The Arizona primary election will be held on August 28, 2012. With so many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of this election year can’t be overstated. To help voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive health and freedom. Along with those endorsements, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates,” spotlighting each Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona-endorsed candidate. To vote in the primaries, you must register to vote by July 30 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!
Victoria Steele is a candidate running for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, where she hopes to represent Tucson’s Legislative District 9. What follows is an exclusive interview with Steele, who shared her views about access to reproductive health care and comprehensive sex education in Arizona. This interview took place on July 3, 2012. Please read further to find out why Steele is running for office and what she hopes for Arizona’s future.
“If you don’t vote, then you are giving your power away.”
Tell us a little about your background.
Ever since I decided to run for office people have been asking me if I’m “crazy.” So, let’s get that out of the way first. No, I’m not crazy — I’m a licensed professional counselor — I’m certifiably sane. I simply refuse to watch while a group of extremists threatens to destroy our state.
I have a master’s degree in counseling, I’m a small business owner with a private counseling practice, and I teach counseling and psychology at two colleges. I also worked as a television and radio newscaster for 20 years.
I’ve watched the situation in our state legislature deteriorate dramatically in the past few years and used to complain, “Gee, this is pretty awful, somebody ought to do something.” I am doing something about it. This legislature has worked to take away people’s power and make the very people they represent feel defeated. But there is one power they have not taken away yet, and that is the power to vote. Please take back your power and use it. If you don’t vote, then you are giving your power away. Take this message to your friends and neighbors who may be feeling so discouraged they might be tempted not to bother voting.
What women’s health care issues do you think should be addressed in the legislature?
My campaign is based on the three Es and an H: Economy, Education, Environment, and Health care. Health care is the glue that holds them all together. People must have access to affordable health care and that includes women’s health care. Being endorsed by Planned Parenthood [Advocates of] Arizona is a special honor to me because I know how important it is to the lives of so many women.
I’ve been a working single mom and I’ve overcome many challenges to get where I am today, but I could not have done it if I was sick. I cannot understand why the Republicans in our state legislature have restricted access to vital health services for women and men in our communities by defunding Planned Parenthood. All women deserve access to affordable birth control but our state leaders have actively worked to put that decision in the hands of employers and their religious beliefs.
Why do you support comprehensive sex education in our schools?
Back in the 1970s, when I was 16, I began noticing that many of my classmates were having babies and that didn’t seem to be good for anybody. It was clear to me that students needed sex education and I said as much in a letter to the editor to my local newspaper. As expected, that created quite a stir, but I started going to school board meetings and succeeded in getting sex education included in my high school curriculum. That was an important lesson for me as a young woman because it showed me that we can make a difference if we try, and it has been a guiding factor in my life.
During your time in Arizona, have you noticed a shift in state politics, especially in matters of family planning and sexual health issues?
I’ve lived in Arizona for more than 25 years and I’ve never seen women come under such attacks before. Republican legislators have gone too far when it comes to women’s health care. They’ve clearly demonstrated — they don’t care about people living in poverty or educating our kids but they do care about regulating a woman’s womb. I believe that a woman’s decision to use contraception is personal and the government should stay out of it.
Do you think your previous work experience — for instance, as a journalist and as a counselor — will inform your ability to function effectively as a politician?
When people come to see me for counseling, it’s usually because they are really hurting. Well, Arizonans are hurting, so I am taking my advocacy from the counseling office to my community. I learned a long time ago that one person can make a tremendous difference. My compassion, communication, and relationship-building skills have uniquely prepared me to be an effective legislator.
Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, it seems that many more Arizonans will have access to the state Medicaid program, AHCCCS, in 2014. What do you hope for future AHCCCS recipients in 2014? Can the program be strengthened to prepare for its new recipients?
I am heartened by the fact that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, but our current state legislature is out of balance and if left unchecked, they are likely to continue to throw people off the state Medicaid program, AHCCCS. We must change the makeup of the state legislature. Fortunately, with the newly redrawn political maps, Democrats have a chance to pick up additional seats in the legislature. One of those new districts is LD 9, where I am running. If elected I will work to bring balance back to our State House.
Anything else you’d like to say?
The national Republican Party has targeted LD 9 as a must-win district and Republican super PACs will be flooding this race with cash. Because of that, I am running a traditionally funded campaign and fundraising to get the word out about my campaign. You can help by donating to my campaign at www.SteeleForHouse.com.
Victoria Steele is running to represent Legislative District 9 in the Tucson area, comprising northern Tucson, the Catalina foothills, the Casas Adobes area, and a portion of the central metro area northeast of the University of Arizona. With all the redistricting that’s taken place this year, you might not even know what legislative district you’re in — but you can click here to find out! And, regardless of which legislative district in Arizona you live in, you can contact us if you’d like to volunteer for an endorsed candidate in your area.