The time to fight back — and fight forward — for reproductive justice is fast approaching. The stakes are high in this year’s state election, with candidates for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and other races on the ballot. The Arizona primary election will be held August 28, 2018, and voters need to be registered by July 30 to cast their ballots. Reproductive health has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who put our health and our rights first. Get to know them now in our series of “Meet Our Candidates” interviews, and make your voice heard in 2018!
[J]ust weeks before he announced his candidacy for state representative late last year, Gilbert Romero was hitting the pavement for another campaign — the nationwide push for the Medicare for All Act. Although he’s only in his mid-20s, Romero has ample experience as a canvasser and community organizer in the Phoenix metro area. In addition to Medicare expansion, he has been an advocate and activist for the rights of working families and immigrant communities.
“It’s a fundamental right for people to have autonomy over their bodies and lives.”
Romero also brings “deep Arizona roots” to his candidacy, as he puts it on his campaign website. His family has been in Phoenix’s West Valley for generations — and, lately, that’s where he’s been going door to door to talk to community members. Romero seeks to represent Legislative District 21, which includes the West Valley communities of Peoria, Surprise, El Mirage, Sun City, and Youngtown.
A recent incident in the first of those cities puts in sharp focus the need for candidates like Romero, who is also an ardent supporter of reproductive rights. Peoria made national headlines last month when a pharmacist there refused to fill a prescription for local first-grade teacher Nicole Arteaga. Arteaga had gone to the pharmacy after learning from her physician that her pregnancy would end in miscarriage, as the fetus she was carrying had no heartbeat. The pharmacist, though, cited ethical objections to providing medications that would safely end her pregnancy. He was protected by a 2012 “right to refuse” law that Democratic state legislators have been trying to repeal since it passed.
When it comes to reproductive rights, Romero doesn’t mince words. As he wrote on social media earlier this year, “Our campaign unapologetically supports a woman’s right to choose.” It was that commitment that earned Romero the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA). Romero generously took the time to tell PPAA more about his background, positions, and campaign on July 8, 2018.
Please tell us a little about your background.
I’m a third-generation Arizonan who’s lived in my district for my whole life. I earned my bachelor’s degree in women and gender studies in 2015 and then worked as a community organizer with Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) working on the Fight for $15 campaign, fighting for workers’ rights. I’ve also been arrested fighting for the immigrant community.
I was also appointed the Young Ambassador from the City of Peoria, to Newtownards, Northern Ireland, when I was 16, representing my city in a cultural exchange program. I’ve always had a passion for public service and community organizing.
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to introduce should you be elected?
I would like to ensure people with personal incomes over $200,000 pay more in taxes and ensure a progressive tax rate for Arizona corporations to fund critical public programs and re-invest in our communities. Companies have a civic responsibility to the workers who work for their businesses to have safe, healthy, and fully funded schools, parks, and workforce programs. I’d co-sponsor the repeal of the “Right to Work” law almost immediately once elected.
Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?
All people deserve to make their own health care decisions because it’s a fundamental right for people to have autonomy over their bodies and lives. The government has no mandate to make any medical decisions that belong between a person and the recommendation of their medical provider.
One of your opponents, incumbent Kevin Payne, was among numerous Arizona legislators who signed a letter to Trump to request an end to Obama-era requirements for state Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood. That kind of defunding would impact preventive health care and birth control needs for AHCCCS patients. What are your thoughts on the public health impact that could have?
I fully support any governmental funding that gives Planned Parenthood, and any community-based clinic, funds for whatever licensed medical providers need to do in order to treat patients, administer health care, and to respect the wishes of people needing and wanting abortions.
Both Kevin Payne and your other opponent, Rep. Tony Rivero, supported SB 1394, a bill to increase regulations on abortion. Do you think their voting records are in line with the wishes of LD 21’s constituents?
They are not. The majority of Arizonans, and the constituents in my district, do not believe that the government should be deciding what health care decisions people make.
What other issues are you fighting for?
My main priorities at the moment are completely reforming our tax system. We can’t really do much — funding education, mandating health care, offering social programs in employment, housing, or welfare of any kind — without a serious reform of our unfair tax system. The very rich and corporations must pay more for us to even begin to discuss much else. We need a progressive income tax for both individuals and corporate entities.
What gives you hope for Arizona’s future?
The fact we have pro-choice candidates running in every district, in every level of office, gives me hope. We have women, people of color, LGBTQ candidates running everywhere, fighting for progressive values. I believe we can do amazing things in the Legislature to “turn the ship around,” so to speak, of our state government. We can do amazing things if we keep fighting. That gives me hope.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
It was important for me to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona because I wanted the women and LGBTQ people in my district to know I stand with them and I am them. For the people who have the most to lose and the most to gain, I want those voters and citizens to know they have a champion in me: to be unapologetic on being Latino, gay, millennial, and pro-choice.
If you’d like more information about Gilbert Romero’s campaign — including positions on other issues and other organizations that have endorsed him — you can do so by visiting his campaign website or following him on Facebook or Twitter.