Meet Our Candidates: James Burton for State Representative, LD 14

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!

James Burton LD 14[E]ast of the Tucson metropolitan area, LD 14 comprises Cochise County (Sierra Vista, Douglas), Greenlee County, Graham County (excluding the tribal reservation), and the far eastside of Pima County (Rosemont area, Corona, Vail, Rita Ranch, and the surrounding mountains of East Tucson). Here, James Burton is running for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, where he is facing incumbents David Gowan and David Stevens.

David Gowan is the current majority leader in Arizona’s House of Representatives. He is running on a platform that includes “limiting government and promoting individual responsibility,” yet he voted in favor of SB 1062, which, through the government, would have allowed businesses to discriminate against individuals on the basis of religious beliefs. He also voted in favor of HB 2284, which authorizes the government to perform unannounced inspections of abortion facilities without a warrant, which makes it that much harder for individuals to obtain a medical service that is protected under the U.S. Constitution. Burton’s other opponent, David Stevens, voted in favor of SB 1062 and HB 2284 as well.

Both Gowan and Stevens also support the government prohibiting an individual’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion; and oppose comprehensive sex education, which would serve to educate an individual on how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and prevent unintended pregnancies. Further, both oppose adding “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” or “gender expression” to the classes of race, religion, age, sex, and ancestry in an anti-discrimination law that would serve to protect the individual. Lastly, both oppose unmarried domestic partners receiving the same employee and health benefits as married couples — discriminating against people who make the personal choice to remain unmarried.

Burton, running on a platform of inclusiveness — including listening to the people of LD 14 — was the only one out of the three candidates who attended the district’s debate. Answering a series of moderator-provided questions, Burton stated “the voices of the district need to be heard.” Burton is the only LD 14 House candidate running on a platform of inclusiveness, and we recommend Mr. Burton for a single-shot vote.

Mr. Burton was kind enough to speak with us on October 15, 2014.

“The government should not interfere in anyone’s health care choices. Period.”

Tell us a little about yourself.

When I finished high school in 1968, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. I served four years with service in Vietnam and as a hospital corpsman with the Marine Corps minefield team at Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba. When I was in high school, I began insulating pipes, boilers, and air conditioning systems with my father, at his insistence. Thanks, Dad. After my honorable discharge, I returned to that trade. After a short time I left the Midwest for the environs of Arizona. Arriving in Phoenix on St. Patrick’s Day, 1973.

My first job in Phoenix was at the Arizona State Hospital as a therapist and counselor at the maximum security unit. In 1979, I returned to Illinois to be near my ailing parents, and reentered the insulation trade. I continued this until 2005 when I retired. At that time, my wife and I decided it was time to return to Arizona. Since returning to Arizona, I have become involved in the film-making business as a prop and set builder.

My wife Carole and I have been married 31 years and have two sons, of whom we are very proud. We make our home in the Sahuarita area and enjoy the desert very much.

Earlier this year, your opponents, David Gowan and David Stevens, voted for HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law?

More government interference is rarely the answer to a problem. Although this bill was a solution in search of problem. Clinics could already be inspected as long as a judge signed a simple piece of paper. An easy hurdle to clear. It was an attack on women’s health care promoted by a very narrow and very powerful special interest group in Phoenix. They said jump — Gowan and Stevens said, “how high?”

Your opponents also voted in favor of SB 1062, which was widely interpreted as an attack on the LGBTQ community. How do your views on protecting LGBTQ rights differ from those of your opponents?

Discrimination is wrong. SB 1062 would have legalized discrimination. It was a disastrous piece of legislation, also pushed by the aforementioned special interest group, that would have been devastating to our economy. The business community opposed this bill, as did the overwhelming majority of Arizonans. But again, Gowan and Stevens voted in lockstep with Phoenix politicians and special interest groups.

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?

Marriage equality was defeated at the polls a few short years ago, but would likely pass today. Marijuana legalization will surely be on the ballot in 2016, and possibly an increase in the minimum wage. The people of Arizona seem to have vastly different positions than the politicians who represent them, particularly on social issues — so the people’s initiative should be protected and utilized.

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?

I’m certain that there have been numerous studies and reports made highlighting the correlation between school dropout rates and early teen pregnancy. For me to comment on them would be an exercise in redundancy. That said, sex ed should be taught in the home but in a state with teen pregnancy rates as high as ours, it’s not happening. Sex education in the schools should be matter-of-fact, medically accurate, and age appropriate. It should not be accusatory or denigrating to the pupil. With the changing face of sexuality, it is very important to stress the psycho-social outcome of bad decisions and the realities of maturity.

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

Each and every person is unique and therefore responsible to themselves for their ultimate health decisions. To be comfortable with a physician is conducive to good health. To have someone you don’t even know decide who and where you should be treated is putting a stress on that person and their health.

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

The government should not interfere in anyone’s health care choices. Period. I support Planned Parenthood Arizona and I am honored to have [Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s] endorsement.

To learn more about James Burton’s campaign, check out his website!

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