The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the primaries, you must register to vote by July 28 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2014!
[A] longtime Arizona resident with previous legislative experience, Ken Clark seeks to represent Legislative District 24, located in Central Phoenix, in the Arizona House of Representatives. In addition to receiving Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s endorsement, Mr. Clark has made economic development, sustainability, and LGBTQ rights prominent issues in his campaign.
Mr. Clark graciously took the time for an interview on July 16, 2014.
“The constant and intentional confusion about science in order to win a political or moral debate is reprehensible.”
Tell us a little about your background.
I moved to Arizona in 1982, as an Air Force dependent. As a child in Southern Arizona, I learned to value the natural beauty of the state, as well as the need to protect the environment.
We moved to Germany in 1985, where I attended high school, followed by my undergraduate studies at Northern Arizona University. I completed my master’s degree at the American University in Washington, D.C., and I spent about two years after that in Sarajevo, where I produced radio programming all over Bosnia.
I returned to Arizona in 1998 and pledged to stay here, where I could work for positive change.
I ran for office and won in 2002, and served in the legislature for one term.
I chose not to run again in 2004, and was asked by Gov. Napolitano to direct the State Energy Office.
After directing that office for about a year and a half, I worked on several political campaigns. I reported to Kyrsten Sinema as the manager of the 2006 Arizona Together campaign [which successfully opposed an anti-marriage equality ballot initiative]. I reported to Sen. Debbie McCune Davis as the manager of the 2008 campaign against the payday lenders.
I have been a realtor since 2008, and I created events and programs to support locally owned business, such as the Phoestivus Market and Get Your PHX.
Most importantly, I take my responsibility as a citizen very seriously. I vote in every election and stand along side my fellow citizens as they try to reform this state and protect reproductive rights.
I have also been a long-time supporter of Planned Parenthood, both financially and at the ballot box.
Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, the warrantless inspection bill, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about the need for heightened privacy and safety for patients seeking reproductive health services?
The extreme right in America has been trying for years to chip away at reproductive rights. HB 2284 was unprecedented and stands alone in terms of its level of intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship.
I will stand, as I have in my career thus far, against continued efforts to undermine this relationship.
In contrast to bills like HB 2284, what kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
Because I have been in the legislature, I know that we are not in a position to pass pro-choice legislation. I see my goal as two-fold: defend against bad legislation and organize for long-term change outside of the legislature.
I believe that I have demonstrated my ability to organize individuals and groups, and I will set it as my goal to do so.
Were I to have the votes in the legislature, I would list out the many laws that the Center for Arizona Policy and its supporters have passed in the legislature over the years and I would repeal them, one by one.
In June, an appeals court affirmed the right to perform medication abortions up to nine weeks in accordance with an evidence-based protocol, when the state legislature wanted abortion providers to use a more restrictive, outdated method. Why is it important that politicians leave the practice of medicine to doctors?
Simply, lawmakers are not doctors. The Center for Arizona Policy and its supporters ignore science and fact in order to justify legislation whose true aim is to restrict reproductive freedom. We can have a debate about abortion on moral or religious terms. But the constant and intentional confusion about science in order to win a political or moral debate is reprehensible.
Arizona Mayors released a report stating that high school dropouts cost the state $7.6 billion over the course of their lifetime. What do you think about the connection between teenage pregnancy and high-school dropout rates?
While I do not know what percentage of students leave school as a result of unplanned pregnancies, it stands to reason that it is one of many catalysts. We need to allow science-based sex education as well as access to common sense contraception.
A good mentor or adult figure can help a student avoid pregnancy and make better choices, but we begin at a disadvantage if students do not understand the basics of human sexuality or how to use birth control.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
Because I have always supported Planned Parenthood, I am proud of the support that I have received in the past and I believe that voters in this district will see that I am the best candidate for this open seat, based on my experience and my track record.
In Legislative District 24, all three House candidates have received PPAA’s endorsement, and all three have indicated that jobs and the economy are legislative priorities. Can you explain the connection for you? How does access to sexual and reproductive health care, like that provided by Planned Parenthood, support economic development?
In this set of questions, you pointed to the economic impact of children who do not finish high school. In my mind, the connection is clear in that case.
To take another example, the disparity between rich and poor in America is growing, and some of that disparity can be attributed to lack of choices. If a woman or a family is forced into a choice they do not want by powers they cannot control, then their economic choices are limited and it hurts our entire state.
If you’d like to find out more about Ken Clark, including other endorsements and more detailed positions on additional issues, you can do so via his campaign website. You can also follow him via Facebook and Twitter.