Meet Our Candidates: Andrew Sherwood for State Representative, LD 26

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 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.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

SB1062 Protest Andrew Sherwood[A]ndrew Sherwood just completed his first term representing his district in the Arizona House of Representatives, during which time he came out swinging against bills that were designed to marginalize the LGBTQ population and harass patients seeking reproductive health services. The 26th legislative district covers parts of Tempe and Mesa, and is currently represented in the House by both Mr. Sherwood and his seatmate Juan Mendez, both of whom have received Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s endorsement for their commitment to reproductive justice, equality, and education.

Mr. Sherwood is an Arizona native whose political involvement stretches back before his election to the House. In 2011, he helped spearhead the Democratic Party’s successful recall efforts to oust Russell Pearce (who you may remember as the architect of SB 1070, or more recently for his offensive remarks advocating for the forced sterilization of poor women). He is an Arizona State University graduate who has made LD 26 his home.

Andrew Sherwood kindly spoke to us over the telephone on October 3, 2014.

“I oppose discrimination in all forms, and the reason that I opposed [SB 1062] was that the ability to exclude someone from commerce is the ability to exclude them from society.”

Tell us a little about your background.

I got involved in politics in 2006. I started working on a campaign back in 2008; I ran my first campaign in 2010. I was elected in 2012, and so I’ve been serving for the last two years and I’m up for reelection. I’ve worked on both sides of the political equation, so I’ve been involved in the party apparatus as well as the elected-official side. I think that having worked on both sides makes me better at each of the others, if that makes sense.

Before politics I worked in the private sector as well: I ran a small business, I’ve been a business executive. I’m from Tucson, Arizona. I moved to Phoenix, in Tempe, so that I could go to Arizona State University. And I feel really lucky to have gone to ASU. It was a life-changing experience. I’m one of those students that didn’t expect their whole life to go to college, and so for me when I had the opportunity to do it, it didn’t just provide for me all the usual opportunities that colleges do, it provided the mindset, which is the ability to have this economic mobility. And that’s why I’ve always run campaigns with a heavy emphasis on education.

In my personal life, I love animals, I love sports, I like walking dogs, I like rock climbing, I like boxing, and of course there’s not much time for any of these things anymore now that I spend almost all of my time in politics. I’ve never missed a vote, I’ve never missed a day at work, and I put about 80 to 100 hours a week into the Capitol. So I work very hard at this job.

Last legislative session, you voted against HB 2284, which now permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law?

Not only did I vote against it, but I had pretty strong oral arguments against that bill. I’m definitely in strong opposition to House Bill 2284. I felt that this was a bill that, the result could be the intimidation and harassment of women, and I oppose that.

You also voted against SB 1062, the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have made it legal for businesses to discriminate based on religious beliefs. Your Republican opponent, James Roy, indicated on his Center for Arizona Policy survey that he would be in favor of a law like SB 1062. How do your views on discrimination and religious freedom differ from those of your opponent?

I oppose discrimination in all forms, and the reason that I opposed this bill was that the ability to exclude someone from commerce is the ability to exclude them from society, and that is completely unacceptable. This is a bill that was not needed. We watched debates happening on live national networks and there was not a single case in Arizona where a bill like this would have even been needed to protect anybody from anything.

This is a bill that was designed by the Republican majority party, it has a social agenda, and it’s not just bad policy, it’s actually offensive. And so it wouldn’t accomplish a damn bit of good here for Arizona residents, it would hurt a lot of people, it did offend a lot of people, and it prevented a lot more people from coming to the state who should have come here, either for tourism reasons, to move here, or to build a business here.

In contrast to bills like HB 2284 and SB 1062, what kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it is important to fight for it?

Good question. There’s a handful of things that you want to do when it comes to policy. Number one, being on the Appropriations Committee, you want to make sure you spend the money in the right ways. We want to make sure that we’re providing more money into education. We want to make sure that we’re not going to be wasting money in places where it’s not useful. And we want to make sure we have proper oversight of the money that we are spending.

I am a member of the Appropriations Committee, so I have worked on the budget a great deal, and I’m also on the Joint Committee for Capital Review, which does some of the oversight for some of the budgeting that we do do here in Arizona.

But there’s other things too that would be really useful. I like to do science and research, and I love supporting bills that have any type whatsoever of scientific benefit, or that could help the universities, or things that could help the academic institutions and the scientific community, whether it’s bringing more businesses here or helping keep our compasses aligned with those interests, like research. That’s a big part of this. It’s 2014. It’s not just about keeping the lights on. We want to keep the lights on, but we also want to do a lot more.

Your district includes parts of Tempe Union High School District, which recently voted to include comprehensive sex education in its schools. While your opponent, James Roy, is opposed to mandating comprehensive sex education in Arizona’s schools, do you consider this development in Tempe’s schools to be a victory?

We’re talking about sex education here. Again, a minute ago I just said, hey, it’s 2014, this is where we need to be heading. It’s 2014. We should absolutely have sex education across the board for everybody at all times. One of the bills that came through the Appropriations Committee a couple of years ago was what was informally called the “papers please bathroom bill.”

Yes, we remember that well.

This is a piece of legislation that, once again, is useless, and very offensive, and it would be impossible to enforce. But it was aimed at the LGBT community. One of the things that I don’t like is that I feel like the Republican majority party consistently has this social agenda where they’re aiming to offend or to oppress or to discriminate against certain people who might not have interests that align with theirs. To me, sex education in the schools is one of the first places where you can start to build a mentality of a discussion about the human condition, the human experience, that there’s all these different shapes and sizes out there, so to speak. It’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s definitely something to be supportive of.

That’s a good answer — the recognition that sex education is about so much more than how to use a condom. It’s about body image, healthy relationships, and respecting other people.

Yeah, but it also helps with giving people the confidence to engage at the higher-level conversations, so that when you’re talking about the LGBT community, you don’t need to be a member of the LGBT community to be supportive of this community. The reason that we’re only even talking about this is because they’ve been singled out, again and again and again.

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?

That is the perfect followup question. Again, if you’d asked me that question out of this conversation, I would have already said to you, one of the things we need to be working on is sex education. Young adults are determined to make their own decisions; we just want to make sure that those decisions are the most informed, best-educated decisions that they can make.

When it comes to things like high-school dropouts, or when it comes to things like a person’s career path or their economic trajectory, of course there’s a correlation between what happened with school and how they’re going to end up financially. Yes, there is frequently a correlation between your academic success and the probability that you end up in the Department of Corrections. Arizona spends a huge amount of money of the Department of Corrections. Arizona spends a lot of money on social safety nets. It’s always seemed to me that it’s better to front-load resources and say, “How do we make sure that we can help someone in a place where they’re young, where they’re motivated, where we can help them get to where they want to go?” Instead of later saying, “How do we try to keep them out of where they don’t want to go, but they’re unfortunately gravitating toward anyway?”

Prevention is key.

It’s not just key, it’s also a better investment. It’s a higher value in terms of what you get and the cost you get it for.

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

Well, I don’t want anyone making my health care decisions, and I think that’s a fair sentiment that should be respected all across the board. It’s just that simple. This shouldn’t even be a debate, nationally or locally, but it is.

Why should someone not make someone else’s health care decisions? Because it is one of the most personal and intimate decisions that an individual can make, and that should be respected.

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

I like Planned Parenthood because I like their services. I think that they provide a valuable service to the community. I think that a lot of men and women who aren’t even politically engaged, especially the youth, they might not even vote — it’s a lot of young men and women who know that this is an outlet where they can get information, where they can get consulting, or they can get help, where they can get referrals, whatever type of private consulting that they might be interested in, and what the ramifications of certain decisions might be. I think that a lot of people respect this is a place where you can go and feel safe. And that’s important.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our supporters about your campaign?

Thank you to Planned Parenthood and all the men and women who have supported me in the past. I was in a debate last night and they were asking about certain endorsements, and I said, one of the things that I really liked is that I was endorsed in 2012, I appreciated that, and I’ve been endorsed again in 2014. But I want to point out that they’re different.

The first time that you get endorsed, when you are not in office yet, what is being endorsed is your ideas. The second time that you get endorsed, what is being endorsed is your performance, is that you’ve successfully delivered those ideas. So they’re not the same. To me, to be endorsed twice says a lot, lot more than to be endorsed once, because it means you’re actually effective and that you’re honorable, you’ve got integrity, you delivered what you said you would. So I appreciate the support twice.

If you’re interested in learning more about Andrew Sherwood’s campaign, including more detailed positions on issues and other endorsements, you can visit his campaign website. You can also stay updated via Facebook and Twitter.

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