California Democrat Lexi Reese says she's not underestimating her uphill bid for Senate.
She's seen the polling that shows her at just 1%, far behind the likes of Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff (20%), Katie Porter (17%) and Barbara Lee (7%).
"Lets just acknowledge: I'm an outsider, and this is a longshot and I haven't taken some magic pill that makes me believe otherwise. We don't have to talk with kid gloves," Reese told NBC News in an interview Wednesday.
But she sees an opportunity in that polling, which shows the plurality of voters undecided even though the race features three candidates who are far better known than she is.
"Why are people undecided? Because they’re working harder and longer than ever and still barely able to get by. And I have a path to fix that," she said.
Reese, a Philadelphia native, moved to California in 2011 as she joined the tech industry. She cut her teeth working at companies like American Express and Google before serving as the chief operating officer at the human resources company Gusto. And she points to experiences in her own family life, past and present, when explaining why she decided to run for Senate.
As a child she saw the repercussions her father's job loss had on her family, and how her siblings turned to drugs and alcohol to cope.
"I have always been motivated by this question of why do some people more easily thrive and other people scrape by?" she said.
"I always go back to this notion of work: Work is not just the paycheck, it's about dignity."
And as a mother, she said the 2022 Supreme Court decisions overturning Roe vs. Wade and expanding gun rights propelled her to run.
“There is an assault on our bodies by bullets and anti-reproduction rights extremists. Where does that all stem from? It stems from Congress, in particular from the Senate, where direction for the country is coming from," she said.
"We need new energy, new perspectives, fresh ideas in the Senate if we’re going to break through some of these big issues."
Reese centers her solutions to those problems, even the thorny social issues, around "ending financial instability." One idea is a tax incentive that would reward businesses for providing a living wage, job training, health care and child care (and penalizing those who don't).
She's also calling for government to prepare for and protect workers from the rise of artificial intelligence, for term limits she says will help make politics more inclusive and representative, and for new gun laws like biometrics that would prevent guns from being fired near schools and large gatherings without certain permissions.
There's no question Reese will be at a resource disadvantage when compared to her rivals, particularly Schiff and Porter, two of the best political fundraisers in the House who remain the favorites for the top slots in a primary where the top-two candidates advance to a general election regardless of party.
Amid that resource deficit, Reese and her husband decided to give the campaign $500,000 of their own money, a number she said they landed on because it was how much it would cost to educate their two children, and “this is as important for their future as education.”
"Let's acknowledge the severity of the issues and let's operate with a sense of urgency and a sense of team that I've never seen in the Senate," Reese said.
“Politics may be the last industry to be disrupted by a customer focused, tech-empowered alternative that has come to the market with obsession on outcomes.”