Your parents' basement as a launching pad. For Congress.
Congressional candidate Lauren Underwood lives in a $750,000 Naperville home with a three-car garage, one block from an exclusive, private golf course.
Upwardly-mobile suburban voters typically admire the trappings of success— when they are one’s own.
Underwood, however, still sleeps in her childhood bedroom, down the hall from her mother and father in the home where she grew up.
There was once a time when a 32 year-old might be embarrassed, perhaps even mortified to rely on their parents to pay their credit card bills.
But no longer.
These days, "failure to launch" doesn’t make one reluctant to offer their leadership and wisdom to others, to run for the statehouse or even U.S. Congress. Enter Underwood, who was recruited by Democrats to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Plano) this year in Illinois' 14th Congressional District. It includes Naperville, Plainfield, Shorewood and Aurora in Will County, as well as parts of DuPage Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and DeKalb Counties.
In her defense, Underwood is hardly the only candidate on the Illinois ballot this year still living with their parents.
Democrat Bridget Fitzgerald, 30, is running for state Senate in a district that includes parts of Lockport, Homer Glen, Orland Park and Naperville. She lives with her parents in nearby Western Springs, also in the house in which she grew up.
Near the Wisconsin border, Jake Castanza, 28, still lives with his dad in Rockford. He graduated from Purdue in May, then kicked off a campaign for state representative against a three-term incumbent.
The candidacy of a still dependent like Underwood, Fitzgerald or Castanza would ordinarily be seen as quixotic. But state and national Democrat leaders are backing the trio with millions of dollars, betting voters driven by their animus to President Donald Trump won't dig deep into their resumes.
So far, polling numbers show the three as competitive, suggesting they haven't.
"I have looked into my patients' eyes"
It's frequently observed that millennials are adept at using social media to portray the person they want to be, rather than the person they actually are.
A self-described "health policy expert," Underwood graduated from Neuqua Valley High School in Aurora before studying nursing at the University of Michigan and at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
Underwood plays a nurse on TV, wielding a stethoscope in her campaign commercials as she tends to patients.
Yet, Underwood has never been a practicing nurse, nor has she ever worked with patients in a hospital.
By her own admission, her total nursing career spans seven months, limited only to work in a research capacity.
In 2010, Underwood recruited subjects for a National Institutes of Health study of "spirituality and coping skills among black women undergoing chemotherapy," according to her Linkedin page.
Her nursing career ended when she accepted a political position from the Obama Administration earning $67,114. She quit at the end of Obama's term, moving back to Naperville last year to launch her political career.
Still, Underwood insists it was her work with patients that drove her decision to run for office.
"I, as a nurse, have looked into my patients' eyes when giving discharge instructions, knowing that they cannot afford the prescription that we're handing to them," she said in a campaign video earlier this month.
"When you see a patient's family worry whether insurance will cover a certain procedure, it hits you," she tweeted early this year.
According to the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, she first applied for an Illinois nursing license in Jan. 2017.
"We pay these high property taxes"
Someone who has never run a family budget, or even left their parents' payroll, would seem an improbable choice to appeal to a district full of middle-class suburbanites concerned with pocketbook issues.
A lack of life experience hasn't stopped Illinois' new crop of millennial would-be politicians from confidently suggesting it is they who are the grounded, independent ones.
"I believe that we must make sure that we go vote on Nov. 6th and elect representatives that understand the lived experiences of so many in our community," Underwood told Now This Politics last month, describing her opponent, a 52 year-old father of four, as out of touch.
Bridget Fitzgerald's mother is the cousin of Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), a 40-year incumbent who would effectively be her boss were she to make it to Springfield.
Cullerton also got Fitzgerald her current patronage job in the Illinois Treasurer's office doing "community relations."
Without irony, she says that, if elected, she would be independent and "fight for term limits."
Jake Castanza boasts a resume scant on actual work experience himself. He lasted just six months in his only private sector job. He currently works for a non-profit, bankrolled by his father's labor union. But that hasn’t stopped him from running on a platform of "job creation." Castanza wants higher taxes for more job training programs, presumably for people like him.
Underwood has consistently attacked U.S. Rep. Hultgren for supporting a business tax cut that, among other things, capped the amount high-tax homeowners can deduct from their federal income taxes.
She, like Fitzgerald and Castanza, has never owned a home, nor paid a property tax bill. But this hasn't made Underwood less indignant.
"The deal was we pay these high property taxes and know that we can deduct them from our federal taxes," Underwood told the Northwest Herald last month. "He sold us out."
Underwood's parents paid $14,462 last year in property taxes on their home in White Eagle, part of the Will County portion of Naperville, according to the Will County Treasurer.