Meet Our Candidates: Denice Garcia for State Representative, LD 29

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!

Denice Garcia[A] competitive House race is underway in Legislative District 29, a West Valley district that includes Glendale and West Phoenix. Four Democratic candidates are competing in this month’s primary election, and the two winners will go on to face Republican challenger Aaron Borders in the November general election. Mr. Borders proudly touts his opposition to abortion rights, so it will be important to support our endorsed candidates in November.

The Democratic candidates are preparing for the primary election, which will be held on August 26. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed three candidates running for House in LD 29: Richard Andrade, Denice Garcia, and Ceci Velasquez. Below is an interview with Denice Garcia — check out our interviews with Richard Andrade and Ceci Velasquez as well!

Ms. Garcia took the time for an interview via telephone on August 11, 2014.

“Making informed decisions should continue to be regarded as personal.”

Tell us a little about your background.

I’ve lived in Phoenix, Arizona for eight years. I’m married, three children, and originally from California. For several years, I’ve worked with children in behavioral health, wards of the court, youth in the judicial system, as well as provided court-mandated counseling for those affected by drugs and alcohol. In addition, I worked with an early intervention program that catered to babies and children born with various disabilities (nonverbal). I taught toddlers, children, and caregivers American Sign Language so that they could learn to communicate with each other. Working with youth, families, and communities is what I am both familiar and comfortable with.

Here in Arizona, I worked for DES/DDD, specifically the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Once again, I found myself advocating for the clients I served, both children and adults, being a voice to defend their rights as well as promoting and advocating for their quality of life.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, the warrantless inspections 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?

I think in any health network or environment, we should all have the right to privacy. I think that it’s wrong that some of our leaders have put such powerful restrictions that not only intimidate people, but invade their right to privacy and choice.

After all, who are we to dictate to others how to care for themselves, especially if they are of sound mind. As far as what type of health care they should receive, whether it’s reproductive or not, it could be anything from A to Z. Who are we to have the right to tell someone else how they should handle or choose their own health care?

Although Arizona was the first state to defeat a ballot initiative against marriage equality, it still doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage today. Earlier this year, the legislature passed SB 1062, which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people. It was unpopular among Arizonans and vetoed by the governor. Where do you stand on LGBTQ issues, and do you believe Arizona is ready to make substantial progress in protecting the rights of its LGBTQ citizens?

I know that there are many of us who want to see justice prevail, who want to see civil rights and equality prevail, who want to see that we are all treated the same. I believe that we still have a ways to go, and it just seems like it isn’t happening soon enough. The reason I say that is because, how can we monitor discrimination from behind the shadows? For the most part, we continue to advocate for justice and equal rights. I see that we still have work to do! What right do we have to say who we should love? Part of being a public servant and an advocate is looking beyond what is and looking out for the greater good of our community and our people.

I support Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson, others who have come before them and after them, as well as those who have a voice that yearns to be heard. Yes, I support them in what they fought for and continue fighting for: civil rights and equality for all.

Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?

Freedom of choice and the right to choose; we’ve come a long way from Roe v. Wade. Health care decisions may be simple for some and difficult for others. Making informed decisions should continue to be regarded as personal.

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

Being a public servant comes with an objective, and that is to be supportive to everyone, not just one person, not to have a personal agenda. For several years I had worked for a nonprofit agency. The first five years I worked for that agency, I worked mostly with pregnant and parenting teens and their families. At times, it was difficult for me to say, “Don’t do this” and “Don’t do that.” What I ultimately did was provide options for them. And even though it wasn’t part of my curriculum, after speaking with my supervisor, I said, “Hey, we can’t tell kids just don’t have sex. We have to be able to provide them with resources and education.”

That entailed education, re-education, empowerment, all of that to make a difference. I would go to WIC offices, I would go to high schools, I was invited to facilitate self-esteem and sexuality workshops. I would give a pre-test and then I would give a post-test, because I wanted to know — not just me, but the agency I worked for and adhering to grant requirements; they wanted to know what we were doing and what the answers were to the post-tests. Were these kids learning? And you know what, they were, they were asking questions.

It’s always easy to say there’s 101 ways to say “No.” But how are they to know if we don’t teach them? And Planned Parenthood supports everything that I taught and everything that I believe in.

I’m a board member for Cartwright School District. And one of the reasons I wanted to make a difference was because, after moving here, I saw so many kids not in school during school hours, during school days when they should be in school, and I saw so many pregnant teens. Once I got elected, I did all my homework — I requested from our district five years of data of chronic absenteeism, what that looked like, where are these kids, who are these kids? Unfortunately, they were children of color, as well as pregnant and parenting teens. We don’t have a tracking system to support these girls. We don’t have a tracking system to find these kids to draw them back into school. This is really important to me.

Planned Parenthood, yes, I believe in their mission and support them. I’m grateful and humbled that they are endorsing me as well.

You can keep up to date on Denice Garcia’s campaign by liking her on Facebook!

If you don’t know what legislative district you’re in, you can click here to find out! You can also contact us if you’d like to volunteer for an endorsed candidate in your legislative district.