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: Celeste Plumlee for State Representative, LD 26

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 must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Celeste Plumlee scaledCeleste Plumlee is an exciting new face in the Arizona House of Representatives, having been appointed to fill Andrew Sherwood’s seat after he ascended to the state Senate to take Ed Ableser’s place. From her position in the House, Rep. Plumlee represents Legislative District 26, which includes Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, in addition to her home town of Tempe.


“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to health care, and there is no way a statewide health policy can be applicable to all people equally.”


Despite only serving one session in the House so far, she has proven herself to be a resolute advocate for reproductive health and justice. Her voting record reveals that she refused to support bad bills like HB 2599, which lays the groundwork for Arizona to deny Medicaid recipients from choosing Planned Parenthood for their preventive health services, and SB 1324, which put severe restrictions around the use of medication abortion.

In addition to her support for access to contraception and abortion, equality is an important plank in her platform. The concept of “equality” includes protecting the rights of members of marginalized communities, from LGBTQ folks to people of color — not to mention the importance of equal pay for equal work, and a call to close the pay gap between male and female workers. For these reasons and more, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona enthusiastically endorse Rep. Plumlee for reelection to the Arizona House of Representatives.

Rep. Plumlee generously took the time to answer our questions on July 19, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I first got interested in public policy in graduate school, when I realized I had a unique perspective as a single mother and survivor of domestic violence who has utilized public assistance to raise my children through tough times. I have master of social work and master of public administration degrees from Arizona State University, and have a great deal to contribute to the Legislature through my experience and education. I am the mom of two teenagers and have dedicated my volunteer time to helping educate people about domestic and sexual violence and encouraging other survivors to speak out. I am also a trained facilitator for a comprehensive sexuality education program and have advocated for similar programs being used in public schools for years. I am passionate about social justice and putting an end to gender-based violence, and actively work to do whatever I can towards those goals. 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: Andrew Sherwood for State Representative, LD 26

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014. 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!

SB1062 Protest Andrew SherwoodAndrew Sherwood just completed his first term representing his district in the Arizona House of Representatives, during which time he came out swinging against bills that were designed to marginalize the LGBTQ population and harass patients seeking reproductive health services. The 26th legislative district covers parts of Tempe and Mesa, and is currently represented in the House by both Mr. Sherwood and his seatmate Juan Mendez, both of whom have received Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s endorsement for their commitment to reproductive justice, equality, and education.

Mr. Sherwood is an Arizona native whose political involvement stretches back before his election to the House. In 2011, he helped spearhead the Democratic Party’s successful recall efforts to oust Russell Pearce (who you may remember as the architect of SB 1070, or more recently for his offensive remarks advocating for the forced sterilization of poor women). He is an Arizona State University graduate who has made LD 26 his home.

Andrew Sherwood kindly spoke to us over the telephone on October 3, 2014.


“I oppose discrimination in all forms, and the reason that I opposed [SB 1062] was that the ability to exclude someone from commerce is the ability to exclude them from society.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I got involved in politics in 2006. I started working on a campaign back in 2008; I ran my first campaign in 2010. I was elected in 2012, and so I’ve been serving for the last two years and I’m up for reelection. I’ve worked on both sides of the political equation, so I’ve been involved in the party apparatus as well as the elected-official side. I think that having worked on both sides makes me better at each of the others, if that makes sense.

Before politics I worked in the private sector as well: I ran a small business, I’ve been a business executive. I’m from Tucson, Arizona. I moved to Phoenix, in Tempe, so that I could go to Arizona State University. And I feel really lucky to have gone to ASU. It was a life-changing experience. I’m one of those students that didn’t expect their whole life to go to college, and so for me when I had the opportunity to do it, it didn’t just provide for me all the usual opportunities that colleges do, it provided the mindset, which is the ability to have this economic mobility. And that’s why I’ve always run campaigns with a heavy emphasis on education.

In my personal life, I love animals, I love sports, I like walking dogs, I like rock climbing, I like boxing, and of course there’s not much time for any of these things anymore now that I spend almost all of my time in politics. I’ve never missed a vote, I’ve never missed a day at work, and I put about 80 to 100 hours a week into the Capitol. So I work very hard at this job.

Last legislative session, you voted against HB 2284, which now permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law?

Not only did I vote against it, but I had pretty strong oral arguments against that bill. I’m definitely in strong opposition to House Bill 2284. I felt that this was a bill that, the result could be the intimidation and harassment of women, and I oppose that. Continue reading