Will Rollins is a national security and terrorism prosecutor currently running for U.S. Congress to represent California’s newly redrawn 41st district, which now includes Palm Springs, the self-proclaimed “gayest city in America.”

If he wins next Tuesday, Rollins will be the second openly gay man from California to serve in congress. But that’s not even the best part. He’ll also be unseating pro-Trump Republican Ken Calvert, who has represented the Inland Empire region since 1993 (that’s 15 terms!) and has a long–very long–record of voting against LGBTQ equality.

Related: After 30 years of bigotry, the “gayest city in America” may finally put this GOP Rep. out to pasture

Calvert got his political start 30 years ago by outing his closeted Democrat opponent, Mark Takano. Since then, he’s voted against allowing queer people to serve openly in the U.S. military and against protecting LGBTQ workers from discrimination. He also supported the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and opposed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.

We talked with 38-year-old Rollins about his historic candidacy, his homophobic opponent, and the growing extremism coming from the political right. We also chatted about some lighter topics, like where you might expect to find him and his partner, Paulo, on a lazy Saturday in Palm Springs. Here’s what he had to say…

QUEERTY: I want to start by talking about Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband, who was recently attacked by an intruder in their home. It’s terrifying. Not only are our lawmakers’ lives in danger, as we saw on January 6, but now their spouses’ lives are being threatened. Are you concerned for your own family’s safety, should you win this race?

ROLLINS: Our democracy can’t function if our leaders can’t believe that their families are safe. Anybody who’s met the Speaker knows that she’s an unbelievably kind person. I think about the experience that Paul Pelosi must have had, and how horrifying that must have been for him last night to be sitting there in his home, having a deranged man break into his house and scream, “Where’s Nancy?” and then be attacked by him with a hammer. Americans have to unite to condemn political violence, period. We have to step up protections for our elected leaders and in the judiciary. That’s how a civil society functions. I’ve had a threat in this race, and it does scare me. No doubt about it.

What threat did your campaign receive?

We’ve had a death threat. And it is scary. What was weird for me about it is that I worked in counterterrorism and I worked for the FBI to deal with a lot of threats, and it was odd to be on the receiving end of one. And it reminds you that we’re living in a moment that has an unparalleled level of political threats and violence against lawmakers.

Do you worry that being LGBTQ might put you at an even greater risk for threats and violence, if you win this election?

Yes. But I think about people who gave their lives to make this candidacy possible. Harvey Milk is one example. And the country doesn’t get better if people don’t step up in the face of those threats. If the government responds to this as they should, which is universal condemnation of political violence, which, unfortunately, we haven’t seen from those on the far right, and also actually taking meaningful steps to increase security and funding for our legislators and the judiciary, I’ll feel a lot safer and I think other members will as well.

The extremism we’re seeing from the right seems to be getting worse, especially in their attacks on LGBTQ people, particularly trans people. If elected, you’re going to be working beside some, dare I say, radicalized lawmakers. How do you plan to work with them? And to where do you draw the line on extremism and say, “No, I can’t work with you. I’m not even going to try.”

The truth is that there will be some people I’ll never be able to work with. I walked by Marjorie Taylor Greene‘s office the other day and it’s a wall of hatred. It’s all about hating trans people. And I don’t know, truthfully, that I could ever work with somebody like that. But I think the other part of this is: How do the midterms turn out for the Republican party overall? Because if voters punish them for the kind of extremism we’re seeing, I think there will be an opportunity to work across the aisle. But it’s going to depend on the electorate. Voters have to stand up and reject this kind of extremism, to give us a more moderate party that people like me want to work with.

Speaking of the electorate, there hasn’t been a lot of polling done in your race, but Politico forecasted recently that your opponent will likely to win. Given that he’s the incumbent and that he’s been serving in Congress since 1993, there are people who are skeptical about whether you can beat him. What do you say to the cynics?

They haven’t been talking to voters in the district. And the Republicans who have endorsed me.  Folks who, on both sides of the aisle, are standing up for the rule of law, and want to stand against somebody who’s willing to undermine our democracy like Ken Calvert. And the other thing that cuts through party lines in this congressional race is I’m probably the only Democrat in the entire country who can use a Fox News clip talking about his opponent’s corruption in a campaign ad. And when you are running against somebody who has been ranked one of the most corrupt members of Congress, they’re uniquely vulnerable. It’s part of the reason we’re up, I think, it’s 11 points in the early ballot returns so far in California, which is one of the top ratios in the entire state for any competitive House race.

So, cynics be damned!

[Laughs.] That’s right! Cynics be damned… We’re gonna flip the seat!

Will and his partner, Paulo. (Source: willrollinsforcongress.com)

On a lighter note, what’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I started as a freshman wide receiver in high school for football, and then I was immediately benched the second game because I bobbled a pass in the end zone that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by the opposing team.

Oh no! So that was the beginning and end of your football career?

[Laughs.] Yeah.

Are you a football fan today?

I mean, if I if I had time, I would be. But I haven’t had much time in the last year to really pay attention, unfortunately.

Well, the Super Bowl is a few months away. Rihanna is performing. Maybe you’ll be able to make time to at least watch the halftime show?

I do think that the J Lo and Shakira halftime show was probably the greatest of all time.

100% the best.

I will still rewatch it from time to time just to get myself a lift. In fact, that’s a better answer for something people don’t know about me. I watch the J Lo and Shakira Super Bowl halftime show to give myself a lift.

Obviously, running for congress is keeping you busy, but I want to ask about you and your partner, Paulo. What do you guys like to do when you’re not out on the campaign trail? How do you like to spend a lazy Saturday?

Good question. I’m, like, trying to think of our last lazy Saturday. [Laughs.] I would say going to Revivals in Palm Springs. Great second hand buys there! Paulo has helped me re-establish my wardrobe at a very low cost, so that’s been fun. Revival’s is a great store, too, because a lot of the proceeds go to charity. And then there’s a lot of amazing hikes in the Coachella Valley that we’ve been able to take advantage of.

Last question. Who is one queer person that you think is doing really interesting and impactful work right now?

I’m going to say congressman Mark Takano. He really inspired me when he won in 2012 and became the first openly gay man ever elected to the U.S. House from California. And his work on veterans has been remarkable. He’s the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. He just got the PACT Act done, which is designed to help combat veterans who were dealing with burn wounds, just get the kind of health care that they needed.

He dealt with homophobia in the ’90s when he ran against Calbert, who used these mailers to out him before he was out to his family. My candidacy wouldn’t have been possible without people like him, who had the guts and the courage to step up and run when it was so much harder to do that, given where society was at the time. And now we’re going to unseat the longest serving House Republican in California.

That’s a good answer, and I love that you brought up how he was your opponent’s original opponent way back in 1992. Maybe you’ll be the one who finally takes him out.

It would be a great bookend to his career, and certainly one that he deserves.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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