WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ahead of Election Day, Democrat Desiree Tims spoke exclusively with Spectrum Washington bureau reporter Taylor Popielarz about her race against longtime incumbent Congressman Mike Turner (R, 10th Congressional District).

You can watch the full, uncut conversation above or read the full transcript below.

And you can watch the full report on the race in the 10th Congressional District by clicking here.

Taylor Popielarz: I’ll start off with the most kind of cliche question. Especially at a time when Congress is not really viewed the most favorably, why are you running for this job?

Desiree Tims: I’m running for Congress to bring opportunity and hope back into my community. Here in southwest Ohio, I come from a working class family, there are a lot of working class people who just can't get ahead. And we need to make sure that we have federal investment back into our community so that we can climb our way up the ladder, right? And so, so many people who have been working two jobs and three jobs and still can't make ends meat, so many people who lost their pension, so many people who can't find that good job that they once had need help.  And so that's what I hope to deliver to my community, I hope to carry their voices with me in the halls of Congress and at the table of change.

Taylor Popielarz: Does it, I mean, you worked in Washington for a while, so you know how the Hill operates. But does it either, I don't know if intimidate is the right word, or does it already exhaust you, the idea of being a member of Congress at such a dysfunctional time, if you were to win?

Desiree Tims: I'm so excited to have the opportunity to carry the voices of my community in the halls of Congress with me. I'm excited to sit at the table and advocate for the needs of the people here. And what we're seeing — there are people like me running for Congress all across the country. People from working class backgrounds, people from, you know, not trust fund kids and people who are Black and who are Hispanic and who are LGBTQ, there are all types of people running for Congress so that we can diversify Congress and make our government more representative of the American people. And that's what I hope to do. More women are running now more than ever and it's because we know what's best for our communities. And so I'm confident and I'm like forward-looking that the next Congress will be more representative and that we will get a lot of things done for our people.

Taylor Popielarz: I've read your policy platform, I've been keeping a close eye on your campaign. But when you meet somebody, whether it's virtually or in-person, who hasn't heard of you or isn't familiar with your campaign, what are the top two or three legislative priorities you're kind of advocating for?

Desiree Tims:
Yeah, I talk about health care. How we’re going to make sure that regardless of your background, or if you have a pre-existing condition, that you are able to get the health care you need, and that if you get sick, a diagnosis is not a recipe for bankruptcy or bad credit. That you have the opportunity to get the health care you need. We're talking about lowering the cost of prescription drugs, we're talking about building and making the Affordable Care Act stronger, adding a Medicare public option. We’re talking about things that ensures that people who have pre-existing conditions can stay on their health care, can keep it, and can make sure that it's affordable. That's what I'm talking about on the trail. That's what people care about. My opponent has voted to gut health care coverage from people right here in the Miami Valley. He’s voted to take away people's coverage if they have pre-existing conditions and doesn't support lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Well, people don't have a lot of money. And you shouldn't have to get to the pharmacy counter and choose between an antibiotic and a painkiller. Right? You should be able to get both.

Taylor Popielarz: You brought up your opponent, so that's a good segue. He's been in Congress for a while. He was the mayor of this city before he was in Congress, so people are familiar with him. And obviously, gerrymandering is always a factor in all congressional races for both parties, so we'll acknowledge that. But separately, he has gotten votes enough times to be in Congress for just under two decades. When you meet people who say maybe I don't agree with Congressman Turner on everything policy-wise, but I like the fact that he's been in D.C. for so long, that he's a senior member on certain committees, you know, that he's been able to forge long-term relationships with people, why should I instead vote for you, who hasn't held office in Washington yet? What do you say?

Desiree Tims
: I say that we don't care about career politicians in our community, we care about someone who's going to advocate for the people. And that's what I'm talking to people about. Yeah, he's been in Congress for decades and been in elected office for nearly a quarter century. And still, we aren't getting the services that we need. We still don't have the representation we need. My opponent voted with Donald Trump 95% of the time, he has not supported the Justice In Policing Act, he has an ‘F’ rating with the environmental groups, an ‘F’ rating with the NAACP, and so, we need someone who's going to stand up and fight for our values, right? And I'm running on a campaign that's grassroots-oriented, that's built of family values, grit and determination. And I'm fighting for the working class man and woman. That's what I'm going to Congress for. And yeah, they are open to that. When they hear my story, know that I come from a working class family, born and raised in West Dayton, a graduate of Dunbar High School, first in my family to graduate four-year college. People are understanding — they see their daughter in me, they see their sister in me, they see their niece in me and they get it. They know that I will have their backs.

Taylor Popielarz: How do you feel your time in Washington shaped how you're approaching this job, especially if you meet somebody who says, well, you went to D.C. and spent a few years there, so you must have lost touch with your hometown before you came home.

Desiree Tims:
I'm just a hometown girl trying to change my community. I have always been proud, born and raised West Dayton and I represent my community everywhere I go. I got started in this whole thing knocking doors for Obama in southwest Ohio. I knocked doors in Dayton and Middletown and Hamilton and Cincinnati, encouraging people to vote. And that is because we need to make sure that our voices are heard in the halls of Congress, we need to make sure our voices and our issues are on the table and that they are a priority. That's when I worked for Senator Sherrod Brown fighting for Ohioans, making sure the Delphi retirees have access to their pension, making sure those laid off GM workers have an opportunity to earn a good living again. It’s always been about my community and it still is. I’m excited to be the Democratic nominee this cycle to represent my community. But my experience in Washington, D.C. as an advocate will allow me to be a more effective leader and a more effective advocate on behalf of my community. Because of that experience, because of my experiences, because of my community, it’s who I am.

Taylor Popielarz: I follow Senator Brown very, very closely from Washington. I speak to him at least once a week. And I know how much his current and former staffers love working for him and say that they've learned a lot from him. I'm curious, what did he teach you about winning in Ohio? Especially since you're not running in a statewide race right now, but he's managed to figure that out for so long. What tips have you learned from him? And what are you directly applying to your race?

Desiree Tims: I'm talking to the people. And when people — Sherrod Brown talks a lot about the dignity of work, we’re talking about people who want to work, who want to get ahead who have worked hard their entire lives, but they still can't afford rent. People who are on the front lines right now during the pandemic and they aren't getting hazard pay, they don't know what their health care will look like, but they have to choose between going to work or staying home. But they need to go to work to pay the rent, or they need to go to work to have access to that health care insurance benefit. But if they feel sick, they don't have a paid sick day. And so we are talking about what Ohioans are going through. The way we win is that we carry the voices of our community. We’re talking about real issues, not about what polls well, not about what research papers say, not about what the headlines say — what people in Ohio are talking about that they need. This is all about service. And one of the things that I love about Sherrod Brown, and one of the things I love about people who want to serve, is that you focus it on public service and about the people. That's what this is about. And if it's not about the people, then you shouldn't do it.

Taylor Popielarz: This race in particular is getting a lot of attention outside of Ohio, too. I hear a lot about it in D.C. And I think one of the reasons is because Dayton and the suburbs around it, just like Cincinnati and the suburbs around it, are a big focus for national election watchers because of how Donald Trump did in 2016 and where Joe Biden may do well in 2020. I'm curious for you, as you've been interacting with constituents here, are you seeing a shift from people who either were pleased with the president's message when he was a candidate in 2016, or those who maybe held their nose and voted for him, versus now? Are you seeing kind of a shift to the left? Or are you meeting more resistance than you maybe imagined?

Desiree Tims: I am seeing a lot of excitement for Desiree Tims and Joe Biden. And that is exciting. We are going to the places — and I've had conversations with people in the reddest parts of the district and talking to them about the issues, of course, many times pre-COVID. But we are talking about the issues. We're talking about the plan that Joe Biden has that I want to do for our community, to build back better. People are subscribing to that messaging. And I tell people, I don't care if you voted for Donald Trump, I don't care if you voted for Mike Turner in the past, I am talking about the future, I am talking about right now. And that's what the American people need. That's what people in southwest Ohio want. They don't care if you're on the red team or the blue team. You know who they want representing them? Someone on the winning team.

Taylor Popielarz: Your race has gotten heated at points. I've been keeping up with all the articles and all the legal filings or ethics filings. And it's been coming from both sides. And I know every attack your opponent has leveled against you and I know the ones you're leveling against him. I'm curious for you, when you're talking with constituents, have they come up to you or have they said to you over a Zoom call, hey, don't stoop down to that level, especially as a new candidate. You know, we don't want to see the political fights that maybe we're all used to. Or are they saying do whatever it takes?

Desiree Tims: We don't talk about the attacks. When I talk to people, we're talking about the issues. We are talking about what it takes to make sure that they have a representative who understands their values. That's what this is about. That's what it always has been about. And that's what it will continue to be about. I think it's unfortunate that my opponent, you know, throws nasty, dirty political attacks. And it's just typical of a career politician. I am focused, and most of my ads have been focused, on the issues. Ending gun violence, expanding access to health care, making sure people with pre-existing conditions can continue to have their health care and that they won't get kicked out, fighting for a better America and a better Ohio, building back better. I want to rebuild the country starting with the people of southwest Ohio, I want everything to start right here in the Miami Valley because I believe we have the talented workforce, we have the talent available. we have an amazing community. We're resilient, we've been through quite the year. And we have what it takes to lead. And so that's what I'm focused on. And that's what people care about.

Taylor Popielarz: Congressman Turner has pointed a lot to the fact that you are receiving pay to run for office right now, which of course is legal, but he's tried to claim that it's not at various points. Have you been met with, I guess, any frustration by constituents that you've been talking with who say, I don't like that? Or have the attacks seemed effective at all?

Desiree Tims: I don't come from a trust fund. I don't have a trust fund to fall back on. I don't come from a family of millionaires and billionaires. And so you know, I drained all of my savings, everything I had to run for office, and people understand what it's like to make sure that you can do what you need to do. People understand what it's like to not come from money. Most of the people in my community are not millionaires and billionaires. Most of the people I talk to don't have trust funds, they don't have millions of dollars set aside for them to go run for office. And that's what our government should be like. It should be representative of more people like me from working class families. I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather was a sharecropper in the deep south, he was forced to leave school at the age of six to pick cotton to help make ends meat, migrated to Middletown, Ohio to work in the steel mills. When I tell that story, and I say that's my grandfather, that's who raised me, that's who made sure that I finished college and that I became the first in my family to finish four-year college, I worked my way through law school, I am fighting for you. And because you, you are the person I know. I know your struggle. Your struggles are my struggles. We are sitting in a food desert right now. People don't have access to grocery stores. So this is about clean air, clean water, access to grocery stores, the basic necessities and health care. And that's what people are talking about. They don't have the bandwidth to think about all these other things because they are focused on kitchen table issues.

Taylor Popielarz: There is a lot going on. With that in mind, because the focus is on the issues, especially for the people of this district, do you have any personal regrets with steps your campaign has taken, I guess whether it's engaging in kind of the back and forth with Congressman Turner or any ads you've put out? Any regrets thus far?

Desiree Tims: I'm a first-time candidate. I'm born and raised here in West Dayton. And I'm just a hometown girl trying to change the world. And I'm doing the best I can. I am so honored, blessed and humbled to have people from the community walking side by side with me. And we're fighting the best fight that we can to win this election, so that the people in my community can have the representation that we need.

Taylor Popielarz: So no regrets thus far?

Desiree Tims: Not to date. I mean, obviously there have been some, some paperwork mistakes that I can't help. It’s just first-time candidate rookie mistakes. But other than that, we feel pretty good about the campaign that we're running. It's grassroots people power. I’ve raised more money than any Democratic candidate has ever raised in this seat. And people are chipping in their $5 and their $10. And we're just running a hometown girl campaign. That's what this is about. And talking about issues that really relate to working class people.

Taylor Popielarz: A couple more topics I'd love to touch on. I'd be remiss to not include the fact that you are a Black woman running for office. I cover Congresswomen Beatty and Fudge a lot. I'm curious if you've sought their counsel just in their experience running as Black women from Ohio? And I guess how it feels for you as a Black woman to be going up not only against a white man, but to just try to increase the diversity in Congress as a whole?

Desiree Tims: I have definitely sought advice from Congresswoman Beatty and Congresswoman Fudge, and they have been excellent in providing me with the resources and information I need to be an excellent candidate. And a lot of people say ‘oh my God, this is the year of the Black candidate.’ And I say well, when I announced my candidacy for Congress, with all due respect, we weren't talking about that. We were talking about the issues and I'm still talking about the issues. That's what this is about. And people said in the beginning, they tried to discount me because I am Black. They tried to discount me because I am a woman. They tried to discount me because I'm young. And those turned out to be some of my greatest assets this cycle. I was able to create and write a hip hop song that went viral about voting, called ‘My Vote Don't Count,’ with my cousin YelloPain, talking to young people about the importance of voting. I was able to talk about what we need in order to heal our country in this moment of racial injustice, coming together and talking about solutions, making sure we're able to come together and fight and see what we have in common versus our differences. And I think that has resonated. I am running in a district that is not majority Black, my district is majority white, and I ran against a white man in the primary and I won 70% of the vote. So I know that my community has my back because they see themselves in me, irrespective of race or gender or class even.

Taylor Popielarz:
How do you feel President Trump has done in his first term in office?

Desiree Tims:
I don't think he has lived up to the expectations that people who voted for him thought he would. I think he has been very dangerous in his recent rhetoric regarding coronavirus. More than 200,000 people have died, including Ohioans, including people right here in the Miami Valley. We need to make sure that we have a leader who understands the needs of Ohioans, we need to make sure we have a president who understands the needs of hardworking people, making sure our trade agreements and tariffs work for our farmers who've been getting screwed, frankly. We need to make sure that everyday people have an opportunity to reach the American dream to make sure that it's within reach and talk about what we can be. We have come from so many different backgrounds. The American history, when you look at the story, you see some pitfalls, but you see some high mountainous points as well. You see our ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And so I am optimistic about the future of our country. Obviously, we pray for the president that he, you know, overcomes coronavirus, and that he does reach the status of good health because he is our leader. But we want to make sure that we have a leader who understands the needs of Americans. And I think Joe Biden is that president. I'm excited to blaze the campaign trail with Joe and future Madam Vice President Kamala Harris because I think they understand and they have the vision that is necessary to take America forward. And I believe forward we are going.

Taylor Popielarz: Congressman Turner got a good amount of attention last year during impeachment and his role on the various committees he sits on. I'm curious, had you been in the House at that time? Would you have voted to impeach President Trump?

Desiree Tims: Based on the evidence? Yes.

Taylor Popielarz: And I guess as you watched — I guess, did Congressman Turner's role in impeachment impact at all how you were approaching your campaign?

Desiree Tims: His role in impeachment did not impact anything regarding my campaign. I do think that the way he disrespected the veterans and the witnesses, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, was a disgrace. We honor our veterans and our heroes here in this community. We stand up for those who are patriots and who are telling us their experience. We don't badger witnesses and we don't intimidate them and, you know, hold up books. We don't do that. We talk to American patriots, those who have served our country and public servants, like people. And so if anything, I was very disheartened to see his performance, along with Jim Jordan's during that time. I thought those people deserved a lot more respect.

Taylor Popielarz: Two more quick topics. If you are to be elected, you'll be going into a Congress where Nancy Pelosi has been leading your party, not only now as Speaker, but for the last decade plus, two decades. I'm curious if you are to be elected, will you continue to support her as speaker? Do you think you want her to stay in that role?

Desiree Tims:
When I get there, we'll see who is up for bat for running for leadership positions and I'll be interested in talking about how they are going to help lead some of the policy issues and agenda items I have for Ohioans. It’s always going to come back to the people of southwest Ohio. What are you going to do for my community? Are you going to help me get the needs and issues that I want to get accomplished, accomplished? Are you going to help with that? Are you going to run on that? Are you going to help support me so that I can support my community? I'm carrying the voices of the people of Montgomery County, Greene County and parts of Fayette County with me, so it is going to be a community conversation.

Taylor Popielarz: Do you feel Speaker Pelosi has been leading House Democrats in an effective way recently?

Desiree Tims: Absolutely. I think that we were able to — the party were able to come together and create the CARES Act. They were able to pass the Heroes Act. I would love to see the Heroes Act enacted because, again, our small businesses need access to resources. People are still being underemployed and laid off, people still don't have access to their unemployment benefits. Our frontline workers are still on the front lines right now — I think some people forget that. And so we need to make sure that we're taking care of our people. And so I would love to see them reach a deal, so that the Heroes Act can actually be passed into law.

Taylor Popielarz: And then last question, we've covered a lot, thank you for your time. What has been the most surprising moment of this campaign so far for you?

Desiree Tims:
The most surprising moment has been meeting people in different places who I didn't think would support me and who are like my most avid supporters and champions, and talking to them about why they support me, why I'm going to fight for them, and having those conversations. It makes me feel, on the loneliest days, running for office can be a lonely journey, but meeting those people in my community who say, you know, I'm working for you, I'm fighting for you to win, and I'm like, I'm fighting for you. We're fighting for each other. Those are some of the best days and the most unexpected because you can't plan for it. You may run into that person in the grocery store or at the gas station or at one of the local metro parks. And it's just, it's so great to see the community coming together for change, and we're ready for it.

Taylor Popielarz: Anything else you want to add I haven't asked you about?

Desiree Tims: No, I think you did good.

Taylor Popielarz: We covered a lot. Thank you.