Meet Our Candidates: Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko for State Representative, LD 15

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. Continue reading

Standing with the Missing: Tucson Hosts the REDress Project

Tree at the Piikani Nation, Alberta, Canada. Photo: voyagevixen2

Last year, on March 11, red shirts and dresses filled the Arizona House of Representatives. Activists wore the color in support of HB 2570, a bill introduced by Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler, to address an ongoing crisis in Arizona’s Native American communities.

That crisis, and that visual statement in response to it, is also the theme of the REDress Project, a traveling exhibition by Métis artist Jaime Black, whose work opens at the Tucson Desert Art Museum on January 10. Black, who is based in Winnipeg, Canada, began the project in 2009, collecting and displaying dresses to “call in the energy of the women who are lost.”


Honoring the many lost throughout North America, the REDress Project will be on exhibit at the Tucson Desert Art Museum.


The red of those dresses has become a symbol — and the letters MMIW the shorthand — for missing and murdered indigenous women. In Native American communities, domestic abuse, kidnapping, and other forms of violence have put many victims on difficult paths to justice, often leading nowhere.

Gaps in jurisdiction, especially when the offender isn’t a tribal member, have been one barrierNon-tribal suspects fall under federal jurisdiction, but a shortage of federal marshals has often meant that they can continue offending with impunity. In a report published last year, the Urban Indian Health Institute found that roughly half of perpetrators in MMIW cases were non-Native. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Athena Salman for State Representative, LD 26

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, and 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!

Legislative District 26 is a magnet for people who care about Arizona’s most pressing issues: reproductive justice, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ equality, and strong public education. Given the deep pool of talent from which this district draws, it has a history of exciting legislators who fight for these values at the Capitol. Athena Salman is no exception. After a successful first term, she is running for reelection in order to continue representing her district, which includes Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.


“If we don’t remain diligent in protecting our rights, then the discrimination we see now will pale in comparison to what’s down the pipeline.”


When Salman began her first term in 2017, she soon joined women from both parties in accusing Rep. Don Shooter (R-Yuma) of sexual harassment. The story ended in February, when the House voted 56 to 3 to expel Rep. Shooter, an event that marked the first time a state lawmaker was ousted from office in the #MeToo era. Around the same time, Salman was making headlines for spearheading the #LetItFlow campaign, bringing awareness to female prisoners’ lack of adequate access to menstrual hygiene products. In both instances, Salman centered her actions on protecting the dignity of women everywhere in the state.

Thanks to her passionate advocacy for these and other issues during her first two years in office, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is pleased to endorse Rep. Salman for a second term. She took the time to respond to our questions on September 18, 2018.

Since we last spoke, how has your commitment to serving Arizona grown? What has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

My entire life, my mother’s entire life, even my grandmother’s entire life, for as long as we can remember, women have been harassed and shamed for exercising our constitutional right to reproductive health care and self-determination.

However, from #MeToo to #TimesUp we are seeing women from all backgrounds uniting and saying “Enough is enough!” With Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance, women are raising our voices in the one place where we are truly equal, the ballot, and making sure we are being heard loud and clear. Need proof? This primary election alone saw women in Maricopa County outnumber men in early voting by 65,000. As several have already stated, the future is female. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Athena Salman for State Representative, LD 26

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

athena-salman-scaledLegislative District 26, which includes Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, is the home of Arizona State University, where Athena Salman got her start in student government. She now seeks a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, where she hopes to continue LD 26’s tradition of fighting for such important causes as education, reproductive justice, LGBTQ equality, and immigrants’ rights.


“Sex education empowers young people to make informed decisions and leads to healthier communities.”


Some might say that Athena Salman was destined to dedicate her life to serving her community: Her mother named her after the Greek goddess because “the world needed more heroines.” Her activism began in childhood, blossomed in college when she organized fellow students to protest budget cuts to universities, and continues to this day. Her recent work has centered around increasing voter engagement among Latinos — campaigns that ultimately increased Latino voter registration by 500 percent — as well as empowering girls and young women through her involvement with Girl Scouts. Once in the House of Representatives, she will continue to fight for women’s rights, voting rights, and keeping education accessible to all Arizonans — “from cradle to career,” as she says on her website.

In LD 26, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona recommends casting your two votes for House of Representatives for Athena Salman and Isela Blanc, candidates dedicated to social justice and making Arizona a better place for everyone. Ms. Salman generously took the time to answer our questions on October 21, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I am a native Arizonan and community leader. I have worked tirelessly to strengthen the fabric of our communities. This year, I was presented with Tempe’s MLK Diversity Award for my experience advocating for women, education, working families, and immigrants. In light of severe budget cuts to education I organized hundreds of students to protest and pass state legislation. I have worked on several successful campaigns to expand Latino voter engagement, served as a union shop steward, empowered women and girls through Girl Scouts, built community support for early childhood development through First Things First, and authored national health care and higher education policy. I graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University with degrees in economics and political science. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Isela Blanc for State Representative, LD 26

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

isela-blanc-scaledIsela Blanc knows how important it is that our governments work for us by supporting the means for us to better ourselves. Her family came to Arizona from Mexico when she was 6 years old, and she was educated by Tempe’s public school systems, eventually becoming the first in her family to attend Arizona State University — all during years “while our state invested in education,” as she points out on her website. So, Ms. Blanc knows firsthand what’s at stake when lawmakers decide to let quality education slide further down their list of priorities.


“Women should not have to answer to anyone when making a decision related to their bodies or their health.”


Education is a major aspect of Ms. Blanc’s platform. She worries that Arizona is winning the “race to the bottom,” as $1 billion in cuts to education spending have resulted in fewer teachers, counselors, and school nurses; swelling classroom sizes; and shrinking after-school programs. As she tells us here, comprehensive sex education is just one part of a quality education, and she hopes to see it return to classrooms across the state.

Ms. Blanc seeks a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, on behalf of Legislative District 26, which includes Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. She generously took the time to answer our questions on October 1, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I began as a volunteer serving on school site councils, participating in the PTA, and serving on a little league board. These opportunities drew me to education and my community. I managed early childhood programs through Tempe Community Council. I worked with First Things First to build awareness around the importance of the first five years. I have facilitated for various Arizona State University programs that focus on engaging families to provide them the tools and skills to support their child’s academic achievements. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Brandon Dwyer for State Representative, LD 15

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must register to vote by October 10 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

brandondwyer-scaledBrandon Dwyer is running for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 15. LD 15 covers the northwest, north, and northeast areas of Phoenix and has approximately 133,019 registered voters. Mr. Dwyer would like to see Arizona level the playing field for all citizens with regard to education. He believes in equal access for all regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, veteran status, disability, or military service.


“The state should not be between me and my doctor.”


Mr. Dwyer generously shared time with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona through an in-person interview on September 10, 2016, to discuss his background and his campaign.

Tell us a little about your background.

I lived in Oregon for 26 years before moving to Phoenix in 2005 to attend the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. After I graduated, I moved to Texas, where I lived and worked for 10 years. I missed Phoenix, so I made the decision to move back and make Arizona my home.  I became actively involved in politics as a member of Democracy for America. I was a precinct committeeman for four years and served as the legislative district committee chair for LD 15 from 2014 until early this year, when I decided to run for office. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Mitzi Epstein for State Representative, LD 18

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must register to vote by October 10 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

mitziepstein-scaledMitzi Epstein is running for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 18. LD 18 includes all of Ahwatukee, parts of west Chandler, south Tempe, and west Mesa. Ms. Epstein is a small business owner, former state Parent Teacher Association leader, and American Youth Soccer Organization leader. As a community problem solver, she has spent her life working at both the community and state level to strengthen the economy.


“We need updated, comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate health and sex education curriculum that is inclusive of all.”


Ms. Epstein generously shared time with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona via telephone on September 9, 2016, to discuss her background and her campaign.

Tell us a little about your background.

Professionally, for many years I was a computer systems analyst and team leader for multinational corporations such as Olin Brass, Inc., Citicorp Mortgage Inc., and Aerovox Corporation. I now own my own small business called Custom Language Training. In 2004, I was elected to the Kyrene Elementary School District Governing Board where I served for four years.

Personally, I have been married for 33 years. We have lived in our home for 20 years now, and have two adult sons who live in Boston and New York. I am passionate about the community, working collaboratively to improve our quality of life. I have served on the boards of several community organizations including AYSO, American Youth Soccer Organization. To be the best coach I could be, I worked to earn a National D Coaching license from USSF. To be the best school board member I could be, I earned a Master of Boardsmanship from ASBA, the Arizona School Boards Association. Continue reading