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!
Arizona’s Legislative District 11 covers an area from just northwest of Tucson to the southeast end of the Phoenix metropolitan area. It includes Oro Valley, Picture Rocks, Marana, and Catalina, extending through part of Pinal County, including Casa Grande, and as far north as Maricopa City. We have been represented by Democrats in the past, and I’m sure we can be again.
“Every person must be treated equally with protection under the law.”
Ralph Atchue, retired after 33 years working for the U.S. Postal Service, is running for LD 11’s seat in the state Senate against Vince Leach, a tea party Republican currently serving in the state House of Representatives. Atchue has lived in Arizona since 2006, and has been active in Democratic politics here since then. When he ran for the same seat in 2016, I interviewed him for this blog. Afterward, I attended a number of events in the district and got to talk with him several times as well as hear him speak in public forums. I am pleased he is running again this year, and also that I am able to interview him a second time.
He graciously answered our questions on July 23, 2018.
Since we last spoke, how has your commitment to serving Arizona grown?
More than ever, I am convinced that Arizona needs a change in direction. I believe voters are ready for a less extreme/ideological government. They’re looking for pragmatic commonsense solutions to everyday problems and issues, and that’s exactly what we’re offering.
What has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?
Since February 2018, my campaign has knocked on over 9,700 doors. We’ve focused our efforts entirely on contacting persuadable/independent voters — I have no primary opponent. We talk to voters about commonsense issues that impact their daily lives and ask for their concerns. The response and support for our campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m confident that we have the plan and message voters are eager to hear — they want to know that someone is actually committed to working on their behalf. My convictions and principles are as strong as ever — my drive and energy continue to get stronger every day!
What will be your first action as an elected official in 2019?
When elected, I plan to make my voice loud and clearly heard in the Democratic Senate caucus. I will push for an agenda that makes Arizona’s working/middle-class families and small businesses the legislative priority. I’m also eager to finding those on the other side of the aisle ready to find common ground and willing to build some bridges that make sense.
The uncertain future of the Supreme Court highlights the importance of protecting our rights at the state level. How can state legislators stem the tide of attacks on reproductive rights, for example by addressing so-called conscience clauses, targeted regulations, and access to family planning?
Make no mistake, the only way to ensure any significant action to stem the tide of right-wing lobbyists is to elect Democrats. The current governor and legislative majority party are committed to increasing these ideological attacks. The only way forward is to elect a governor and state legislators who are committed to secular government that truly represents its citizens and not a religiously based agenda.
What can state legislators do not just to safeguard existing LGBTQ rights in Arizona, but to move them forward?
State legislators must take action to codify protections and safeguards eliminating discriminatory practices PERIOD — FULL STOP! LGBTQ, women, disabled — every person must be treated equally with protection under the law. If elected, I will fully support such legislation and amendments to the state constitution.
As a member of the House of Representatives, your opponent, Vince Leach, supported increasing regulations on abortion and giving more power to Republicans when drawing legislative district boundaries. Do you think his voting record is in line with the wishes of his constituents?
I consider Vince Leach to be out of touch with the needs of most families across the district and state. He panders to a right-wing agenda and lobby. While his so-called base agrees with that agenda, I do not believe it is supported by the majority of informed voters. I am campaigning to persuadable (independent) voters in an effort to inform them on these key issues — the level of support at the doors has been overwhelmingly on our side.
What is the most significant thing you can do as an elected official to Stand With Planned Parenthood?
My support for Planned Parenthood is unequivocal and public — I have proudly announced my Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona endorsement. I will not only fight to keep current Planned Parenthood funding and protection but also to support legislation that expands that funding and protection. I will continue to inform citizens and other elected officials regarding the vital services Planned Parenthood provides and encourage them to learn more.