There are some parts of Emily Bunch Nicholson’s district that you have to take a boat to get to. She is running to represent House District 1 which covers Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Perquimans, Tyrell, and Washington counties. It’s no small feat, but Emily is ready to win having grown up in the district. She intimately understands the issues the district is facing and is passionate about making her community a better place to raise a family and brining more young families to the district to help replenish a declining population.
Emily is very busy at the moment. She is working her full-time job (from home), running a campaign, and being a mom to her three small daughters. We’re thankful she took some time to chat with our Program Manager Devon Roberts.
Why did you decide to run for office?
There are many reasons. The first is that I was born and raised here and I’m raising three girls in this district. I want to see better socio-economic conditions in my community. Our public schools haven’t been a priority in our General Assembly for far too long, and we need representatives that will be champions for those causes. There are only four Democratic women in the NCGA that have school age children. There are so few legislators with school age children. Parents have a stake in the game for public schools. I will be a voice for my kids and public school kids.
What is the most important thing the government can do for women and families?
As a mom that has taken maternity leave three times, our paid leave policies are so behind. North Carolina is especially behind when it comes to being a champion for women and moms and dads that have to take leave. Every time I took maternity leave I had to exhaust all of my accumulated time to get paid. I’ve always worked for public agencies, which makes you think about what the private industry is doing. It varies but most of them have a policy that parental leave is a privilege not a right. To be a champion for families we need a better paid leave policy.
What do you hope to accomplish for women and families?
The above answer, to start. Also we need to work on equal pay. We’re severely behind. I oversee a workforce development board. I know first hand employers pay women less on purpose. They’ve told me this and they’re not ashamed of it because they’re not being told that it’s wrong or illegal. We need to close that pay gap.
Do you think there are any advantages or disadvantages to being a woman and campaigning?
I have been approached with a question that I don’t think a male candidate would be asked. I asked someone to vote for me, a Democrat, and he said “I’m not sure I can vote for you because I’m worried about your kids not having a mom at home.” I was shocked! We face so many preconceptions from men and women. Some of my own family members are asking me that question too. As a woman having to answer a question a male candidate wouldn’t face feels wrong. I want policy questions. My husband and I have worked out how to balance our family and it’s our business. I was surprised to get that question from someone who I thought was a progressive Democrat.
Why are you a champion of reproductive freedom and gender equity?
When you become a mom of a daughter you look at her and think “We have to do a lot to make sure this world is a better place for you.” That includes reproductive freedom and gender equity. I was telling my 8 year old about campaigning and she said “When we learn about politicians it’s mostly men. Shouldn’t this be something a man would do?” I think from a very early age children are being exposed to gender inequities, just through the world. I do think my three girls are the reason I am a champion for these things. I was looking into the sex education program in public school systems. My mom is on the school board here, and our sex ed program is outdated. I’m going to have a lot of work to do as parents to prepare my children because the school system won’t cut it. Our public school system is not equipped to address gender inequality and reproductive education.
What are you doing to bring yourself joy right now?
This has given me the chance to exercise more. I find joy in that. I started jogging again and I bring my kids along with me. I love the show on Netflix called Working Moms. It totally depicts what moms go through. Giving my mind a rest and watching a funny TV show is bringing joy. My 4 year old knows all about the virus now and every time I sneeze she says “Mommy got the rona” so we’re finding joy in my own family.