Meet Our Candidates: Steve Weichert for State Senator, LD 17

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!

steve-weichertThe 17th legislative district hangs just southeast of Phoenix, covering the greater part of Chandler, western Gilbert, and Sun Lakes. It is currently represented in the Arizona Senate by Steven Yarbrough, who has a history of opposing reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality. LD 17 needs better representation, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona endorses Steve Weichert, who will fight for improved education and health-care access — including comprehensive sex education and access to family planning services.


“Women can count on me to protect their health care and reproductive rights.”


In 2003, Mr. Weichert moved to Chandler, where his family has put down permanent roots. He and his wife are raising two school-age daughters, so he knows first-hand just how crucial quality education is. He points to the importance of attracting and retaining talented teachers and attaining smaller classroom sizes. As such, a key component of his platform is improving education funding in Arizona, and, as he tells us in today’s interview, he believes comprehensive sex education is an integral aspect of a student’s overall education.

Just as Arizona needs to be able to hold onto good K-12 teachers, Mr. Weichert knows how vital it is to retain a vibrant population of physicians and other health-care providers. As a health-care administrator, he has a front-row seat to Arizona’s shortage of health-care providers. While the University of Arizona College of Medicine provides affordable education, Mr. Weichert says Arizona loses its investment when its graduates are lured out of state by better salaries and benefits. And, as an employee of Gila River Health Care, serving the Gila River Indian Community, Mr. Weichert sees the importance of expanding health care access to historically under-served populations.

According to the Center for Arizona Policy’s 2016 candidate questionnaire, LD 17’s current senator, Steven Yarbrough, is in favor of strict prohibitions on Arizonans’ access to abortion; he is also opposed to recognizing individuals’ gender identity and including the LGBTQ community in nondiscrimination laws. In 2014, Sen. Yarbrough helped propel Arizona to national headlines when he sponsored SB 1062, which would have given businesses the right to refuse service to LGBTQ customers. He sponsored a similar bill the year before — but both that bill and SB 1062 were vetoed by then-governor Jan Brewer.

We need lawmakers who prioritize issues that have a direct impact on Arizonans’ quality of life — and Steve Weichert will focus on quality education and health-care access, without wasting time introducing fear-based bills like SB 1062 that solve no problems. Mr. Weichert generously took the time to answer our questions on September 18, 2016. 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

Meet Our Candidates: Sean Bowie for State Senator, LD 18

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 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 primary election, you need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Sean BowieLegislative District 18 sits just south of Phoenix, stretching west from Chandler to Ahwatukee. The 18th district is currently represented in the Senate by Jeff Dial, whose voting record belies a lack of support for contraception access — his vote for HB 2599 helped lay the groundwork to deny state Medicaid recipients the right to receive preventive health care and birth control from Planned Parenthood — as well as his opposition to abortion — as illustrated by his vote in favor of SB 1324, which put severe restrictions around the use of medication abortion, which don’t even comply with FDA regulations. In 2014, he voted in favor of SB 1062, which would have given businesses the right to discriminate against LGBTQ folks — or anyone else against whom they could claim a religious justification for discrimination.


“The Legislature should not be in the business of meddling with a woman’s relationship with her doctor.”


Sean Bowie seeks to oust current Sen. Jeff Dial from the Arizona Senate, and due to his outspoken support for reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights, Mr. Bowie has earned our endorsement. His website highlights the importance of recognizing LGBTQ rights in the state of Arizona, and he voices support for an employment non-discrimination act that would protect people from employment or housing discrimination, regardless of their sexual orientation. He also supports reproductive rights and Arizonans’ access to the full range of reproductive health services, as he explained to us in his interview.

After moving to Chandler during his childhood, Mr. Bowie graduated from Mountain Pointe High School and then Arizona State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree with a double major in political science and history. Afterward, a stint in Pittsburgh saw him earn a master’s degree in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to launching his Senate campaign, Mr. Bowie has put his energy behind education reform, health care access, and protecting Social Security. As an employee of Arizona State University, he works to expand needs-based financial aid, expanding access to higher education for all Arizonans.

Mr. Bowie generously took the time to answer our questions on July 19, 2016.

What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?

My first priority will be to improve our state’s education system. I will fight to restore education funding at both the K-12 and university levels above all else if elected. Another important priority is to pass a statewide comprehensive non-discrimination act to protect our LGBTQ community. Arizona is one of only 27 states that does not have an act in place, and it is past time that Arizona enacts a law that says we are open for business to all. We also must continue this inclusiveness into our schools by striking our shameful “no-promo-homo” law from the books. I will join my Democratic colleagues this year who fought on the Senate floor to get this done. Finally, one of the great advantages to having a tie or majority in the state Senate would be to stop the unconstitutional attacks on Planned Parenthood and focus on more important priorities, like the ones I outlined above. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Allison Ewers for Kyrene School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! 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.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

A._Ewers_headshotKyrene School District encompasses Ahwatukee as well as parts of Chandler, Guadalupe, Tempe, and the Gila River Indian Reservation. It is home to approximately 18,000 students in 19 elementary schools and six middle schools.

In a state that doesn’t mandate sex education of any kind for its students, abstinence-only education — or the complete absence of any sexuality education programs whatsoever — is the norm in Arizona. Kyrene School District currently uses abstinence-only-until marriage curricula, but supplements the information with outside sources, for instance by inviting representatives from the health department to talk to students about sexually transmitted diseases and condom use. While this kind of supplemental information is good, the school district has the opportunity to deliver much better sexuality education to its students.

Allison Ewers is uniquely positioned to bring her background in sensitive and inclusive educational curricula to help Kyrene improve its sex education programs to be truly comprehensive. On October 19, she shared with us her vision for public education in Kyrene, and how her unique background will inform her participation on the school board.


“Education is power, and … our children can use that power to keep themselves safe.”


Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a proud resident of the Kyrene School District and graduate of the public school and university system in Arizona. I will work hard to ensure that our children have the same opportunities for success that I have had.

I am currently a producer for HP2, Inc., a local Arizona small business. My involvement in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, the Arizona Science Fair, Arizona Local First, One Community, and the Arizona Small Business Association has allowed me to see firsthand the crippling effect that discrimination has had on our state. This makes it much more difficult to attract high-wage, technically advanced business to the Valley.

When I travel worldwide, I am often asked, “What is wrong with Arizona? There seems to be so much hate.” I am working to change this reputation. It is time for strong leaders in our schools and our state Legislature. I can no longer stand by and watch this happen to the reputation of a state that I am so proud of, so I have chosen to step up. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Janie Hydrick for State Senator, LD 18

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, and early voting began on July 31. 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.”  Make your voice heard in 2014!

1 Internet Headshot 120510_WC-7333-Edit-Edit_X2_72dpi (1)Along with her extensive experience in education, Dr. Janie Hydrick, whom Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona also interviewed in 2012, has deep roots in her community. She has lived in Legislative District 18 — an area that includes Ahwatukee, as well as portions of Tempe and Chandler — for the past 22 years. She currently lives there with three generations of her family: her husband, her daughter and son-in-law, and her grandson. Dr. Hydrick seeks to represent the 18th legislative district in the Arizona Senate in order to foster economic development, support education, advance access to affordable health care, and protect vulnerable community members.

She graciously took the time for an interview on July 13, 2014.


“… Ignorance and fear rather than information and understanding have driven too many of our policies.”


How has your commitment to serving Arizona grown over the past two years? On the policy level, what has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

On a national policy level, I have seen polls and demonstrations increasingly in favor of women’s rights to reproductive freedom. As a candidate at the legislative district level, I have seen a groundswell of support for women’s rights and increased outrage with people who pronounce their marginalization and denigration of women. Politicians who are out of sync with the majority of Americans will see their misogynistic policies and platforms fail them in 2014 and 2016.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, the warrantless inspection bill, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about the need for heightened privacy and safety for patients seeking reproductive health services?

HB 2284 is a blatant violation of women’s privacy and safety with no purpose other than to legislate anti-abortion beliefs through intimidation. When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down abortion clinic buffer zones in Massachusetts, they violated women’s privacy and safety by providing free rein to anti-choice violence, harassment, and interference with patient access. The U.S. Supreme Court’s egregious Hobby Lobby decision violated women’s privacy and safety by leaving women’s reproductive rights and choices to the vagaries of their employer’s religious beliefs. Women have rights to reproductive health choices as men do, and their choices should be protected by privacy and safety, as men’s are. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Karyn Lathan for State Representative, LD 17

The Arizona general election will be held on November 6, 2012, with early voting starting on October 11. After the many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of voting in November can’t be overstated. To help voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive health and freedom. Along with those endorsements, we are spotlighting our endorsed candidates in a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” To vote in the general election, you must register to vote by midnight tonight (October 9) — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!

Karyn Lathan, an Arizona native from Chandler, is running in Legislative District 17 for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, an area that includes Chandler, Sun Lakes, and part of Gilbert. She has had a career in law enforcement and corrections, and ended her 25-year career as the restorative justice coordinator for the Arizona Department of Corrections. Lathan is currently finishing her degree in business administration at the University of Phoenix.


“We have rolled women’s rights back to the 1950s.”


Lathan is the sole pro-women’s health candidate running for the House in Legislative District 17, facing off against Republican opponents Tom Forese and J.D. Mesnard. Because of the views of the other candidates in the LD 17 House election, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is recommending a “single-shot vote” for Karyn Lathan. Lathan generously took the time for an interview with us on October 5, 2012.

Tell us about your background and how it will serve your constituents.

I spent my career in law enforcement, first in the U.S. Air Force, then in corrections. I was a correctional officer, correctional programs officer, and probation and parole officer. I ended my career in corrections when I returned to Arizona and started the first restorative justice program for the Arizona Department of Corrections. Currently I am a commissioner with the Chandler Domestic Violence Commission and work with several victim services agencies. I am a consultant for Coalition to End Arizona’s Sexual Exploitation (CEASE). My passion lies with women’s issues and anti-violence issues.

My whole career has been about community and how to have a safe, productive community. I will continue to fight for the quality of life that we all deserve and that emphasizes respect and progress. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link — so is a community. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Bill Gates for State Senator, LD 17

The Arizona general election will be held on November 6, 2012, with early voting starting on October 11. After the many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of voting in November can’t be overstated. To help voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive health and freedom. Along with those endorsements, we are spotlighting our endorsed candidates in a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” To vote in the general election, you must register to vote by October 9 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!

Along with education and foreclosures, the recent legislation aimed at Planned Parenthood is one of the top issues Bill Gates includes on his website. Gates points to HB2800, the bill that defunded Planned Parenthood, as an example of “vindictive” legislation that harms Arizonans rather than helping them. As Gates writes in his scathing criticism, HB2800 was “intended to hurt Planned Parenthood” and punishes the “women, men and children who turn to Planned Parenthood clinics for their health needs.” That Gates takes such a strong stand for the preventive and reproductive health services that are under attack is testament to his commitment to the best interests of the constituents he seeks to serve.


“My wife and I fought these battles 40 years ago and we’re angry that they now have to be fought again in Arizona.”


Gates and his running mate, House candidate Karyn Lathan, are both endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and are running to represent Legislative District 17, which covers eastern Chandler, northwestern Gilbert, and all of Sun Lakes. Gates generously took the time for an interview with us on September 28, 2012.

In the previous legislative session, there were a lot of bad bills that negatively affected access to birth control (HB 2625), funding for family planning (HB 2800), abortion (HB2036), and unbiased information about unintended pregnancies in public schools (SB1009) — and your opponent, Steve Yarbrough, voted in favor of all of them.  Do you feel that his views are consistent with the majority of Arizonans?

His views are at odds with the majority of Arizonans but because he keeps a low profile, and because he has never previously faced serious direct opposition, most voters in the district don’t know about his terrible record on reproductive issues. But he is one of the most reliable supporters in the Legislature of the extreme positions advocated by Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy.

During the campaign I have stressed Sen. Yarbrough’s conflict of interest in running a school tuition organization that receives Arizona income tax dollars. He is able to vote on and, indeed, propose legislation directly benefiting STOs. But the next biggest difference between the two of us involves reproductive rights — a point I made September 24 when the two of us appeared jointly before an Arizona Republic East Valley editorial board considering endorsements. Continue reading