Melodie Baker wears a lot of different hats in the Western New York community.
She is a small business owner, the co-founder of a charter school, a mother of five, and she recently took a leave of absence as the director of education for the United Way of Buffalo to pursue Congress.
"I spent the last 14 years of my life expanding education opportunities and access to health care for underserved communities," she said.
One thing Baker hasn't tried yet is a run for office. But she said she decided it was time for that to change after speaking with former Georgia House of Representatives Minority Leader Stacey Abrams.
"She said the people who are passionate about the policies need to be the ones who are in the position to make them," Baker said.
And Abrams, who some in the Democratic Party considered a promising presidential candidate, told Baker she didn't need to start small just because she's a relative newcomer.
"She said, ‘Women will say they need another PhD or they need to lose five pounds or they need more experience before they decide to do something that is considered grand’ and she said, ‘Men wake up and they have a good hair day and they say I'm going to be the president of the United States,’" Baker said. "She said, ‘Become a policymaker.’"
She is vying for the Democratic designation for New York's 27th District. Her candidacy in some aspects comes early as the governor has yet to call a special election for the seat vacated by convicted Republican Chris Collins. On the other hand, Democrat Nate McMurray who narrowly lost to Collins in 2018 has been in the race for months.
"The fundamental principles that our Democracy was built on was the ability to choose who represent us and I don't think it has to be the first person. It has to be the right person," she said.
McMurray has now announced the endorsement of seven of eight county chairs in the district. If that holds, he would have the designation wrapped up. However, the Erie County Committee is the one that has not endorsed yet and accounts for roughly half of the weighted vote. Baker believes everything is still in play.
"I definitely think that there's time to change someone's mind. I believe that I represent an opportunity for the Democrats to win this ticket," she said.
Baker said she has not made a decision yet on whether she'll run in a June 2020 primary if she fails to secure the special election designation.