Meet Wendy Norman, the first grade teacher running against Congressman Mike Simpson

Gun Rights

IDAHO FALLS — Wendy Norman, a first-grade teacher from Rigby, hopes to unseat Congressman Mike Simpson for Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District in next month’s general election.

Norman, a Democrat, has never been involved in politics but felt she needed to run for office to make a change.

She stopped by this week to answer questions about inflation, gas prices, the economy, abortion and more.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of Norman’s conversation with reporter Nate Eaton.

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NATE EATON, EASTIDAHONEWS.COM: Wendy, thank you for coming in to chat with me. Let’s start with some background on who you are and why you decided to run.

WENDY NORMAN: I am a first grade teacher in Rigby, Idaho. I started teaching in 1994 when I graduated from Utah State University. I started teaching high school, and then I went to middle school, and now I’m in first grade. Some people say that’s the right trajectory for getting to Congress – I don’t know.

I’ve always been greatly interested in media. I have a journalism associate’s degree and read a bunch of what’s going on in the world. I was deeply concerned about the idea of Mike Simpson being defeated in the primary by somebody who I think should never, never hold power in government.

So when I was invited to run for office, this is the one they suggested that I ran for, and having no clue what I was doing, I agreed to do it. You know, this has been frightening to start with, but I’m not even really scared anymore to say that I’m a Democrat in Idaho.

A one-party state isn’t healthy. We really need to have a balanced state where the compromise doesn’t come between the far right and the right, but we actually have a reasonable Democrat presence as well to help start pulling the policies of things more toward the center.

EATON: So why are you a Democrat?

NORMAN: As I have watched what’s been going on, especially in the (2016) presidential election, I felt somebody was elected who should never have the power of the United States government in his hands.

I watched as the fight between left and right – the hatred, the demonizing of people, how somehow teachers became the enemy, how medical providers became the enemy, how scientists are the enemy – I thought that is not what America is supposed to be. United States of America means that we have all the people and recognize the value of all the people and not try to say liberals are evil or they’re socialists or Republicans are evil, and they’re fascist – there’s a lot of that going around.

To run for this office, I did have to declare as a Democrat. Up until then, I wasn’t. I was unaffiliated because of the desire to be a part of the primaries. And then of course, we know that changed as well. You couldn’t even do it. As an unaffiliated voter, you had to declare as a Republican. I declared as a Republican a couple of years ago.

For this, I’m now officially a Democrat. But I think it’s not a bad place. As I’ve traveled across the state and I’ve been meeting people, I wish everyone had that opportunity and that they weren’t so scared of the Democrats title, the label, because I have met fantastic, good people.

They’re not that far away from where Republicans are. I come from a family of very, very conservative people (but) we need all people represented. And there are a lot of people in the state right now who don’t feel like they have representation.

EATON: The top issue for most voters is the economy and inflation. If you’re elected, what is your proposal on how to fix that or at least contain or stabilize it?

NORMAN: I hear that all the time and I’m really concerned about the idea of people calling it Bidennomics and blaming it strictly on our president. Every nation on earth is dealing with inflation and the inflation is still a result of COVID.

My husband’s work situation – they still can’t get all the things in for electricians. And his brother cannot get all the supplies they need for building things.

We still need to do some of the things Biden has done in trying to bring back some of those companies to make necessary materials to be able to open up those supply chains. Like the CHIPS act, where they were able to then get some of that funding, so we’re not spending it getting it out from China. We’re going to be able to make it right here in Idaho.

Those are the kinds of things I think we need to be doing more of. Not only does it protect us when there is a global crisis of some kind, it also brings jobs home. Of course we know that’s not a huge issue right now as there are lots of jobs, but that is going to become an issue again, and we need to just make sure that Americans are doing as much as we can.

My own pocketbook is hurt by the inflation, but I think we’re doing what we need to do to bring that back into control. I’m worried about the talk that a recession is coming. There’s a pretty good chance. It doesn’t sound like it’s gonna be a deep dark one, but sometimes things go hard, and we just have to keep going, keep plodding through until we get to where we need to be where things are going to work out again.

EATON: What are your thoughts on the war between Ukraine and Russia? Should America be doing more? Have we done enough? Should we pull back?

NORMAN: I feel like we’re kind of on the right track. I grew up in the 80s and in the 80s, we were required to read ‘Alas, Babylon’ in school, which was about the idea of a nuclear war between Russia and the United States and what it would be like afterwards. So I grew up with a healthy concern about Russia. Then we had Gorbachev and we had Yeltsin and things seemed like things were going well. But we have someone in charge in Russia right now who wants the old USSR back. He’s not going to stop with Ukraine. I do not want to dedicate soldiers on the ground to fight. But I think what we’re doing is working and Ukraine has been so amazing.

EATON: What are your views on abortion?

NORMAN: I don’t like that issue. When I decided to step into this, that was one issue I figured I would even talk about. I thought Roe v. Wade was there and it wasn’t something to worry about other than I believe those are lives as well.

I strongly believe and I love children. That’s my whole life focus. What has happened is so terrible for people and people don’t realize that yet. It’s not going to be until moms start dying that we start to realize why we need some abortion.

There is a legislator who’s running for office in the panhandle of northern Idaho who wants no exceptions for anything and that women should embrace the idea of sacrificing. It’s not a sacrifice.

Sacrificing somebody else is not what this nation is about. If a woman needs an abortion because of her health, she needs that abortion. If a woman is raped, if a little kid was raped – I taught in a school where we had a 10-year-old who was pregnant – do we really want that child to carry that baby and cause the damage that a pregnancy can do to her body?

One of the reasons I’m running is because of the fact that there are very few black-and-white issues. Abortion should never be up until the day a healthy baby is born it can be aborted. But there are times when abortion is needed and I really hate the idea of having to call up your legislator and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a situation here, can we get permission for this woman to have the health care she needs to survive?’ That’s too far. So let’s find a way to balance it so that we save as many lives as we can.

The truth is what stops abortion is education, access to birth control, living minimum wages, and mandatory paid maternity leave. I worked with a gal when I was doing some adult education – she had a baby on a Friday and had to be back to work cleaning hotel rooms on Monday. That is not pro-life, and that hurts my heart and we need to stand up for these women.

These aren’t old women. These aren’t often sometimes not even educated women. These women are in a situation that they’re terrified. Some of them have abusive spouses or boyfriends and we know that pregnancy is a very dangerous time in abusive families. So why don’t we do something to solve those problems rather than just saying, Nope, no abortion. Now let’s solve those problems.

EATON: You mentioned a living wage. Do you believe there should be a federal minimum wage increase from $7.25?

NORMAN: How long ago was that when we went to $7.25? It is not livable. It’s not. We need to get those wages back up. And I hear people say, well, those jobs are for kids, for teenagers. Do you really think that the legislature got together and decided, ‘You know what, I think we need to pay a minimum wage to teenagers.’ They didn’t. Minimum wages were meant for people to be able to provide for a family. And in the 50s and 60s, one salary could provide for a family. That’s not even possible now unless you’ve got the education. But education is another issue where we have people going into debt for the rest of their lives.

EATON: Do you agree with Biden’s federal student loan forgiveness program?

NORMAN: I have really mixed feelings about it. I think it’s going to help a lot of people who didn’t finish their education but I don’t think it addresses the real issue which is the fact of how much costs of education have gone up.

When I was growing up in the 80s and working on my schooling, I could work in the summer and earn enough to be able to pay my tuition. That’s not happening anymore. So if we really want to have an educated or trained workforce, we need to do some more to support them. We need to quit backing off from funding and make sure that people can access it without it indebting them forever.

EATON: If elected, what would you do differently than Congressman Simpson?

NORMAN: You know, I’ve appreciated Mike Simpson. I hope it doesn’t offend when I say that. I feel like he’s our one sane legislator, and I think he has been, but in the last several years, I think he’s gotten tired.

I’m really disappointed he wouldn’t debate me, and that’s from someone who’s never done a debate in my life. I wish he would have debated me because I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to say, once again, we don’t have to have all black-and-white issues.

I will never be an ‘A’ rating from the NRA, and I will tell you why. It’s because I’m a teacher, and I was a teacher when Columbine happened. I was teaching first graders when Sandy Hook happened and all those little kids shot down just because guns are glorified for some reason.

My daughter was a middle school student at Rigby Middle School and you know what happened there. She was in math and so she heard those gunshots. When the shooting happened in Texas, I was concerned at how she would react, and the look on her face was terror.

We don’t have to have everybody with their own nuclear weapons. That’s hyperbole, but the reality is, why are we letting 15, 16, 17-year-olds or 18-year-olds buy their own weapons of mass destruction? A weapon that they can just squeeze the trigger a few times and kill dozens? Why? We need to find a balance.

We don’t need to take everyone’s guns away. I would never do that. I enjoy shooting. I don’t like killing things but I do enjoy shooting. We don’t have to do it all or nothing. So let’s find some balance and I want Mike Simpson to find that balance instead of bragging about his ‘A+’ rating from the NRA. He needs to help solve that problem and solving that problem does not involve sending me into school armed. I’m not going to be able to do that. I cannot teach first graders and have guns in my possession at the time. That’s not the answer.

Let’s find some answers that really will make a difference and save real lives. That’s one big thing I would do differently.

The other thing is health care. I know that Simpson was very opposed to the Affordable Care Act. I think we found that’s not a bad thing and that it’s doing a lot of good. It’s getting people health care coverage but it’s not gone far enough.

Mike Simpson – he won’t vote for even lowering prescription drug prices for diabetics, the Insulin Reduction Act. Why? I don’t even like that law very much because I feel like we need wholesale changes in our health care and Simpson is not going to do that.

We had a family tragedy a few years ago where my sister died on Christmas Day and my mom had tried to talk to her to go to the doctor. She wouldn’t because she couldn’t afford it. We don’t know – maybe she would have died anyway, but no American should be dying because they can’t afford health care. None. There’s no reason for it. Every other civilized nation has one form or another of universal health care. They’re not even the same. So let’s find our solution and let’s make it so that everyone can get the health care they need. That’s what I would work towards as well.

EATON: Wendy, thank you for chatting with me today.

NORMAN: Thank you very much for letting me come in.

You can learn more about Norman’s playform by visiting her website here.

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