The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, but early voting starts today! 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.” Make your voice heard in 2014!
Norma Muñoz was appointed to her seat earlier this year when former state Rep. Ruben Gallego resigned to run for United States Congress. She now seeks to be elected to her first full term representing Legislative District 27, an area that encompasses much of southern Phoenix and an area where Rep. Muñoz has lived all her life. In addition to her commitment to reproductive justice, Rep. Muñoz has made public education and voting rights elements of focus in her campaign.
Ms. Muñoz kindly took the time for an interview on July 18, 2014.
“People know exactly what is important for them and their families regarding their health.”
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a life-long resident of LD 27; my children were born and raised here and attended our local schools. My husband of 49 years is Jimmie Muñoz, constable of South Mountain Justice Court Precinct. I have six children and 19 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. I am a fierce advocate for public schools and have served on the Roosevelt School Board for over 20 years. For the past 30 years I have been involved in my community.
List of previous and current civic involvement:
- Current State Representative LD 27
- President of Roosevelt School District Governing Board (current)
- YMCA Advisory Board (current), Board of Directors (1989)
- Council of Urban Boards (CUBE National Association) (current)
- University of Arizona Medical School Advisory Board (current)
- Holiday Fun Fest Committee (current)
- Stand for Children (current)
- The Rise of So. Phoenix (voter involvement and outreach) (current)
- The Roosevelt Neighborhood House Woman’s Club (current)
- Member of EQAZ (Equality Arizona) (current)
- FRN (Federal Relations Network) Arizona School Boards Association (2007)
- Arizona School Boards Association Board of Directors (2004–2006)
- Maricopa County Diversity Board (2000–2009)
- City of Phoenix Planning Committee (1992–1996)
- South Mountain Youth Development Association (1983–1995)
- Hope Neighborhood Block Watch, Lindo Park Neighborhood Association (1985–1995)
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
Private prisons is an issue that I am especially disturbed about, because Arizona chooses to fund private prisons ahead of education. Filling beds for profit is wrong because there is no incentive to keep people out of prisons. In our district, we have more people in prisons than any other district, and these are men of color and women too. I worked for the Maricopa County Public Defender Office for over 20 years and I saw firsthand the disproportionate sentencing of men of color to their other peers. This is a fact and it is disturbing. Arizona has a criminal code (sentencing chart) that has mandatory sentences for minor crimes, victimless crimes, where there are no weapons or victims involved. This affects repeat offenders for these minor crimes; this has caused a swelling of prisoners in our prisons, over 49,000, and is expensive for the state, costing over $25,000 per prisoner per year.
I think we need to revisit the criminal code and remove some of these stipulations and mandates that affect minorities, poor people, and people of color. I would like to introduce legislation like the one that is being introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Cory Booker and Rand Paul. The Redeem ACT will focus on less people being sent to prison for minor offenses and victimless crimes and require rehabilitation, community service, and other programs that can help people stay out of the prison system. The Redeem ACT also focuses on cutting the chains of life-time punishment for those who have paid back to society for their crimes, and they should not continue to be punished forever because they don’t have money for a lawyer to remove their “felony” histories and restore their rights as citizens. This would allow these people to qualify for Pell grants so that they could continue their education or get training that would help them be productive citizens and contribute to society and our economy in a positive way and even vote. They could return to their families and with their support continue to take care of them financially, and this would save the state in assistance for their families when they are locked up.
Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?
People know exactly what is important for them and their families regarding their health, especially women. I believe that a woman and her doctor should be the two who decide on her well-being and her health needs. No one else, especially the government or her boss, should intrude in a woman’s body and make any decisions for her concerning her body and her health needs. These decisions should be her own.
Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, 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?
Privacy and safety should be given to all [abortion clinics] patients. HB 2284 is wrong and needs to be repealed because the Constitution protects its citizens regarding frivolous [searches].
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? Do you support comprehensive sex education?
There are 59,816 children in district 27; of this number, 26 percent of young women gave birth that did not have a high school education/diploma. There is definitely a connection in these dropout rates and the lack of sex education. I believe that a strong comprehensive sex education in our high schools early on will and can prevent teenage pregnancy and will keep kids in school.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
I am a strong advocate of women’s rights, especially the right to choose. I am strongly offended by the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court. This is an insult to women everywhere and a huge step backwards. Planned Parenthood is an organization that believes in the protection of women through proper health care and prevention and I am honored to have received this endorsement.
If you’d like to learn more about Norma Muñoz’s campaign, you can follow her on Facebook.