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From National Security Expert to Movie Producer to Candidate: Kathleen Bailey’s Next Act

Kathleen Bailey has never been afraid to venture into unknown territory.

At age 24, Bailey moved alone to Tehran, Iran, for a year to conduct research for her dissertation on that nation’s state-owned oil company. After earning her PhD in political science, she became the first social scientist — and one of very few women — to be hired at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Over the years, Bailey became a top national security expert, testifying before Congress and teaching at George Mason University.

For a while, she and her late husband changed directions and became farmers. Bailey also became an accomplished painter and photographer, whose work has been exhibited at galleries throughout the country. In 2017, she produced a feature-length film, Revenge in Kind, and published a book about the experience.

And now, Bailey is taking on a new challenge as a candidate for U.S. Congressional District 5.

“I’m turning down a road I’ve never trod, but one I have been walking toward for a long time,” Bailey said. “It’s pulling together a series of experiences in my life that make me feel confident that I know how to represent people.”

Bailey said her experience has prepared her for the role.

Her latest endeavor requires the same determination, creativity, and strong management skills that led to her success as a national security expert, farmer, and artist.

Born in Dallas, Bailey lived in the city as a child and attended J.L. Long Middle School. After that, her father, who worked in the oil industry, moved the family to Pana, IL. From there, Bailey earned her PhD from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

At the Livermore Laboratory, Bailey led a group analyzing foreign weapons of mass destruction programs and capabilities. She developed an expertise in the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, serving as deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. Department of State and as assistant director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, among others. President Ronald Reagan appointed her, and she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, to her position at the agency.

Bailey moved back to Dallas in 2012. She works as a consultant on national security issues and as an artist. Lately, she has been spending time walking neighborhoods, knocking on doors to talk to likely voters. She said she has had doors slammed in her face, as well as meaningful conversations with voters about what matters to them.

“I am enjoying the process of hearing little snippets of people’s lives and perspectives,” Bailey said. “What they’re doing is giving me a gift.”

Bailey knows she faces an uphill battle as a Democrat challenger to an incumbent in a predominately Republican district. She applies the same grit that led to her success in other roles she has taken on, which helped her keep going early in her career as a woman in national security.

“There’s some optimistic streak in me that says, ‘Maybe you can do this,’” she said.

Whether it’s learning to paint or running for office, Bailey encourages others to move past their fear of trying new things. She said many have asked her how they, too, can learn to paint. The answer could apply to any undertaking.

“I tell people who want to paint the objective here is not to do it well. The objective is to have fun,” Bailey said. “If you don’t have fun, don’t do it anymore.”

Bailey applies that enthusiasm to each new step she takes, including her run for Congress.

“I’m having a blast,” Bailey said. “I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t.”

Learn more about Kathleen Bailey’s bid for Congress at


Kim Horner

Kim Horner is a Dallas-based writer and author of Probably Someday Cancer: Genetic Risk and Preventative Mastectomy (The University of North Texas Press, 2019). Read her blog at

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