they were more af-
fordable there.
Ms. Nayowith noted that the Demo-
cratic Party has often called for greater
representation by candidates of color
and working-class people. But many of
those people are less likely to have health
“For folks that look like the kind of can-
didates that we want in this new era of
politics,” she said, “it makes it even hard-
er for them to do it.”
“The system wasn’t designed to elect
people like me: working people, women
of color,” Ms. Islam said. “And one of
those structural barriers is health care.”
When Ms. Bush decided to run for a
second time, it was hard for her to leave
her job as a nurse in a community health
clinic, particularly because she is a sin-
gle parent of two children. In fact, she
had planned to keep working until her
campaign got off the ground.
“I was going to work for several
months and then take off later in the
race. It just didn’t end up happening that
way,” she said. “It’s hard to keep a job or
find a job when you’re running against a
Democratic incumbent.”
She is doing her best to keep her cam-
paign going while she recovers from
pneumonia, staying present on social
media until she feels healthy enough to
become more active.
“We structured our campaign to
where it continues to roll even when I’m
sick,” Ms. Bush said. “We will be able to
make it day by day. But once I’m back,
I’m back.”
Ms. López, who was once homeless
herself, left her job at a nonprofit group
that builds housing for the homeless in
order to run.
She mulled the decision for months,
and the prospect of losing her health in-
surance and her income was one reason
it took so long to make up her mind. She
had some savings, enabling her to take
the leap, but she said that money would

run out soon.
Right now, she said, her focus is on
helping people in her Bronx district,
where many people live in poverty and
which has been hit particularly hard by
the coronavirus. As her entire campaign
operation moved online, she began using
her network of volunteers not only to
phone and text bank but also to try to get
resources and supplies to those who
needed them.
She’s currently staying isolated, since
she knows her health is directly related
to the well-being of her campaign.
“I feel like I’m being penalized,” Ms.
López said. “Just because we make a de-
cision to be in public service and give
back, doesn’t mean that we should be
choosing between life, death and illness.”
Candidates who don’t have health care
are often unable to provide insurance to
their employees as well, leaving multiple
layers of their campaigns vulnerable
during a pandemic.
“We aren’t able to raise the funds to be
able to be able to pay a salary and have
health insurance,” Ms. Bush said. “It was
something that we really wanted to be
able to do.”
Isra Allison, Ms. Bush’s campaign
manager, has worked for a string of
grass-roots campaigns and, as a result,
hasn’t had health insurance in four
“Having access to universal health
care will give people more of the opportu-
nity to plug in to a grass-roots campaign
if it’s something that they’re passionate
about,” she said.
Ms. Islam petitioned the Federal Elec-
tion Commission in early January to be
able to use campaign funds to pay for
health insurance, seeking to level the
playing field for candidates like her.
“I believe that if you’re on the cam-
paign trail, you should be able to have
health care,” Ms. Islam said. “Especially
during a pandemic.”
She said she still hadn’t heard back.

Risking Hospital Bills So They Can Pass Bills

Some House candidates have

had to give up their own

insurance as they run to help

others gain access to care.




‘Just because we make a decision to be in public service and give back,

doesn’t mean that we should be choosing between life, death and illness.’

SAMELYS LÓPEZ, a Democrat running in New York’s 15th Congressional District

‘It’s hard to keep a job or find a job when you’re

running against a Democratic incumbent.’
CORI BUSH, a Democratic House candidate from Missouri who had pneumonia

A Georgia man who sought to obtain
an anti-tank missile pleaded guilty this
week to plotting terrorist attacks on the
White House, the Statue of Liberty and
other landmarks, federal prosecutors
The man, Hasher Jallal Taheb, 23, of
Cumming, Ga., faces up to 20 years in
prison and a mandatory minimum sen-
tence of five years after accepting a plea
agreement on Wednesday in United
States District Court in Atlanta, the au-
thorities said.
Mr. Taheb emerged as a suspect in
March 2018, when local police received a
tip from someone in his community say-
ing that Mr. Taheb had become radical-
ized, changed his name and planned to
travel abroad, the Federal Bureau of In-
vestigation said.
When Mr. Taheb later advertised his

vehicle for sale, an F.B.I. informant said
he was interested in buying it. That is
when Mr. Taheb revealed his plans to
carry out terrorist attacks on targets that
included the Washington Monument, the
Lincoln Memorial and a synagogue in
Washington, the authorities said.
The informant introduced Mr. Taheb to
an undercover F.B.I. agent, to whom he
showed a hand-drawn diagram of the
West Wing of the White House, a crimi-
nal affidavit said. Federal agents said
they arrested Mr. Taheb in January 2019
when he showed up in a store parking lot
in Buford, Ga., to obtain an AT-4 anti-
tank weapon, explosives and assault ri-
“Taheb planned to conduct a terrorist
attack on the White House as part of
what he claimed was his obligation to en-
gage in jihad,” John C. Demers, an assist-
ant attorney general for national securi-

ty, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“And that was just one of the iconic
American landmarks he wanted to tar-
Mr. Taheb pleaded guilty to attempted
destruction of U.S. government property

by fire or explosive, and he is scheduled
to be sentenced on June 23, according to
court filings.
His lawyers did not immediately re-
spond to requests for comment on Thurs-

Mr. Taheb told the informant that he
wanted to do as much damage as possi-
ble and that he expected to be a “martyr,”
Tyler S. Krueger, an F.B.I. special agent,
wrote in the criminal affidavit.
Mr. Taheb also told an undercover
F.B.I. agent that he had created a channel
on a video-sharing website to post clips
before the attacks, the affidavit said. The
videos included images of oppressed
Muslims with American and Israeli flags
being burned in the background.
Mr. Krueger wrote in the affidavit that
Mr. Taheb discussed his plot to attack the
White House in detail.
“Specifically, he described his plan to
use the AT-4 to blow a hole in the White
House so that the group could enter,” Mr.
Krueger wrote.
F.B.I. officials said on Wednesday that
tips from the public were crucial in
thwarting the kinds of attacks that Mr.
Taheb had been planning.

Guilty Plea in Plot to Attack

White House With a Missile


Hasher Jallal Taheb, 23, of Cum-
ming, Ga., tried to buy an AT-4 anti-
tank weapon to attack the White
House, federal agents said. Mr.
Taheb faces up to 20 years in prison.

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