An Interview With Congresswoman Deborah Ross

Caroline Michailoff, Editorial Director, Junior

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Deborah K. Ross, a U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s second congressional district. Ross is the aunt of current Pelham junior Amelia Koff. I asked her a few questions about current politics and recorded her responses.


Question: Considering the public distrust of politics right now, have you had to adjust the way you present legislation/talk to the press? How do you adapt to that?

Answer: I was in politics before when it wasn’t as angry and distrustful. I have always been somebody who, being from my community, knows my community and bases everything I do on what real people want. People go into politics for different reasons, but I have gone in because I care about the people around me and have been active in my community which isn’t always true in congress. A lot of people I was elected with have never served in political office before. Some do not know their community as well but since I have lived in North Carolina for more than thirty years. I always bring it back for what is good for my community, how it will affect the people and how I can pay more attention to the people at home than the noise in Washington D.C.


Question: After running for senate in 2016, what inspired you to run for congress?

Answer: I wanted to serve at the federal level. I served at the state level and felt North Carolina has not been well represented at the federal level. North Carolina is a 50/50 state because of gerrymandering, where they draw the lines for the congressional seat. 10 years ago out of 13 members of congress only 3 were democrats. Half the state only got three members of congress while the other half got 10 members of congress. I have wanted to go to Washington for a long time to make sure that  the whole state is represented. There was no option after running for senate, so I went back to serving my community (working for clean energy, serving on local boards, helping low income families get furniture, helping young people with a lot of potential get money for college) and then the rules changed. The state government made it so that a democrat could get a position where a republican already was so I jumped in to get that representation in congress.


Question: Can you describe your role in the impeachment process?

Answer: I had more of a role than any new freshman in congress because there were only three freshman members on the democratic side who are on the judiciary committee, which is where the articles of impeachment came from. The three Freshman and I were involved even before the committee began to meet in knowing what the strategy was. I was the only freshman democrat on the ‘Rules Committee’ which is the committee that decides how things will be taken to the floor of the house. It is all about procedure and how the senate is going to vote. The senate did the full hearing on how impeachment was going to go and all the members got to speak on impeachment. I got a front row seat for that and then in voting for impeachment. I spoke on the floor of the house which was broadcasted nationwide by TV and radio. 


Question: Were you in Washington during the times of the impeachment trials?  If so, what has it been like? Where were you on January 6 and what was D.C. like with the insurrection?

Answer: We were told  to get into our offices very early on January 6 because they were afraid something bad might happen. I got to the office early and went to get my coronavirus vaccine shot. I went back to my office and then they said to not come to the floor until it was time to vote but then the insurrection happened. While I was in my office doing work they told us at about one pm to not leave our offices, lock the doors, get away from the windows, and turn down the lights. I was in my office locked in with one staff member until midnight when we were finally allowed to vote after clearing the insurrection. 


Question: What was it like with the transfer of power from Trump to Biden?

Answer: It was one of the most emotional and proud moments I felt for the country. When I went back to vote after the insurrection with Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi, whose lives were threatened, they still came back and did their jobs until four in the morning. The speeches that were given about why it was important to come back and certify the electors were some of the best speeches I have ever heard. I watched some from my office and then had to go to the floor three times between midnight and four AM to vote and it was really profound. The rioters had tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power but even with all the threats, everyone came back and did their job. The day of the inauguration, not many people got to come which was highly unusual, there was barbed wire, special covid tests, and we had to go through security. I got to be one of the thousand people who physically got to be there during the inauguration. It was so moving and I did not realize how emotional I would be and how moving it would be, but it was really extraordinary. The sun came out and it was wonderful. 


Question: What kinds of changes have you seen in North Carolina from voting red in 2016 and moving further blue in 2020? How does it affect you as a legislature?

Answer: Trump won by a narrower margin. I think the change was due to the amount of voter participation. Despite the coronavirus, a higher percentage of people voted in all age groups and particularly among young people. Higher voter turnout in 2020 compared to 2016 is extraordinary and a good sign for the future. 


Question: What was your journey in becoming a US representative? What made you decide you wanted to be involved in politics?

Answer: My mom and her friends in our small town decided that they didn’t have enough women involved in politics. They got involved in the league of women voters and were involved in local elections and they decided to get more women elected to local government. My mom went door to door campaigning for people, so when I was 10 years old I was taken out into neighborhoods to campaign too. I enjoyed it because I was a people person and we would try to get people elected, specifically women. My mom and her friends set a really good example for me because I got to see that in order to get involved you must take matters into your own hands. I had a lot of female role models in my life, even a female governor growing up, which was highly unusual. These strong female role models who didn’t have power themselves decided to take the power and this inspired me greatly. 


Question: What do you think is important to your constituents going forward?

Answer: The most important thing now is the coronavirus. People want to be able to go back to school and work safely and have a normal life again. I represent an area that is more educated and more financially stable than a lot of other areas but in general it is prosperous. People want to go back to where they were before the pandemic but are also very sensitive to doing things the right way going forward and doing things more equitably. One of the mottos of the county commissioners is that they are smart with a heart. So these people are smart but also care about their community.