The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! 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!
In Legislative District 22, which serves approximately 85,000 people and covers ground including Sun City West, Mountain Vista, Surprise, and Lake Pleasant, Archangel “Arky” Muscato is running for a seat in the state Senate, which he hopes to win from incumbent Judy Burges.
Sen. Burges recently named health care as one of her top three priorities. This priority does not include reproductive health care for the women of LD 22 — as Burges makes clear, they are excluded from those she intends to serve: “I am pro-life and will work to protect the most vulnerable among us, whether they are at the beginning of life or the end of life.” Her voting record substantiates her exclusion of those who need protection in the middle of their lives: Burges was a prime sponsor of HB 2284, which authorizes unannounced inspections of abortion facilities without a warrant.
Sen. Burges also cites the importance of education across Arizona school districts, but excludes Arizona’s school children from those she intends to protect, as she supports the largely ineffective abstinence-only sex education instead of comprehensive sex education, preventing students from learning about essential quality of life issues, including how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Finally, Burges’ campaign promises to exclude the LGBTQ community from the groups she is willing to serve — demonstrated by her vote in favor of discrimination on the grounds of religion (SB 1062) and her views that she “support[s] Arizona’s Constitution and believe[s] that the institution of marriage between one man and one woman should be protected,” which runs against the grain of Arizona’s future.
Conversely, Mr. Muscato is running on a platform of “equal rights for all Arizonans.” He was kind enough to talk to us via telephone on October 15, 2014, to speak in more depth about his commitment to all human rights.
“My opponent is for limited government except when it comes to women’s rights and gay rights.”
Tell us a little about your background.
I came to Arizona in 1978 out of Buffalo, New York, with a bachelor’s of science in education. I started teaching under contract in the Deer Valley District in 1979. I retired in 2006, and my wife also taught in Deer Valley for 30 years. So, after 30 years we both decided it was time to do something different, especially with the cuts in pay and benefits that were looming and the increased responsibilities with very little value placed on education and, specifically, teachers.
I’ve got two sons. One is age 30 and he owns a cross-fit gym in the North Glendale area outside of Phoenix. My younger son is a Captain in the U.S. Army and he just started his second deployment to Afghanistan as the communications support for a Green Beret unit.
I [received] a master’s degree in administration and supervision of schools from Nova University in 1985. Once I retired, I started a lot of community liaison services. I am on four different executive boards right now for nonprofit organizations, including AARP Chapter Number One, the Arrowhead Kiwanis Club, the All Arizona Schools Retirees Association, and the Peoria Education Foundation. I am also an alumnus of Leadership West Class 20 and I’ve been a liaison for the Valley View Community Food Bank. I’m a member of the Surprise Region Chamber of Commerce for a promotional items business that I’ve had part-time since 1980, full-time since 2005. And I’ve also been a member of the Peoria chamber of commerce. Right now, I represent AARP Arizona with the Peoria chamber and I’m also on the National Chapter Advisory Team for AARP out of Washington, D.C.
I just felt that it was time that Arizona needed better. We deserve better and I can give them better. It’s time the people had a voice and I can give them that voice.
Earlier this year, your opponent, Judy Burges, voted for HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law?
I equate it to the Prohibition raids of the 1920s. It’s unconscionable that the legislature thinks that this is acceptable. Not just this bill, but along with other bills, this Legislature enacts laws that are always challenged in the courts and cost the taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars and they’re always overturned because they are unconstitutional. This law is unconstitutional. I’m sure it will be overturned. It’s a slap in the face to women. They say that there is no War on Women, but that’s not true. There is a War on Women. My opponent is for limited government except when it comes to women’s rights and gay rights. Then, they want all the control in the world.
Judy Burges also voted in favor of SB 1062, which would have allowed discrimination based on religious beliefs. How do your views on discrimination and religious freedom differ from those of Sen. Burges?
I firmly believe in the separation of church and state. I firmly believe that 1062 is a bad law. It never should have gotten to the governor. It’s simply a control that they are trying to exert over the populace and it is discriminatory. It is unconstitutional. Judy Burges has also told the public — and I’ve been there when she’s told the public — that this law will come back in some other form again and again until it is passed.
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?
First of all, I’d like to have any laws that are discriminatory repealed and any laws that are offered that are discriminatory stricken before they waste time in the Legislature.
If Doug Ducey gets elected, some of these bills will come back and he will sign them, especially because he’ll be a first-termer. It will be a voter mandate and they will accept it is as such. If they get the power back again, they will re-issue these bills, they will try to pass these [pieces of] legislation.
I firmly believe there are two things that people should do if they would like to stay in power — and Arizona is very good at both of them: Number one, you keep the people poor. Number two, you keep the people uneducated. In Arizona, it’s all about power. Coming from New York State born and raised, it’s a different mindset. People there are taught, by and large, to embrace the world. In Arizona, you’re taught to embrace the Wild, Wild West and that’s the way it’s been, and I’m out to change that.
Given your background as an educator, what do you think about the importance of comprehensive sex education?
As long as sex education is grade-level or age-level appropriate, it is the best thing to do. We have to protect our youth on all levels, including competent sex education and right now, in this state, the push is against it because it’s better to keep the people poor and it’s better to keep them uneducated. Part of that is keeping them from contraceptives or from sex education. They want the parents to do it and, by and large, the parents either can’t do it or are unwilling to do. Comprehensive sex education that is grade appropriate is certainly necessary.
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?
If you keep the people poor and keep them uneducated, you stay in power. We need to make sure that our youth are educated. Where I came from in Buffalo, New York, my parents were poor, they were hard workers. So were all of my friends and their parents. From the day we were born, it was all about graduating high school, going to college, and making something of yourself for society, for your own sake, and for your family’s sake.
In Arizona, it has evolved to the point where it’s not about sending children to college. Even the legislators and some of the governor candidates will say that not everybody is cut out for college, so we need to get them more career ready than college ready. First of all, careers basically don’t pay as much if you’re not college educated. Studies have proven that the higher educated you are, the more you will make over [your lifetime]. You will have better buying power. You will have a better lifestyle. You will contribute more to society because you earn more, because you have the opportunity, because you got that degree.
It’s just so important to make sure that everybody is educated, especially when it comes to teen pregnancy. The safety nets are not there in Arizona. We have nothing to help these children to even prevent them from [getting] pregnant because of the lack of comprehensive sex education. Then, we have a very limited social service network, and it’s just a vicious cycle. Again, it is designed to keep the people that are in power to remain in power.
Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?
The easiest answer for that is it’s none of my business. I know it’s cliché to say that if men were on the other end, it would’ve been changed a long time ago; but nobody has the right to make a personal life decision for a woman except that woman. The Constitution through Roe v. Wade says that is a woman’s right and we need to make sure that Roe v. Wade is not overturned and that women remain the masters of their own bodies.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
I want to make sure that everybody knows I’m not just running for the rich old white guys. I’ve taken a lot of flak, especially for my stance on women’s rights and equal rights, equal pay for women, both politically and personally, but it’s only right. I’ve had some organizations ask me if I should keep [the organization’s] endorsements private so that it doesn’t adversely affect me. What I have told everybody is I would be hypocritical to do that. I want everybody to know who has endorsed me. It’s on my website that Planned Parenthood [Advocates of Arizona] has endorsed me. If I’m going to hide it, then what good is having it to begin with and what good am I as a candidate if I’m going to pick and choose what I’m going to illuminate as my platform? I firmly believe that women’s rights should be upheld legally, as well as socially. I’m not going to hide information from anybody.