Meet Our Candidates: Bill Gates for State Senator, LD 17

The Arizona general election will be held on November 6, 2012, with early voting starting on October 11. After the many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of voting in November 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 spotlighting our endorsed candidates in a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” To vote in the general election, you must register to vote by October 9 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!

[A]long with education and foreclosures, the recent legislation aimed at Planned Parenthood is one of the top issues Bill Gates includes on his website. Gates points to HB2800, the bill that defunded Planned Parenthood, as an example of “vindictive” legislation that harms Arizonans rather than helping them. As Gates writes in his scathing criticism, HB2800 was “intended to hurt Planned Parenthood” and punishes the “women, men and children who turn to Planned Parenthood clinics for their health needs.” That Gates takes such a strong stand for the preventive and reproductive health services that are under attack is testament to his commitment to the best interests of the constituents he seeks to serve.

“My wife and I fought these battles 40 years ago and we’re angry that they now have to be fought again in Arizona.”

Gates and his running mate, House candidate Karyn Lathan, are both endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and are running to represent Legislative District 17, which covers eastern Chandler, northwestern Gilbert, and all of Sun Lakes. Gates generously took the time for an interview with us on September 28, 2012.

In the previous legislative session, there were a lot of bad bills that negatively affected access to birth control (HB 2625), funding for family planning (HB 2800), abortion (HB2036), and unbiased information about unintended pregnancies in public schools (SB1009) — and your opponent, Steve Yarbrough, voted in favor of all of them.  Do you feel that his views are consistent with the majority of Arizonans?

His views are at odds with the majority of Arizonans but because he keeps a low profile, and because he has never previously faced serious direct opposition, most voters in the district don’t know about his terrible record on reproductive issues. But he is one of the most reliable supporters in the Legislature of the extreme positions advocated by Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy.

During the campaign I have stressed Sen. Yarbrough’s conflict of interest in running a school tuition organization that receives Arizona income tax dollars. He is able to vote on and, indeed, propose legislation directly benefiting STOs. But the next biggest difference between the two of us involves reproductive rights — a point I made September 24 when the two of us appeared jointly before an Arizona Republic East Valley editorial board considering endorsements.

In contrast to the bills supported by Yarbrough, what kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?

I plan to introduce legislation to correct problems with school tuition organizations, but I assume you’re looking for information on reproductive rights.

I would introduce or support legislation to restore tax credit availability to Planned Parenthood under the Working Families tax credit. What the legislature did to defund Planned Parenthood was punitive and vindictive. It did absolutely nothing to achieve the stated goal of reducing abortions. But it did make it more difficult for women in need to obtain cancer screenings and other health services that they might not otherwise be able to afford.

In a questionnaire, Yarbrough discusses allowing religious employers to opt out of contraception coverage, and dismissed concerns that such policies limit access to family-planning options by saying that contraception “is readily available at minimal cost regardless.” How do you respond to his claim?

For nearly a decade the state had a law identifying what had to be covered in health insurance plans offered in Arizona. Contraception was included. There was also an exemption for religious institutions (typically churches). This worked fine, with few if any complaints, until this past legislative session.

Now the new law not only allows almost any employer to claim religious motivation and thereby deny birth control coverage, but it also gave those employers the right to meddle in their employees’ contraception decisions. Sound impossible? Why else did the Republican majority, including Sen. Yarbrough, eliminate the following sentence from the existing law?“A religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source.”

And why did their new law allow employers to require the insured “to first pay for the [birth control] prescription and then submit a claim to the insurer along with evidence that the prescription is …” Here’s where even these anti-birth control zealots realized they may have been too obvious. They originally had “… along with evidence that the prescription is for a noncontraceptive purpose” but changed  it to “is not for a purpose covered by the objection.”  Same goal but with obscured language.

Bottom line: The decision to use or not use contraception because of religious beliefs should rest with the individual employee, not with the employer. And the state should keep totally out!

By the way, who is Yarbrough to say contraception costs are “minimal”?  I understand that for many women the costs can be significant. Besides, Yarbrough and I are both in our 60s. His information, like mine, should be way outdated!

Why do you think it is important that people make their own health care choices?

We are a society that believes in individual freedom. Except for people who are legally underage or incapacitated, our society justifiably expects individuals to exercise that freedom to make choices about how they live their lives. This certainly includes decisions related to health.

Why is that reading of individual freedom so difficult for so-called conservatives to understand? It’s at the heart of the U.S. Constitution’s protections.

Certainly individuals should seek expert advice from medical professionals when needed, but ultimately the decision rests with the individual.

This state Legislature has far too often intruded in the rights and decision-making of its citizens when it comes to health and contraception issues.

Why do you support comprehensive sex education in our schools?

Because I’m a realist. As a parent, I wasn’t particularly good at conveying sex information to my son. Nor were my parents good at conveying that information to me or my brother. I believe most parents welcome help in conveying responsible information in the schools. Parents should have the right to opt out, but I think most will want their children to get factual, comprehensive information. Programs that require abstinence-only sex education are not dealing with reality.

Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?

The current Republican majorities in both houses of the Legislature have (1) targeted Planned Parenthood for elimination and (2) made it clear, in this past session, that they’re not content with abortion restrictions. They’ve now gone after birth control.

It’s time for candidates to speak up. I’ve made it clear that one of the only endorsements I actively sought was that of Planned Parenthood Advocates [of Arizona]. I want people to know that my wife and I fought these battles 40 years ago and we’re angry that they now have to be fought again in Arizona. But fight we will!

In closing, tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in upstate New York. I received a B.A. in history from Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY (1965).

I was in the U.S. Army (1967-69), including a year in Vietnam where I received the Bronze Star for meritorious service, the Army Commendation Medal, and other military honors.

Most of my professional career was spent as a newspaper editor, including eight years as the editor of the Oneonta Daily Star. Five times I was honored by the New York State Publisher’s Association for distinguished editorial writing. I was a director of and served as president of the New York State Associated Press Association, and was a director and vice president of the New York Society of Newspaper Editors.

In midlife, I decided I wanted to try something different so I bought a retail office supply and photocopying business, which I owned and operated for 11 years. Business ownership gave me the flexibility to seek and serve in public office. I was elected to three two-year terms as a county legislator.

In 1994, I accepted an offer to start and become the first editor of a weekly newspaper in Cooperstown, New York. I continued to own the retail business. I retired from the newspaper after four years, and did freelance writing and editing for several years. I was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, and I was twice elected town supervisor of the Town of Otsego (which includes Cooperstown) after I retired from the newspaper.

My wife and I moved to Arizona in 2003. I’ve been active in a number of organizations, including New Adventures in Learning, a 500-member lifelong learning organization affiliated with Chandler-Gilbert Community College. I served as president of New Adventures for three years. I am currently the Chairman of the Sun Lakes Center Advisory Committee for Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

I am married to Dr. Roberta Reed, a research biochemist and retired hospital administrator. It’s a second marriage for both of us. I have an adult son from a previous marriage, and five step-grandchildren. My wife is a past president of the Planned Parenthood Association of Delaware and Otsego Counties (New York).

If you’d like more information on Gates’ candidacy, you can find his website at You can also check out his Facebook page and find him on Twitter @BillGates4AZ.

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 legislative district.

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  1. Pingback: Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s Endorsed Candidates for the State General Election | Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona | Blog

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