Meet Dana Balter
HOW THIS JOURNEY BEGAN
When I was still too young to name what I was doing, I was already fighting for the underdog. My younger brother, Jonathan, has cognitive disabilities. Not even two years separate us in age and as we grew up together, he taught me about the struggle to overcome and that I had an important role to play in that struggle. When Jonathan couldn’t learn to tell time at school, I set up a “classroom” in our basement and tried to teach him myself. When neighborhood children teased and bullied him, I stood with him and shut them down. When my parents advocated for him year after year, demanding that he have the best opportunities to thrive, I watched and learned. As Jonathan’s sister, I was both nurturer and shield. From my earliest memories until today I have been inspired to stand firmly and passionately for dignity and access for all.
Shaped by these childhood experiences, I began my career in the field of special education, working at a nonprofit organization that provides support services to adults with cognitive disabilities. There I began as a teacher, became the Director of Education, and finally the Director of Marketing and Communications. Through my role in marketing, I met parents of children and adults with disabilities across the country who were desperate to find appropriate services for their children. They were terrified that there were no options for independent and fulfilling lives after high school. The relief in their eyes when I explained what our programs offered and the hope with which they walked away from our conversations were both gratifying and heartbreaking. No parent should have to face such uncertainty for their children; necessary services should be abundant and easily accessible. I decided that I needed to make change on a larger scale; I needed to get into policy-making. And because, for me, all things begin with education, I went back to school to study it.
I HAVE THE NECESSARY EXPERTISE
I earned my Masters in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut and am currently a PhD candidate at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. My academic work has focused on education policy, public finance, and accountability in government. I am now serving as a Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor at the Maxwell School, teaching courses in citizenship, policy, administration, and democracy.
Since the November 2016 election, I have been working hard as a community organizer, advancing a progressive agenda for Central New York. Traveling the district doing that work, I hear from so many people who are frustrated, angry, and scared. They are feeling threatened by our current administration and ignored by our current representative. I am deeply connected to the issues facing the people of the 24th district and deeply committed to finding solutions.
I’M STRONG ENOUGH TO FIGHT FOR YOU
Less than a year into my PhD program, I found myself facing a debilitating physical illness. I was forced to suspend my studies. Not one to stay on the mat when life knocks me down, I spent years researching treatments and doing everything I could to get better. It took almost eight years, but I fought my way back to good health and re-enrolled at the Maxwell School. Despite having to start all over again, I am resolved to earn my degree. I learned some important things on that journey. I faced the threat of not being able to find insurance because of a pre-existing condition; the fear of financial ruin because of healthcare costs; and the obstacles that make accessing our public social service supports so difficult. I truly understand the kinds of battles that families are fighting every day and the need for humane government policies that can help them. It was sheer stubborn determination that brought me through and I will put that same determination to work for you. Your struggles will become my mission and together we will be unstoppable.
I’M RUNNING FOR CONGRESS BECAUSE…
In the wake of the November election, I felt that our nation was fighting for its very soul. I thought about all the times I’d sat in a movie theater, a library, a history class and said to myself, “What would I have done? Would I have been strong enough to stand up and say no? Would I have been brave enough?” Well, now it’s my time. The people I love, the country I love, the values I love are all being threatened and I cannot stand idly by.
I’m standing up to fight for the things our community needs most: adequate, affordable healthcare for every person; an equitable, high quality education for every child; policies that promote economic justice and meaningful employment; an insistence on racial justice and demand for equal treatment under the law for all people; protection of our natural resources and responsible stewardship of the Earth; a restoration of respect for our democratic institutions and American values. If you entrust me with the task of promoting the public good on Capitol Hill, my job will be to amplify the voices of our community and ensure that no one is left behind.