Your power at the polls can be a force for change! The Arizona primary election will be held on August 4, 2020 — and early voting has already started. Reproductive health has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but you can join Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona to back our endorsed candidates — and put our health and rights first. We’re highlighting their campaigns in our “Meet Our Candidates” interviews, to inform and empower your vote in 2020!
Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko is running to represent Legislative District 15, which covers parts of north Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, in the Arizona House of Representatives. Dr. Dybvig-Pawelko has dedicated herself to education, teaching in the Communication Studies Department at Arizona State University for the past 20 years. She is running for office because she has seen how state funding for higher education has drastically decreased despite the state constitution’s mandate for university tuition to be “as nearly free as possible.”
“Our future is bright because young people across the state are activated in ways that I have never seen before.”
Dr. Dybvig-Pawelko is incensed that the same thing is happening in our K-12 public schools. During the #RedForEd walkouts, she watched teachers raising their voices in unison, letting the state Legislature know how much their inaction was costing our children. The solutions proposed have been Band-Aids on an open wound. She believes our schools should be fully funded, safe places for all children to learn. Teachers should be paid a professional wage and treated with decency and respect. She is running help Arizona get closer to that reality.
I spoke to Dr. Dybvig-Pawelko on July 20, 2020, via email about her campaign and what she hopes to accomplish in the Legislature.
Please tell us a little about your background and why you’re running for office in this political climate.
I grew up in Southern Arizona and never thought I would run for public office. I was fortunate enough to find academic debate as a high school student and ended up at ASU to be a part of the debate team. From there, I was able to earn graduate assistantships to attend both Cornell University and Arizona State to pursue my M.S. and doctorate in communication. Once I graduated, I was offered a full-time position at ASU and my husband and I jumped at the chance to stay in Arizona.
In 2018, I watched as students, parents, and teachers descended on the Capitol and asked for more resources for our public schools. It was at that moment that I realized we will never change the narrative until we change the decision-makers. I originally looked to see who was running in my legislative district, but when I found a blank space on the ballot, I jumped in to get signatures to place my own name on the ballot. Three weeks later, I turned in those signatures and found myself running for public office.
I decided to run again in 2020 because all of the issues we were facing as a state have really remained the same and will continue to do so until we flip the Legislature. The majority party has been in charge for far too long, and the decisions that they make don’t represent Arizonans.
What will be your first action as an elected official in 2021?
I would like to ratify the ERA.
You clearly have a strong background in education. Do you believe schools should offer age-appropriate comprehensive sex education classes?
Yes, 100%. Comprehensive sex education can prevent abuse, reduce suicides, promote body acceptance, and foster healthy interpersonal relationships.
Despite a favorable ruling for abortion rights in June, the Supreme Court’s current makeup is still a cause for concern. What can legislators do to protect reproductive rights in Arizona?
In Arizona, if Roe is overturned a miscarriage will become a crime. Women’s bodies are legislated far too much. We need to codify abortion protections in Arizona law and overturn the draconian laws that are currently on the books in Arizona.
Black Lives Matter has become one of the biggest movements in our history, prompting numerous reforms in government, education, and industry. What role can legislators play in keeping this momentum alive?
We need to have a serious discussion on structural inequities, systemic racism, and policing in the U.S. In Arizona, we should be seriously examining the Phoenix Police Department and their use of force. I really appreciate the work and policies put forth by 8cantwait.org. These are eight evidence-based changes that can be put into legislation on a state level to decrease the use of force by all of our police departments.
What other issues are you fighting for?
Education and equality are the top priorities for me but we also need to move swiftly to protect our environment. I would like to see protections extended to our groundwater in areas where there are no current regulations.
What gives you hope for the future of Arizona?
My classroom! I see so many young people in Arizona who are excited and activated to make changes. Our future is bright because young people across the state are activated in ways that I have never seen before. They are the generation most impacted by our climate crisis, wealth and income inequities, etc. They give me so much hope for change in our future.
What is the most significant thing you will do as an elected official to Stand With Planned Parenthood?
I will sign on to get rid of laws restricting access to abortions.
Most important, don’t forget to vote. You have until October 5 to register for the November general election, and you can register to vote online right now.