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 general election will be held November 6, 2018, with early voting beginning on October 10. Voters need to be registered by October 9 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!
Jo Craycraft is running for the Arizona Senate seat in Legislative District 1, which is home to communities in the Verde Valley, Prescott Valley, and surrounding areas such as Prescott and Dewey-Humboldt. While the roots of these districts are rural and proud, the policies its representatives have supported over the last decade have stripped this region of resources and neglected the impact of the unregulated industry of sober living homes on the opioid epidemic.
“Arizonans are more engaged than ever in stewardship of their great state.”
Ms. Craycraft is running against Sen. Karen Fann, who is seeking re-election and has historically toed the GOP party line on issues important to Planned Parenthood. This district is also home to Rep. David Stringer, whose racist comments documented on social media seem emblematic of many of the area’s other lawmakers, such as U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, who was recently targeted in an ad by six of his nine siblings for peddling conspiracy theories on social media and failing to represent the interests of his rural congressional district, which overlaps with LD 1.
Bolstered by an impressive resume and an even more impressive drive to serve all the people of this district, Ms. Craycraft was generous enough to take a break from campaigning and answer our questions on September 17, 2018.
Please tell us a little about your background and why you’re running for office right now in this political climate.
After a career that includes 30 years in law enforcement — 10 years as a police officer and 20 years in the FBI — an MBA and law degree, and owning a private investigation agency, I am now seeking to represent the people of Arizona’s Legislative District 1. My deep understanding of the law and history of meeting and interacting with people all along the socio-economic spectrum have informed my approach to common-sense and compassionate lawmaking.
Today, my new dream is to be elected the next state senator of Arizona and to GIVE BACK. I will use my legal expertise and listening and communication skills to create and change laws in Arizona that will benefit us all and advance our shared goals of security, opportunity, and prosperity.
What will be your first action as an elected official in 2019?
The top of my to-do list includes changing existing Arizona laws that allow discrimination. Denying women access to rights guaranteed by the Supreme Court in settled law fits squarely into my agenda. I will review all existing barriers to reproductive health-care access, investigate avenues of challenge to unfair and discriminatory laws, and advocate for women across economic stations.
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 regulation, and access to family planning?
I will meet with Planned Parenthood and other advocacy groups on a routine basis to listen to all ideas and approaches to crafting legal challenges and new legislation to protect access to reproductive health care for all women. These groups are on the front line, and their expertise and deep understating of the issues are of great value. My door will always be open to working closely and consistently to secure a woman’s reproductive rights. Regarding so-called conscience clauses, I am an ardent believer in separation of church and state and believe these clauses to be anathema to that critical tenet of our democracy. I will investigate all legal challenges to such clauses and work tirelessly to block passage of new ones.
What can state legislators do not just to safeguard existing LGBTQ rights in Arizona, but to move them forward?
Under current Arizona law, it is perfectly legal to fire individuals from a job, to deny them housing, or to refuse them service because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). Polling shows a majority of Arizonans support a statewide nondiscrimination law that would create protections for all people. I will lead the effort to change the laws of Arizona that allow discrimination.
Many Arizonans assume that nondiscrimination legislation already is in place. But, in fact, that is only true in certain municipalities — Phoenix, Tempe, Flagstaff, Sedona, Chandler, and Tucson. Not in Prescott, its surrounding communities, or most of Arizona and the First Legislative District.
The Human Rights Campaign released a poll showing 60 percent of respondents oppose employment discrimination. A similar majority, 59 percent, supports outlawing discrimination in housing. And 63 percent support allowing LGBTQ people to adopt children.
I will work to educate Arizonans about the lack of existing legal protections for LGBTQ individuals and work with advocacy groups to craft legislation barring discrimination.
No level or form of discrimination is acceptable. Everyone deserves to feel safe and secure, and each citizen’s privacy must be protected. With perseverance, equality for all can be achieved.
What other issues are you fighting for?
- Restoring public school funding to pre-recession levels by closing special interest and corporate tax credit loopholes
- Providing for a cleaner environment by expanding renewable energy sources
- Creating a more transparent and open state government
- Protecting Arizona’s water resources
What gives you hope for the future of Arizona?
Arizonans are more engaged than ever in stewardship of their great state. They are self-educating about the issues, ready to have their voices heard, and up to the challenge of confronting the “powers that be” to effect change. The #RedForEd movement is just one example of this powerful new engagement. Primary voting statistics were up this year for a midterm election, which is another promising sign of civic interest and activity. I believe voters will turn out in record numbers to elect officials who pledge to support zero tolerance for discrimination, fair and equal access to affordable health care including reproductive health care, and legislation protecting Arizona’s environment and water resources.
What is the most significant thing you will do as an elected official to stand with Planned Parenthood?
The most significant things I can do is to work closely with Planned Parenthood to craft legislation to advance equal access to safe and affordable reproductive health care, challenge existing laws that deny this access, and be a visible and tireless advocate for reproductive rights.