Meet Our Candidates: Jennifer Pawlik for State Representative, LD 17

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!

Two years ago, when Jennifer Pawlik first ran for a seat in the Arizona House, the voters she met often doubted her chances of winning in such a red district. Pawlik lives in Legislative District 17, which spans the communities of Chandler, Sun Lakes, and part of Gilbert. Republicans have controlled LD 17’s House seats since the mid-1960s — and they’ve had a longstanding hold on its Senate seat as well.

Pawlik lost in a close race, though, and in this year’s election — her second bid to represent her district — she has seen growing optimism among her supporters. What has motivated Pawlik in both elections has been a desire to stand up for education in the state’s Legislature. A veteran educator herself, her concerns over education cuts prompted her to run in 2016. After this year’s #RedForEd movement, her platform resonates even more strongly today.


“I am fighting for access to affordable health care and affordable college education.”


For Pawlik, education is the foundation for everything that matters in this state. As she told the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, “a well-educated workforce and excellent schools” will help attract businesses to Arizona — and prepare Arizonans to develop “innovative solutions … to address issues of drought, solar power, air pollution, and mass transit.”

Pawlik also sees public health as a key foundation for a better Arizona. Addressing poverty and improving access to health care are additional priorities she would take to the Legislature. Her commitment to Arizona’s health is why Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is included in the long list of endorsements she’s received. Pawlik generously took the time to tell us more about her background and her candidacy on September 13.

Please tell us a little about your background.

I am an Arizona native, and a product of Arizona’s public schools. I’m an educator who has taught in Arizona’s public elementary schools for 17 years, and I am now teaching individuals enrolled in Northern Arizona University’s College of Education. In my final years in the classroom, some of my colleagues broke their contracts and left the field of education because they couldn’t afford to continue teaching. Many of us who continued to teach picked up other jobs outside of our contract time so that we could pay our bills. I decided that I needed to do something rather than just complain. In 2016, I decided to run for the Arizona House so I can make a positive impact on the way we fund our public schools. Despite losing that race by only 2.5 percent, I consider our work to be a small victory for my district because we were finally close to a win after years and years of work. My team and I took off just six weeks after the election and got back to work in January 2017. We have been actively contacting as many voters as possible since that time. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Jennifer Jermaine for State Representative, LD 18

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 early voting began on August 2. Voters need to have been 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!

Jennifer Jermaine has a long history of being politically engaged, advocating for women’s rights, public health, and other causes on behalf of nonprofit and social services organizations. But the last two years have brought two waves of activism that were transformative for the longtime Chandler resident, inspiring her to launch her own advocacy organization — and run for state Legislature.


“Health care decisions are very personal and private and should be kept that way.”


The first wave was the mounting protests in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016. The victory of such a far-right candidate prompted Jermaine to post a call for action on Facebook. Her idea was a network that would register voters and organize communities, a group she dubbed Stronger Together AZ. Within days, she had 10,000 members. By the end of the month, an inaugural meeting drew 1,000 participants.

The second wave was Arizona’s #RedforEd movement, which sparked strikes and walkouts this spring for better teacher salaries and school funding. Strengthening public education is the first issue Ms. Jermaine mentions on her campaign website. She seeks to represent Legislative District 18, which includes Ahwatukee and parts of Chandler, Mesa, and Tempe, “because the children of Arizona deserve fully funded public schools.”

Along with that focus, Ms. Jermaine is committed to standing up for civil rights and equality on behalf of women, people with disabilities, communities of color, and LGBTQ people. That includes recognizing women’s bodily autonomy and their right “to make their own health care decisions without government intervention or impositions.” Continue reading

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

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!

Legislative District 18 stretches from Chandler to Ahwatukee, just south of Phoenix. It is currently represented in the state Senate by Sean Bowie, who ousted former Sen. Jeff Dial in 2016. Sen. Bowie’s win in 2016 was a victory for proponents of reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality, as his predecessor helped block access to contraception and abortion, and voted to codify discrimination based on sexual orientation into law. In contrast, Sen. Bowie has upheld the rights of women and the dignity of LGBTQ folks.


“We can work to stop bad pieces of legislation at the state level.”


For example, earlier this year Sen. Bowie introduced a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in Arizona. Conversion therapy is based on the idea that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed, and its proponents have used the imprimatur of psychology in an attempt to legitimize the psychological torture of many LGBTQ youth.

Most Arizonans oppose this practice, recognizing conversion therapy as ineffective at best — and inhumane at worst, as the practice could be complicit in the high suicide rate within the LGBTQ population. If passed, the bill would have made Arizona the 10th state in the country to outlaw this harmful and pseudoscientific practice — but the bill did not get off the ground. A shift in the Senate might give a bill like this the support it needs, however — pointing to the importance of voting in every election, including midterms.

Due to his support for reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights, Sen. Bowie has earned our endorsement. He generously took the time to answer our questions on July 9, 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?

I’ve really enjoyed representing my community in the state Senate these past two years. As one of 30 senators for the entire state, I can really have an impact on public policy at the state level. And because I work across the aisle in a bipartisan way, I’ve helped improve legislation, stop some bad bills, and get some good bills over the finish line. We’ve made some progress on some key areas, particularly funding for K-12 education, but we still have a way to go to get to where our state needs to be. Since the Senate is so narrowly divided, we’ve also stopped a lot of bills that would have been harmful for the state. Continue reading

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