The region’s newest state representative said politics was never part of her plan.
But in many ways, in an election cycle when conservative Republicans made big gains, Lynda Wilson could not have charted a better course to Olympia.
President Barack Obama’s election in 2008 galvanized Wilson and turned her from someone who watched political news and “yelled at the TV, like you do in football” to someone who decided to “get on the field and try and make a change.”
She became the chairwoman of “We the People,” a group many considered to have Tea Party leanings.
“We never described ourselves as Tea Party. We didn’t have any money. … We were interested in learning more about the Constitution,” Wilson said about the group.
She started attending commission and city council meetings; she would testify in Olympia on behalf of the National Federation of Independent Business and landed on the government affairs committee for the Association of Washington Business.
Wilson became a vocal gun-rights advocate, pushing Vancouver Public Schools to allow teachers to carry firearms and replace “gun-free zones” signs in schools with “protected by armed personnel.”
And she was elected to chair the Clark County GOP at a time when party leadership shifted philosophically more to the right.
Wilson is reluctant to outline any grand policy proposals so soon after the election, but it seems that the principles that have dictated much of her life will remain at the forefront as she heads to the statehouse:; less government, no new taxes, protect small businesses.
Representing a swing district — she ousted Democratic incumbent Rep. Monica Stonier — shouldn’t be a problem, she said, as long as she continues to work “toward individual rights.”
After Friday’s election results, Wilson had a 1,164-vote lead over Stonier.
“If I’m representing individual liberties, it should be good for everyone, right?” Wilson said.
If there is one campaign slogan that makes Wilson bristle, it’s “war on women.”
During the campaign, a mailer sent by Stonier supporters but not authorized by her, declared Wilson wanted to “get politicians involved in a woman’s personal medical decision about her pregnancy.”
Wilson said she is pro-life, but she said the campaign flier unfairly characterized her views to fit with the Democrats’ mantra that Republicans are waging a war on women.
Abortion is not likely to surface as a key issue in this session, and Wilson said hers are personal views not likely to impact any legislation.
Wilson responded to the advertisements by using her three adult daughters — one a police officer, another who works in her family’s business and a third who has a business making holsters for guns — in a mailer with their picture under block letters reading “Stop Lying About Our Mom.”
“It was so utterly absurd to say I had a war on women, because I am a woman. I had three daughters. … The gender thing? That has never stopped me from doing anything. That’s how I raised my girls, and that’s how I was raised,” Wilson said.
Wilson spent her childhood traveling until her father, who was in the military, retired in Southwest Washington when she was junior high.
“I was the new kid in class every year, so we had to learn to meet new people and gain friends quickly,” Wilson said of herself and her siblings.
When the McDonald’s restaurant on Andresen Road endorsed her campaign, it had special meaning. Wilson worked there as a teenager, and was part of the original crew when it first opened.
She married when she was 19, but the relationship didn’t last long and she spent four years as a single mom working at Columbia Credit Union.
“I lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and that was tough,” she said. “There were days I had to decide between five dollars in the gas tank or five dollars for diapers. Those were tough times, and I don’t forget those.”
She met Tracy Wilson when she was in her mid-20s, on a blind date.
While her daughters were growing up, Wilson said, she was a soccer mom with a “V for volunteer” written across her forehead.
When her daughters got older, she joined her husband to run DeWils Industries, a kitchen cabinet manufacturing company that Tracy Wilson’s father started in his garage.
Wilson said she will not go into this upcoming legislative session with “a ton of bills ready to go.”
“I’m new at this. … I think there are enough bills out there. More bills isn’t better,” she said, adding she will wait for “relevant and important issues.”
She imagines her business background will drive many of her decisions.
In general, she said, “I don’t believe in mandates.”
“We have employees that have been with us for 40 years and we’ve always provided for them in a lot of ways,” Wilson said.
Whether it’s rules regarding sick pay or insurance requirements, Wilson believes the government should not interfere. She says small-business owners like her can work with employees.
“We feel a responsibility (for our 130 employees) in a lot of ways,” she said.
She said she won’t vote to raise taxes but does believe money is needed to fix certain roads in the city and county.
“I can’t tell you specifically what I’m looking to do, but transportation is very important. Ninety-seven percent of what we manufacture leaves the Vancouver/Portland (area); we understand transportation and how important it is,” Wilson said.
And the National Rifle Association-certified gun instructor said she could see herself being a strong voice for gun rights in Olympia.
Voters approved a measure to expand background checks on gun sales, and its proponents hope to use the affirmation to push for stricter gun laws this session.
Wilson plans to lend her voice to stop any new gun laws from making it on the books.
“It’s your Second Amendment right,” she said, “and there’s a lot being infringed upon.”
The first day of the 2015 Legislative session will also be Wilson’s 30th wedding anniversary.
Thirty years ago, she said, she “never would have thought” she would be spending the day at the Washington state capitol.