Emily Walton got her start in political organizing as a nontraditional student at Boise State, working in student government, advocating for student issues at the Legislature and delivering the Winter 2012 commencement address. She has worked on political campaigns in Boise and founded the Idaho Civic Engagement Project, which focused on registering young voters. Walton grew up on a potato farm in Declo; she is currently running for the College of Western Idaho Board of Trustees.
Age: 35 #politcalanimal is a feature of the TBR 5 Midterm Election issue. For an overview, see Miller.
Affiliations: Leadership team at Boise Young Professionals, Executive board member at Go Lead Idaho, Chair of the Community Advisory Board at Boise State Public Radio.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude, English with Linguistics Emphasis Boise State University.
Occupation: Nonprofits and political campaign consulting
What you drive: Are you going to stalk me or something? A car that’s paid off and squeals once in awhile.
Dietary restrictions: None, thank God. I love cheese and bread.
Favorite TV show: I don’t watch or own a TV. I did watch some House of Cards at a friends’ house last year and I hope no one really thinks politics is that interesting or dangerous. It’s mostly a lot of emails. I do listen to Boise State Public Radio.
What moment led you to become politically aware and/or politically active?
It wasn’t just one moment, but in my late 20s I realized that the way I was raised had done little to prepare me for adulthood, yet I had this idealized very right-wing upbringing. I was “homeschooled” in a patriarchal culture that told me college was wasted on a woman, the government was evil, and if we just worked hard everything would be fine.
I eventually realized that I had been lied to. At 28 I got my GED and went to college. Then in my senior year I was elected to represent almost 20k students at the Idaho Legislature. Working with Idaho’s legislators made me aware that many of them believe ridiculous things, like all Idahoans should just homeschool their kids, or that students should be able to take guns into a classroom, or that women don’t mind making less money for the same work as men, etc. Policies like these make no sense to me and they hurt regular Idahoans.
What/who were your influences? Parents, teachers, friends, events, politicians, movements?
My parents’ teachings about responsibility and fairness definitely influenced me, but eventually I found it lacking in reason and fair application. College really helped me get greater access to research and theories about equality and the way our culture is structured that made sense. Movements and organizations like Vote Run Lead and the Center for American Women and Politics continue to influence me.
Why do you STAY involved?
I don’t really feel like it’s even an option any longer. Unlike a lot of people, I’m just not afraid to just say what I think, so that often puts me out in front of people making arguments on controversial subjects. Plus I’m tired of the old right-wing men running everything; overall they just aren’t doing a good job for Idaho, and the numbers don’t lie.
I also eschew this idea that the government is evil. The government is us, the American people. And if it isn’t working right then it’s our responsibility to fix it, not just complain that it shouldn’t exist. And let’s be real: organizations like the Idaho Freedom Foundation who complain the most about the government are just using it as a ploy. In reality they are down at the statehouse violating their 501(c)3 status as they lobby the government because they want to be in charge just as much as anyone else.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University or the School of Public Service.