The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, and early voting began on July 31. 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!
[A]aron Marquez is running for the Arizona State Senate in Legislative District 27, a district that encompasses part of Central Phoenix as well as the communities of Guadalupe, South Mountain, and Laveen. Mr. Marquez has focused his campaign on the idea of building bridges — in the form of strengthening education and the economy — for a stronger Arizona.
Mr. Marquez faces primary opposition from current House Rep. Catherine Miranda, who has a voting record in the legislature that clearly shows she does not support women’s health issues or the ability for Arizonans to make their own health care decisions.
Mr. Marquez was kind enough to take the time for this telephone interview, transcribed below, on July 23, 2014.
“I just want to make sure that the Arizona my daughter grows up in is an Arizona that always respects women.”
Tell us a little about your background.
I was raised in Arizona. I had a single mom and an older sister who were both very influential in raising me. I went through K-12 public schools in Arizona.
I started at the University of Arizona, but something important happened that first semester of college, for me and for the country — 9/11 happened. I realized I wanted to find a way to serve the country. I tried to get into the Army at that point but ended up being medically disqualified due to childhood asthma.
I looked for other options to serve and discovered the AmeriCorps program. I ended up moving to Boston as an AmeriCorps volunteer to work in inner city schools. I did that for two years, running tutoring programs and learning programs for middle and high school students.
Then I took a third year off of school — my folks thought I was never going back to college — to work for the Kerry campaign in 2004. I realized, after two years of giving community service full time, that political service and governance is how you effect the most change for the most amount of people. If good people don’t run for public office, then you have people who poorly represent our country and our state and — in my particular race — in District 27.
After that, I finally went back to school. I went to Georgetown University and studied at the School of Foreign Service. In April of 2009, I decided that joining the military was something I still really wanted to do. So I talked to the Army recruiter and got a waiver saying that my asthma wouldn’t affect my ability to make it through basic training. I’ve been in the Army Reserve since 2009, and spent 2012 on active duty in Afghanistan.
In 2010, I came home after going to Basic Training and Officer Candidate School, and I worked for Terry Goddard. I was his political director when he ran for governor in 2010.
And then I deployed to Afghanistan; I was in and out of Army training and a deployment over the last five years. When I got home, I wanted to continue to serve, and I thought serving in the state Senate was the best place. In particular, I thought it was very important to have a veteran in the Senate who could be a champion for veterans and make sure that when they come home, veterans always get the benefits they have earned.
On your campaign website, you mention that as part of your service with the United States Army Reserve, you helped to build women’s centers in Afghanistan. Can you tell us more about this: What services did they provide, and what impact have they had?
My favorite project that I worked on was when we put together a wool processing center. I worked on a provincial reconstruction team that brought together coalition forces. My team was led by the Swedish armed forces and also Finland’s armed forces. The wool processing center works with all of those groups in the province of Balkh, outside the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
About 80 percent of Afghans are subsistence farmers, and most of them have sheep or goats. The processing center allowed farmers to use electronic sheep shears to increase wool production by 20 percent annually. At the wool processing center we employ women to card [the wool], spin it, and turn it into yarn. Then they dye it, and they sell it to Afghan rug makers.
I also worked through the Department of Women’s Affairs. In one province called Samangan, there was a women’s center in a location that was very inaccessible, so they wanted a road. We built them an asphalt road that went from the main section of town instead of what was a very rocky dirt road.
In other parts of Afghanistan, I was working to build women’s bazaars. What they were looking for and expecting was just a place that would provide privacy for women to be exclusively around other women. They could take off their burqas, and work on whatever crafts they were trying to market and sell in a place that allowed them to come together. One of the proposals was for a women’s gym. Any gyms that did exist in Mazar-i-Sharif, women were not allowed to go there.
How does this experience affect your ability to advocate for women’s rights and services in Arizona?
Women’s rights are important everywhere, and human rights are important everywhere. One of the things I learned at the School of Foreign Service is that we have to think globally and act locally — and realize that in a global, interconnected economy, what happens in Afghanistan does impact us. It opened my eyes — anytime I travel to a Third World country — to realize how privileged we are in the United States.
For women in Arizona, we always need to make sure we are pushing forward toward equal rights. We need to make sure that women are always paid the same as men for equal work. And we need to make sure that women always have access to the health care they need so that they can make those decisions between themselves and their doctors.
Last legislative session, your opponent in the primary election, Catherine Miranda, voted in favor of HB 2284, which now permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. How do your views on reproductive health care differ from those of your opponent?
She has a clear anti-choice record, a clear anti-women’s reproductive health care record. She voted for 2284. She’s also voted for 2800, prohibiting state funding for abortion providers; 2384, prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortion providers; 2416, adding regulations for abortion providers, making it more difficult to get abortions. I think every time she’s had the opportunity on issues of choice, she’s been a clear anti-choice vote and a clear vote with the Republican Party.
We’re night and day apart when it comes to each other’s opinions on choice. I believe that women have a fundamental right to health care and information relating to their health. This includes access to abortion, whether surgical or medical, and funding to make it accessible to all women. We have to make sure that regardless of where women live, they have access to Planned Parenthood and make sure that women of all income levels have access to health care.
I strongly oppose unnecessary regulations on abortion facilities and providers. I strongly oppose crisis pregnancy centers and other organizations that are designed to misinform women. I oppose public dissemination of scientifically inaccurate information intended to dissuade women from exercising their reproductive rights. I oppose any abortion bans or changing definitions of personhood. I oppose any legislation to cut funding from women’s reproductive health.
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 comprehensive sex education, teenage pregnancy, and high-school dropout rates?
We’re failing our children without health and sex education. We cannot call an abstinence-only health class a sex education course. Students need to receive medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education — to include information about STDs and contraception. And working in partnership with organizations, like Planned Parenthood, to make sure that information is reaching all communities across our state.
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
We need to improve access to reproductive health care for all women, regardless of insurance coverage and income. Right now, the state has restricted — successfully — abortion access via funding restrictions and unreasonable regulations.
Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?
In particular, women having the right to make their own decisions about their bodies and decisions about what’s best for their families — and that these decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor. People are attempting to take the right away from women through false information and shameful practices.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
I’m proud to have the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. Planned Parenthood has stepped up and supported me in my campaign and supported my ability to stand up against the conservative, anti-choice members of the legislature, like Catherine Miranda. This is about making sure that we have strong Democrats in Democrat-majority districts, where we should be fighting for Democratic values — and choice and women’s health is certainly part of the Democratic Party I believe in. We need to make sure we weed out the bad apples who don’t represent our values. This person has had the opportunity, for the last four years, to serve in the state House and does not represent those Democratic values and has had the opportunity to vote on anti-choice legislation and has done it. While her vote certainly matters in a chamber of 60 in the House of Representatives, it matters even more in a chamber of 30 in the Senate.
The last thing I’ll say about that is — My wife is the person I go to on issues of women’s health care. We’re having a little girl that’s due in October. I just want to make sure that the Arizona my daughter grows up in is an Arizona that always respects women and always gives women the right to make their own decisions about their health care.