The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. 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.” In order to vote in the primary election, you need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!
Tonya MacBeth is running for the state Senate in Arizona’s Legislative District 15. LD 15 covers the northwest, north, and northeast areas of the Valley with approximately 133,019 registered voters. In 2012 and 2014, Republican candidate Nancy Barto did not have a Democratic challenger. However, this year Tonya MacBeth is putting up a fight for Democrats in the district.
“Without appropriate sexuality education, being a teenager is harder than it has to be.”
Ms. MacBeth generously shared time with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona in person over coffee at the Urban Beans and Cafe on July 15, 2016, to discuss her background and her campaign
Tell us a little about your background.
I have lived in Arizona for more than 40 years, arriving here as a toddler. I attended both public and private schools in Phoenix, and graduated from Camelback High School. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona, and returned to Phoenix and married my husband Doug. Doug is a retired Phoenix firefighter/paramedic. We have been married for 25 years and live in Cave Creek with our two children, Hannah and Jacob.
After college, I worked for 10 years in the mental health community. I was contracted by the Department of Health Services to provide advocacy services to persons with serious mental illness, and served as an independently contracted abuse and mortality investigator for ADHS Division of Behavioral Health Services. For a time, there was no one else in Arizona contracted to represent this population. My time as an advocate and investigator inspired me to obtain my law degree from Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in 2005. I continue to serve the mental health community through my current position as chairman of the advisory board for CHEEERS, a 501(c)(3) organization. CHEEERS provides evidence-based peer-to-peer recovery services to adults diagnosed with a serious mental illness. I am a family law attorney, and a shareholder/partner at the law firm Burch & Cracchiolo.
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
I would like to see us rearrange our priorities and support our pre-K-12 schools. All high school graduates should be workforce or college ready. I also believe that it is important for us to support our community colleges.
LD 15 has a history of leaning more toward the Republican Party. What made you decide to run in the 2016 election and what issues are of importance in your district?
As a resident of LD 15 for 24 years, I was repeatedly dismayed by the lack of competing voices in our elections, and decided it was time to step up and give a voters a choice. The Valley changed, it isn’t the collaborative community where the business community and educators worked with the Legislature on behalf of all citizens. Now, there is a core of influencers (ALEC and the Center For Arizona Policy) who hijacked this successful community cooperation. I have stepped up to provide opposition to this. I want all of my hardworking, independent, and caring neighbors to be able to benefit from long-term growth and stability by supporting the businesses we already have and attracting new growth with an educated workforce. Of course, childhood hunger must be addressed.
Some Arizona school districts, like Tucson Unified School District, are beginning to include comprehensive sex education in their classrooms, but progress has been slow. How would you like to see sexuality education addressed on a statewide level?
I would like to see schools acknowledging that the LBGT community exists instead of marginalizing them. Without appropriate sexuality education, being a teenager is harder than it has to be. I would like age-appropriate sexuality education to start earlier. Research demonstrates that comprehensive sex education decreases the rate of teen pregnancies. My opponent, Nancy Barto, rejects all forms of long-term reversible contraception — even though these are safe and effective methods of preventing pregnancy. I believe that education and affordable contraception reduces the rate of unwanted pregnancies. Choosing to end an unwanted pregnancy is a woman’s legal right. We should work together to assure that all women have access to reproductive health care, contraception, and factual sexuality education, thereby reducing the frequency of unwanted pregnancies.
Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?
Putting the government in charge of any health care decision is simply wrong. The recent Supreme Court decisions make it clear that Arizona’s regulatory scheme — championed by my opponent — is an unconstitutional interference in women’s health care choices. Only women and their doctors know what is best for their health.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
We share a desire to overturn restrictions on women’s rights. There is a tendency for some to characterize Planned Parenthood as an abortion-service-only organization. There is an organized campaign to prevent men and women access to Planned Parenthood’s full range of health care services. I believe restoring funding to Planned Parenthood is essential.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with Planned Parenthood supporters?
We must remain on high alert. Our opponents are working hard to dilute our voice on all fronts. The unfounded claims of voter fraud, decreased polling places, gerrymandering, and increased voting/registration hurdles are intentional attempts to diminish participation and our support for like-minded candidates. Through these tactics, the current Legislature has succeeded in passing laws that restrict access to reproductive health care, defund education, and fail to end legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ community. We must all speak up, volunteer, and help our neighbors participate. It’s OK to talk politics. Tell your friends who you are voting for!
* Correction, September 5, 2016: The headline of this article originally referred to Ms. MacBeth as a candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives. She is a candidate for the Arizona Senate.