Past election patterns and current forecasts can give pundits and the public a good idea of what to expect on Election Day, but they guarantee nothing. A new, unique, or charismatic candidate can inspire an unexpected voter turnout and make predictions less reliable — while low-turnout elections, on the other hand, commonly favor the status quo and conservative candidates. That’s why we’re spotlighting candidates whose qualities are outstanding — but whose districts haven’t always favored candidates like them. Extraordinary odds call for extraordinary candidates to overcome them, and we think these are the candidates for the job.
Let’s meet some of our endorsed candidates — all Democrats — who are currently campaigning in districts with Republican advantages.
The Priors for House and Senate: Hours after news broke that Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban had been struck down, Cara and Scott Prior each shared the same picture on their Facebook pages: a photo of themselves with a caption that read, “We are so very grateful that in our lifetime, finally, same sex couples in Arizona can now enjoy the same freedom as we have shared for the past 20 years.”
The Priors are running to represent Legislative District 16, which straddles Pinal and Maricopa counties, and includes Gold Canyon, Apache Junction, and parts of Mesa. Cara is running for House and Scott is running for Senate, and both displayed support for LGBTQ rights at this year’s Phoenix Pride Festival and have earned a 100 percent rating from the Stonewall Democrats of Arizona. Additionally, the Priors support reproductive rights with the same enthusiasm.
David Farnsworth, Scott Prior’s opponent in the Senate race, opposes abortion and sponsored HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. He also voted for the notoriously anti-LGBTQ bill SB 1062.
Kelly Townsend and Doug Coleman, who are running against Cara Prior in the House race, have also proclaimed their commitment to legislation that would intrude on women’s reproductive decisions. Both Townsend and Coleman signed the proclamation of opposition to Roe v. Wade, which was put together by the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) as a rallying cry to “make every effort” to legislate Roe into obsolescence until “decisional interpretations…by the United States Supreme Court” overturn the decision.
We recommend a single-shot vote for Cara Prior so that she receives a higher percentage of all votes cast. The Priors have an uphill battle in a red district, but they have cause for optimism. As Scott Prior told us, “In the 2014 primary, I gathered more votes than I did in the 2012 primary. This means that people are more interested in getting their voices heard, even in a midterm election.”
Legislative District 20 encompasses Northwest Phoenix, including parts of Glendale and Moon Valley. While 27.4 percent of its voters are Democrats, the remainder are split between Republicans and independents. Currently, these voters are represented by staunch opponents of reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights.
Patty Kennedy for Senate: Kimberly Yee, LD 20’s current senator, was named one of the most extreme anti-abortion lawmakers in the country. She sponsored HB 2036, which effectively banned abortion at 18 weeks by, infamously, defining pregnancy as starting two weeks before conception. Yee has also supported SB 1062, HB 2625 (allowing employers to refuse to cover employees’ contraception via insurance), HB 2800 (defunding Planned Parenthood), and SB 1009 (outlawing unbiased information about unintended pregnancies in public schools), and has signed CAP’s statement denouncing Roe v. Wade.
Instead of letting Kimberly Yee continue to erode access to reproductive health, we encourage voters to elect Patty Kennedy, who describes herself as “a longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood.” She believes the “right to make health care decisions in one’s best interest is vitally important.”
Amy Schwabenlender for House of Representatives: LD 20’s current representative, Paul Boyer, is running for reelection. Boyer voted for both HB 2284 and SB 1062, and seeks to protect a fetus “no matter what stage of development.” Anthony Kern, an opponent of comprehensive sex education and marriage equality, is also running. He believes that abortion “contributes to the devaluing of life and the moral decay of our society.”
We recommend a single-shot vote for Amy Schwabenlender, who has a 100 percent rating from Stonewall Democrats of Arizona and believes “Policymakers should not be getting involved in decisions that are best left to a woman to make with her family, her faith, and her doctor.”
Legislative District 21 includes El Mirage, Sun City, Peoria, and parts of Glendale. While 27.3 percent of its voters are Democrats, the remainder are split between Republicans and independents. This November, voters who support women’s health and LGBTQ rights can elect two new legislators who stand for equality and reproductive freedom.
Carolyn Vasko for Senate: Rep. Debbie Lesko hopes to advance to the state Senate to continue sponsoring legislation like HB 2284, the warrantless inspections bill, and 2012’s HB 2625, which allowed employers to opt out of employee health insurance that covers contraception. She signed CAP’s statement denouncing Roe v. Wade, and told them, “I have sponsored and supported legislation championed by the Center for AZ Policy and although I have been vilified by Planned Parenthood on multiple occasions, I will not back down …”
We’ve endorsed Carolyn Vasko for state Senate. She supports LGBTQ equality and believes “women’s health decisions need to remain between a woman and her doctor.” So don’t be disheartened by your district’s history of bad representation — vote for Carolyn Vasko instead!
Esther Durán Lumm for House of Representatives: Current Rep. Rick Gray, who voted for HB 2284 and SB 1062 earlier this year, is seeking reelection. Tony Rivero is running for the open seat, and, like Gray, is an opponent of both abortion and comprehensive sex education requirements.
We recommend a single-shot vote for Esther Durán Lumm. She describes herself as “a very strong advocate for women.” She supports comprehensive sex education and was motivated to run for office out of the desire to oppose legislation like SB 1062, which she describes as “a frivolous, discriminatory bill.”
LD 22 includes Sun City West, covers the Waddell and western Surprise area, and stretches to the Yavapai County line. Voters here will recognize some of the names on the ballot because the incumbents have represented them for the last two to nine years. Are you among the Arizonans they intend to serve? If you are a woman, LGBTQ, or have a school-age child, the answer is no.
Archangel “Arky” Muscato for Senate: Although incumbent Judy Burges named health care as one of her top three priorities, this vision does not include reproductive health: “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 belies her exclusion of those who need protection in the middle of their lives. Burges was a prime sponsor of HB 2284, the warrantless inspections bill. Burges also cites the importance of education, but supports ineffective abstinence-only sex education. Burges also excludes the LGBTQ community from the constituents she is willing to serve, demonstrated by her vote for SB 1062 and her belief “that the institution of marriage between one man and one woman should be protected.”
With a 100 percent rating from Stonewall Democrats of Arizona, Archangel Muscato is running on a platform that includes “equal rights for all Arizonans.” He is also an advocate for women’s rights to make their own health decisions.
Bonnie Boyce-Wilson and Larry Woods for House of Representatives: Incumbents David Livingston and Phil Lovas voted in favor of SB 1062. Livingston states that “marriage is only between a man and a women [sic]” and is opposed to other legislation recognizing LGBTQ equality. Women are also not high priorities for either incumbent. Both voted in favor of HB 2284, the warrantless inspections bill. Lovas voted for HB 2036, which would have prohibited abortion after 20 weeks. Livingston is opposed to abortion and believes “it is the duty of our government to protect the unborn.”
In contrast, Larry Woods and Bonnie Boyce-Wilson are both strong supporters of reproductive rights. Woods is a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ community and has described the decision to terminate a pregnancy as one that “should be left to the individual.” Bonnie Boyce-Wilson specifically calls out Arizona women as one of her priorities and described HB 2284 as “a direct assault on women’s rights.”
David Butler and Sheila Ogea for House of Representatives: Two Republicans, Russell Bowers and incumbent Justin Olson, are running to represent LD 25, which covers much of Mesa. Bowers is opposed to abortion and sex education, and has a zero percent rating from the Stonewall Democrats of Arizona. Olson seeks reelection so he can “[continue] the state efforts to decrease abortion in Arizona.” Olson sponsored HB 2800, which sought to defund Planned Parenthood; luckily, the bill was defeated in court. Bills like Olson’s waste taxpayer dollars and interfere with a patient’s ability to choose her or his own health-care provider.
We endorse both Democratic candidates: David Butler and Sheila Ogea. In an interview with us, Butler made his position on reproductive justice clear: “A woman, not politicians, should make the informed decisions when it comes to her own reproductive rights.”
Ogea shares that commitment to protecting Arizonans’ reproductive decisions — and she has the credentials to show it. She describes herself as someone who “has been working behind the scenes as a political activist fighting for women’s equality, equal pay for equal work and personal choice.” She has also served on the State Board of the Arizona National Organization for Women.
As a supporter of women’s health and LGBTQ rights in a conservative Republican-leaning district, you might think that your vote doesn’t count since the same people win again and again. You might think your district will always be red. It doesn’t have to be. The only way your vote doesn’t count is if you don’t show up at the polls to cast your ballot.