Fighting for the East Bay

Party Affiliation: 
Democratic Party

Political Ideology:

Fighting For:

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was born in segregated El Paso, TX and attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School, where she was taught by the Sisters of Loretto, an order dedicated to promoting justice and peace. Her father was a veteran of two wars and her mother broke many glass ceilings and racial barriers. After grammar school, Congresswoman Lee moved to San Fernando, California and worked with the local NAACP to integrate her high school cheerleading squad.

As a single mother raising two sons, Congresswoman Lee attended Mills College and received public assistance while building a better life for her family. As president of Mills College’s Black Student Union, she invited Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, to speak on campus. As a result of this meeting, Congresswoman Lee registered to vote for the first time and worked on Congresswoman Chisholm’s historic presidential campaign, including serving as her delegate at the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami, FL.

Community Advocate & Small Business Owner

Congresswoman Lee received her Masters of Social Work from the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in psychiatric social work. During her graduate work, Congresswoman Lee founded the Community Health Alliance for Neighborhood Growth and Education (CHANGE, Inc.) which provided mental health services to many of the East Bay’s most vulnerable individuals.

In 1975, Congresswoman Lee joined the staff of Congressman Ron Dellums, where she eventually rose from an intern to chief of staff. During the eleven years she worked for Congressman Dellums, Congresswoman Lee was one of only a few women and persons of color to hold a senior position on Capitol Hill.

California Legislator

After leaving Congressman Dellums’ office in 1987, Congresswoman Lee founded a facilities management company that grew to employ over 500 people. As a small business owner in the East Bay, Congresswoman Lee worked with people from all walks of life.

In 1990, Congresswoman Lee was elected to the California State Assembly, where she served until 1996 when she was elected to the State Senate. As a California legislator, Congresswoman Lee authored 67 bills and resolutions that were signed into law by Republican Governor Pete Wilson. This legislation addressed a wide spectrum of issues, including public safety, education, healthcare, and environmental protections. In the legislature, Congresswoman Lee was an early champion of LGBT issues and authored the 1995 California Schools Hate Crimes Reduction Act. As the first African American woman elected to the State Senate from Northern California, Congresswoman Lee created and presided over the California Commission on the Status of African American Males and the California Legislative Black Caucus, while working to defeat the punitive “three strikes law.” Congresswoman Lee also served as a strong advocate for women in the legislature, where she authored and passed the first California Violence Against Women Act and served as a member of the California Commission on the Status of Women.

Congressional Representative

In 1998, Congresswoman Barbara Lee was elected to serve California’s 9th congressional district (now the 13th) in a special election. In 2001, Congresswoman Lee received national attention as the only Member of Congress to oppose the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) in the wake of the horrific events on September 11th. The Congresswoman believed this AUMF would become a blank check for endless war. As of 2013, this authorization had been used more than 30 times to engage in military action without Congressional oversight. Congresswoman Lee is working to repeal this blank check and restore Congress’s constitutional oversight to matters of war and peace. She was also an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War.

Congresswoman Lee has long advocated for legislative action to end poverty. In 2007, she worked with a diverse coalition of Members to create the Out of Poverty Caucus. In 2013, she became chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity. As chair, she leads more than 100 Members of Congress in crafting and advancing legislation to lift millions of American families out of poverty and into the middle class.

Since her time in the California legislature, Congresswoman Lee has been a fierce advocate for ending HIV and ensuring an AIDS-free generation. Since entering Congress, she has authored or co-authored every major piece of HIV/AIDS legislation including the legislative frameworks for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Congresswoman Lee’s legislation establishing a USAID special advisor for orphans and vulnerable children was enacted into law in 2009. In 2011, Congresswoman Lee formed the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, which she co-chairs.

Currently, Congresswoman Lee serves on the Budget Committee and the powerful Appropriations Committee, which oversees all federal government spending. She serves on three subcommittees (State and Foreign Operations; Labor, Health and Human Services, Education; and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs) of the Appropriations Committee. She is the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (111th Congress) and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (109th & 110th Congresses).

Caribbean, Haiti, and Cuba

Congresswoman Lee has worked for decades to normalize relations with Cuba. She has visited the island more than two dozen times and is working in Congress to lift the trade embargo and end the travel ban.

Civil Rights

Congresswoman Lee is working to preserve and expand protections for all Americans, empower voters and ensure that our nation’s civil rights legacy is protected.

Economy and Jobs

Our economy must empower families with good-paying jobs, stability and security. Unfortunately, a rigged economy has created a growing gap between the super rich and working families. Congresswoman Lee is working to ensure every family has the opportunity to live the American dream. A thriving economy must include good-paying jobs, the right to organize and the ability to provide for a family.

As a member of the powerful federal spending committee, Congresswoman Lee has long advocated for increased federal resources for workforce training, STEM education and infrastructure development. Additionally, Congresswoman Lee is a vocal leader in the fight to end the wage gap, raise the minimum wage, establish a living wage and address growing income inequality. Our economy should work for everyone, not just the rich and well-connected.


Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed. This requires ensuring full access to early childhood education, high-quality public schools and debt-free college.

As a member of the education funding subcommittee, Congresswoman Lee is fighting for vital resources for Head Start, public schools, Pell grants, minority-serving institutions, community colleges and after-school programs.

Energy and Environment

Congresswoman Lee is committed to protecting endangered animals and preserving and increasing public access to our national parks and public lands.

In Congress, she is working to combat and prevent climate change and she has long opposed taxpayer-funded giveaways to Big Oil and other major polluters. Instead, she has advocated for increased investments in clean, renewable energy technologies. Congresswoman Lee is fighting to ensure that the good-paying jobs created by the growing green energy sector are open to all, especially people of color, women and veterans.

Global Peace & Security

In Congress, she works to reduce conflict, end wars, advance human rights, promote diplomacy and address the conditions that spark violence.

Following the horrific events on September 11th, Congresswoman Lee cast the lone vote against the overly broad authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). In the years since, this AUMF has become a blank check for endless war and has been used to justify military actions in more than 30 countries without Congressional oversight.

As a member of the powerful federal spending committee, Congresswoman Lee is dedicated to increasing effective foreign assistance and reshaping Pentagon spending to meet the our nation’s real and pressing 21st century national security needs.

Gun Violence

Gun violence is a national public health crisis that endangers every community in our nation. It’s time for Congress to get off the sidelines and take action to prevent these all too frequent and avoidable tragedies.

To that end, Congresswoman Lee is working in Congress to take a comprehensive approach to addressing this violence, including common-sense gun reforms to ensure thorough background checks, close loopholes, and get weapons of war off the street. No family in America should have to live in fear of gun violence.

Health Care

Congresswoman Lee is dedicated to ensuring everyone has access to affordable and high-quality healthcare, especially the most vulnerable.


Since entering Congress, Congresswoman Lee has authored or co-authored every major piece of HIV/AIDS legislation, both domestic and global. 

Congresswoman Lee is dedicated to achieving an AIDS-free generation. As co-chair and co-founder of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, Congresswoman Lee leads the effort to advance legislation that addresses the HIV/AIDS pandemic while educating Members of Congress about the virus, its impact and affected populations.


America is, has been and always will be a nation of immigrants. Our nation’s diversity enriches our culture, grows our economy and spurs innovation. Sadly, our current immigration system is broken and unfairly tears many families apart.

As a pro-family advocate, Congresswoman Lee is working to pass comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together.


While marriage equality is now a reality across the U.S., Congresswoman Lee is committed to the unfinished work of advancing equality for all, including preventing employment discrimination and combatting homophobia and transphobia.


Ending poverty is personal for Congresswoman Lee. During a very difficult period as a young single mother, Congresswoman Lee received public assistance while attending college and raising her two sons. As chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity, she continues fighting to protect bridges over troubled water for struggling families so everyone has the opportunity to live the American dream.

As a member of the powerful federal spending committee, Congresswoman Lee has led the fight to preserve and expand critical safety net programs like unemployment insurance, housing assistance, child care, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She firmly believes that ending poverty in the world’s rich and most powerful nation is a moral and economic imperative. Additionally, Congresswoman Lee has long championed global poverty eradication efforts.


The ability to retire with dignity is fundamental to the American dream. In Congress, Congresswoman Lee is dedicated to preserving and expanding Social Security and Medicare, programs that seniors have invested in over their entire lives.


Congresswoman Lee is the daughter of a veteran; her father, Lt. Col. Garvin Tutt, served with distinction in two wars. Congresswoman Lee understands the immense sacrifices made by our brave servicemembers and their families.

As a member of the spending subcommittee that oversees funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Congresswoman Lee is committed to ensuring that our veterans and their families receive the benefits that they have earned.


In Congress, Congresswoman Lee is working to ensure equal pay for equal work, to expand access to affordable childcare and to ensure access to paid family leave. Additionally, she is the author of the EACH Woman Act which would repeal the discriminatory Hyde Amendment that has restricted many women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

Media Get Involved
1301 Clay Street, Ste. 1000-N
Oakland, CA 94612
P: (510) 763-0370
F: (510) 763-6538
M–F: 9 am – 5 pm (PST)
Washington, DC
2267 Rayburn House
Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
P: (202) 225-2661
F: (202) 225-9817
M–F: 9 am – 5:30 pm (EST)

Related Events: