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MEET AMY VILELA


FIGHTING FOR THE PEOPLE

 

 

 

For too long, our status quo political leadership has been complacent. But working people need a champion—someone who knows the struggle and who will take that lived experience with them to Congress to fight for us.


Amy has that lived experience, she's ready to fight, and she will be that champion.

 

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A lifetime of struggle
 

 

 

Amy Vilela has had to fight her entire life for everything she has, and she's experienced the pain our broken systems cause in so many ways.

 

Amy was born in rural Maryland. Her father was a lifelong union ironworker and her mother worked as a secretary. When her parents divorced, Amy learned firsthand the shame our society forces upon those struggling in poverty while being raised by a single-mother.

 

Archival photos of Amy growing up.

 

 

 

Later, as the struggle of poverty took its toll on Amy's own marriage, she became a single-mother herself, raising two biracial children in a prejudiced society. Amy and her children relied on public programs like food stamps, WIC, and Medicaid for pregnant women and children just to make ends meet. She knows what it’s like to be evicted and unhoused; what it's like to have to make tough decisions between putting food on the table or paying the bills.

 

Through those experiences, Amy has remained a fighter, doing everything in her power to provide for her family against the odds.

 

Archival photos of Amy with her children as a single mother in the 1990's.



From single mom to CFO
 

 

 

As a young, single mother, Amy was committed to bettering herself through education in order to provide the life for her children that she never had. She took classes at night while working multiple jobs during the day to make her way through college, becoming the first in her family to earn a degree.

 

From there, Amy became an accountant. She entered the professional world as an accountant working for nonprofits and businesses, and quickly rose the ranks to become a Chief Financial Officer. Amy had bought into the false notion of the American Dream, and she thought that of she just worked hard enough, she and her family would be safe. 

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Amy as a single mother, graduating from Park University, where she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and Business Management.

 

 

 

By the time she had married her husband David—an immigrant from Brazil and a Major in the U.S. Air Force—Amy thought she had it all, but that illusion was quickly shattered, and she was reminded of what she had learned so directly growing up:


We are all only as safe as
the most vulnerable among us.

 

 

Amy with her husband David on their wedding day, playing soccer with their children, at her daughter Shalynne's graduation, and at their home in Las Vegas.




Political Activation
 

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You may have heard the story about Amy’s daughter, Shalynne, who died at the hands of our nation’s profit-driven healthcare system after she was denied care because she couldn’t provide adequate proof of insurance to the local emergency room. It was a life-changing moment for Amy, and she has since found purpose in fighting against injustice in all its forms.

 

Amy’s advocacy for single-payer healthcare and other key progressive policies made popular by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid led her to run for Congress in 2018. Despite coming up short in that initial campaign, Amy was featured alongside now-Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush in Netflix's award-winning documentary Knock Down the House.

Since then, Amy has continued to give everything she can to continue organizing for the political revolution. She’s traveled the country—encouraging other progressive women to get involved in the political process and run for office, as well as for Sen. Sanders’ 2020 presidential bid as a national surrogate and his Nevada State Co-Chair, leading the way for a landslide victory in the caucuses on February 22, 2020.




Fighting in the trenches of the political revolution
 

 

Amy on the campaign trail in Nevada in 2019 and 2020 in her role as Bernie 2020 State Co-Chair with Sen. Sanders, then-candidate Cori Bush, Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Victoria Dooley, Jose La Luz, Chuck Rocha, and her husband, David.

 

 

 

Since her first run for office, Amy has also applied her professional experience as an executive level accountant to provide bookkeeping and federal campaign compliance services to other progressive candidates across the country at affordable rates through her Nevada-based firm, Progressives Consulting.

 

Notable clients of Amy's include Cori Bush's and Jamaal Bowman's successful 2020 primary campaigns as well as Senator Nina Turner's high profile race in Ohio's 2021 special election for the 11th District—all of whom Amy still works closely with today.

 

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Because we deserve more
 

 

 

Throughout all her work across the country as a leader of our progressive movement, Amy has never lost sight of our needs here in Las Vegas, and she's continued to organize on the ground locally.

 

These past few years in particular, as the effects of the pandemic have been so acutely felt across our communities here in Las Vegas—especially among the immigrant and working class families who are the backbone of the economy in our global city—she’s helped to organize mutual aid and food drives to provide for thousands Vegas families in need across East Las Vegas, and hand sewed hundreds of masks for frontline healthcare workers who weren't being provided the PPE they needed.

 

Amy is running for Congress to represent the working people of Las Vegas in Nevada's newly redrawn First District because—from Covid to climate change—the political status quo is not doing enough to provide for those with the least. It’s time for political leadership who will fight like lives depend on it, because they do.

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Amy's husband David with his mother and their children at Team Vilela's Campaign Rally with Congresswoman Cori Bush and Senator Nina Turner at Paradise Park in Las Vegas on February 22, 2022.

SHALYNNE'S STORY

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A LIFE CUT SHORT

She was funny. She was smart. She was a go-getter, a hustler, filled with ambition, and excited to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse. She had her entire life ahead of her. But then in June of 2015, she was taken from from this world needlessly.

 



Amy's daughter, Shalynne, was a force of nature.
 

 

Archival photos of Amy's daughter, Shalynne, as a baby and growing up with her brother, Josiah, and their father, Roscoe.

 

 

 

Shalynne was in the process of moving home to Las Vegas from Kansas City to finish her schooling to become a nurse. After making the 22-hour drive,

Shalynne started experiencing excessive swelling, redness, and pain in her leg, so she went to a local emergency here in town.

 

Shalynne was Black, she was on birth control, she had sickle cell trait, and she had recently injured her ACL before making that long drive—all risk factors for a blood clot—but when she presented with her painfully swollen leg, none of that mattered. 

 

At the ER, she was crying out in pain and pleading with them to perform the appropriate medical screenings, but instead of providing her the care she needed, they performed what is called a "wallet biopsy," and with one simple question, her fate was sealed:


"Do you have insurance?"
 

 

When Shalynne was unable to provide adequate proof of her coverage, they simply told her, “Go get insurance and see a specialist. We’re not a doctor’s office.”

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Shalynne at her high school graduation.




Amy's promise
 

 

 

The call came at four in the morning. It was Shalynne's father, Roscoe. Shalynne was flying back to Kansas City to finalize some paperwork for her move, and while in the air, the blood clot in her leg dislodged. Roscoe kept repeating to Amy through tears that “Shalynne’s coding. She’s coding.” 

 

Amy will never forget the fear and devastation in his voice. He didn’t know if Shalynne was even still alive at that point. Amy didn’t even know what “coding” meant, but she soon found out.

 

Shalynne was having a massive pulmonary embolism.

 

The first thing that hit Amy when she walked into Shalynne's hospital room was the overpowering smell of blood. her little girl was hemorrhaging, and it was too late. By the time Amy got there, Shalynne was already brain-dead, and her major organs couldn’t even be donated.

 

Amy was there with her through the end when the doctors removed the breathing tube. She couldn’t let her daughter die alone. For 30 minutes, Amy held Shalynne and sang the songs she used to sing to her as a baby. She let her know they were there with her, and as took Shalynne took her last breath, Amy made her a promise:


"You will not have died in vain."


 

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Amy holding Shalynne in her hospital room as she took her final breaths.



Turning pain into power
 

 

 

 

Amy's daughter daughter died needlessly, and she spent her last conscious moments on this earth alone, afraid, and in agonizing pain in the back of an ambulance. All because she could not provide adequate proof of insurance at the Emergency Room in Las Vegas.

 

At first, Amy struggled to make sense of her death. She would think to herself, “how could this have happened?” She didn’t know right away how she would ever be able to make good on her promise to Shalynne but soon the pieces started to fall into place. She realized that Shalynne’s death wasn’t just a one-off tragedy; that tens of thousands of people die needlessly every year—just like her daughter did—entirely due to a lack of health insurance.

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When the scale of this systemic injustice became clear to Amy, she knew what she had to do to prevent Shalynne from simply becoming another statistic. Since then, she's woken up every single day with a mission: fight with every fiber of her being for justice.

 

And not just justice for Shalynne; not just healthcare justice; but true justice across the board, on issue after issue, for all.

 

A part of Amy died that day with Shalynne. The journey of grief for Amy and her family has been long and painful, but through her political organizing and activism, she's been able to turn that pain and grief into power—and she's found a blessing in Shalynne's passing. It was a reminder to Amy that we are all only as safe as the most vulnerable among us, and now that her eyes are open, she'll never close them again.


Amy knows she can't save Shalynne, but she is determined to do everything in her power to saves those lives we still can.


 

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Amy speaking at a campaign rally at Paradise Park in Las Vegas on February 19, 2022.

 

Jose La Luz, Senator Nina Turner, Congresswoman Cori Bush and Amy Vilela campaign during a Bernie 2020 Reunion Happy Hour at ReBar in Downtown Las Vegas on February 19, 2022.

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