Erin Collier has spent her life racing, from 5Ks with her dad as a kid to triathlons — she was nationally ranked — in just the last few years. But now, she’s ready for a different kind of race, as she announces her run for Congress in New York’s competitive 19th Congressional District.
Collier, who is a fifth-generation farmer from the district, worked for the Obama administration as an agricultural economist. Now she’s running against six men for the Democratic nomination, a situation she likens back to that first 5K in her campaign ad, shared exclusively with PEOPLE.
“The first race I ever ran in was a 5K with my dad,” Collier recalls in the video. “It was a parent-son and daughter race, and I remember my dad and I were running in the race, and a boy and his father passed us. And I remember my dad immediately looking down at me and saying, ‘You’re not going to let that boy beat you, are you?’ And I was like, ‘Hell no!’ We sped up and ran really hard and beat them.”
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“I have been thinking about running for office ever since the 2017 Women’s March,” she tells PEOPLE over email. “Women make up less than 20 percent of Congress. And that needs to change. The bottom line is that we need more women with progressive values in Congress. We need more members who are capable of standing up for working families and tackling the Trump administration’s agenda head on.”
As a member of the House of Representatives, Collier wants to tackle everything from the environment to health care.
“We have a lot of work to do to halt the damage Donald Trump and the Republicans are doing right now,” she says. “We must protect health care from the assault its been under, especially women’s health care. We must reverse the systemic plunder of middle and working class families to provide massive tax breaks for the rich. And we must protect our climate from the disastrous anti-science agenda of this administration. It’s a big challenge, but I’m up for the fight.”
If Collier wins the nomination, she would face the incumbent, Republican John Faso, and two women running as independents, Luisa Parker and former Law & Order: SVU and NCIS actress Diane Neal. Collier says she’s excited to have them in the race.
“It’s 2018 — the more women running for office, the better,” she tells PEOPLE. “We’re seeing a groundswell of women getting off the sidelines, and saying enough is enough. For me, I look forward to being the nominee of Democratic party, putting my progressive values on the table, and beating Republican John Faso in November.”
But she has to get by the guys first.
“I’m a woman, I’m an economist, I’m a farmer, I’m a triathlete, I’m a feminist. I’m not going to let those boys beat me.”