GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- After decades of ministry work, Reverend Fred Wooden has decided to run for U.S. representative for Michigan's third congressional district.
“Because when you’re 65 years old, you go in for the most outlandish thing you can do, rather than by halves," Wooden tells FOX 17.
Wooden moved to Grand Rapids in 2005 to serve Fountain Street Church. Many of his political beliefs come from what he preaches.
“Whether teeny or big or black or white or fat or thin or gay or straight, a person is a person and they’re entitled to the same regard as anyone else," Wooden says.
Immigration reform is an issue close to his heart. Wooden says people should be able to move freely throughout North America as long as they have documentation. He adds that Americans should welcome cultural and racial diversity.
“I think there are a number of people who feel, ‘Well everything’s changing. Nothing’s like it used to be, et cetera, et cetera,’ and I want to say, ‘How cool is that? You get to learn more stuff. New things are going to happen,'" Wooden says.
Wooden says he's enriched by being around people from other countries.
"To learn a little Hindi is not a problem," Wooden says.
Public education is also at the forefront of Wooden's campaign. He says there is an unresolved racial issue in our public schools.
“We are still not treating every child in America as though they each matter exactly the same," Wooden says. “We can provide genuine, quality pre-K for every child in this country. You shouldn’t have to qualify because you’re poor, you shouldn’t have to buy it because you’re middle-class.”
Wooden also suggests making community college tuition-free. He says it would make financial sense when the next generation of students won't rely on welfare or other social programs and that it would reduce the cost of prisons.
Having worked in rural areas of Massachusetts, Wooden says he has an authentic view of gun ownership.
“I was accustomed to people who kept rifles at home and I knew I could trust them implicitly," Wooden says.
He says when it comes to gun control, the focus should be on responsible gun ownership, rather than blanket bans on guns. For instance, Wooden proposes revoking fire arms from people with domestic violence offenses.
“If you’re in trouble with the law with a domestic abuse issue or another misdemeanor or you’ve shown some sign of violent behavior, the court should have the authority to impound your weapon until you’ve shown that you are able to control yourself," Wooden says.
Wooden says he knows it's an uphill battle running for a seat that's been held by Republicans for 15 years but he says times are changing.
“Well the Republican Party of 2018 is not the Republican Party of 1854 or 1904, for that matter of 1984," Wooden says. "I think that it has drifted into ways that even some very long-term, lifelong Republicans find troubling.”
He says that Michigan's third district is diversifying, which will likely benefit Democrats.
"People are moving into it from the eastern part of the state," Wooden says. "They’re coming from other parts of the country, they’re coming here from other parts of the world. They are not presumptively Republican.”
Still, he acknowledges there's a lot of work ahead of him.
“Call me idealistic, I get it. I’m a minister, that’s my job but if we don’t have those voices in Congress, they will never happen," Wooden says.
The Michigan primary election is August 7.