Meet Our Candidates: Betts Putnam-Hidalgo for Tucson Unified School Board

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!

betts-putnam-hidalgo-scaledBetts Putnam-Hidalgo, a lifelong social activist and a fixture at Tucson Unified School District Governing Board meetings, is running for the board for the third time. The at-large position is nonpartisan.

The retired landscaper studied at the University of Arizona and at New Mexico University. Her family, which includes several enormous dogs, lives in a historic downtown Tucson neighborhood.

In its 2014 endorsement of her, the Arizona Daily Star said that the system badly needed new leadership, and that Putnam-Hidalgo “best” understood “the complex issues facing TUSD. The board must make tough decisions to focus a district that has lost about 13,000 students in the last 12 years.” The paper noted that despite her loss two years earlier, Putnam-Hidalgo

still kept up her regular attendance at board meetings. She’s also been actively involved in school site councils, served as a community representative and taught English as a second language to parents.

She speaks with enthusiasm of participating in parent leadership training through Voices for Education as a starting point for her advocacy. Her positions include supporting an internal auditor, reducing kindergarten through third-grade class sizes to 18 and making schools a neighborhood hub for social services as well as education.

A board adversary on one issue may be an ally on the next, she says, indicating she will not vote with a bloc on the board [and] … she’d ensure the authority line clearly reflects that “the superintendent works for the board.”

These same points are in her platform today. In addition to increased honesty and transparency in the district, she is calling for an end to abusively high administrative costs and low classroom funding. She will not support enormous compensation packages for the superintendent or other administrators while TUSD teachers and staff are among the lowest paid across surrounding districts. She notes that with the current pay structure, “the further one is from the students, the more compensation one receives. This is backwards and dangerous.”


“When it comes to avoiding teen pregnancy and having healthy relationships, ignorance is dangerous.”


The native New Yorker came to Arizona in the 1970s and came to her interest in TUSD through her son, now 16. She was 45 when he was born, already stepmother to two boys.

“When we lived in New Mexico, before my own son was born, the military recruiters started to call for my stepsons. I could not get them to stop. That was when I knew there was activism to be done in the schools,” Putnam-Hidalgo told us in an August 26, 2016, phone interview, during which she answered the following questions.

TUSD recently voted to include comprehensive sexuality education in its classrooms. What would you like this new curriculum to look like?

I’m really excited about it being a whole lot more than just name-the-body-parts. From what I understood from a number of high school students, they want [information about] how emotions and sexual contact intersect … I had that at a private school in the eighth grade: how sexual activity was nothing to be ashamed of and should be fun. We made fun of the teacher at the time but I now realize she was a revolutionary! Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Kristel Foster for Tucson Unified School Board

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!

kristel fosterKristel Ann Foster is a Spanish-speaking educator first elected to the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board in 2012. She’s seeking a second term. A language-acquisition specialist with degrees from Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona, she’s spent her entire career teaching and developing curricula — in Sunnyside Unified School District; at the University of Arizona, as a clinical assistant professor; in the Aurora, Colorado, public schools; and at the Discovery School in Cuernavaca, Mexico.


“Knowledge empowers individuals to better their lives.”


Foster has said that she’s proud of her work with Superintendent H.T. Sanchez and fellow Board members Cam Juarez and Adelita Grijalva to craft a Five Year Strategic Plan that offers “continuity, stability, and articulated vision [that] was missing for a long time in TUSD.’’

“I am an educator who understands how critical the political process and actions by elected officials are to the effectiveness and success of our public schools,’’ Foster writes on her Facebook page. “I am also aware of the serious attacks that public programs are under. My passion for quality public education and dedication to the students and teachers in our community inspire my service on the Tucson Unified School District’s Governing Board.’’

Foster responded by email on July 21, 2016, to questions Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona posed.

Tell us a little about your background and why it’s important to you to be involved with education in your community.

I am an educator with 25 years of teaching experience. I’ve directly experienced policy decisions in the classroom and know how these affect teaching and learning. I’m honored to bring this perspective to the discussions we have on the TUSD Board as we move our school district forward. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Daniel Hernandez Jr. for Sunnyside Unified 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!

Daniel HernandezExtending from south Tucson to Sahuarita and from I-19 to Wilmot Road, Sunnyside Unified School District includes 14 elementary schools, five middle schools, and three high schools. Its student body, which totals 17,400, comprises an overwhelming majority of Hispanic students. In this year’s election cycle, three candidates are vying for two open spots on Sunnyside Unified’s school board. One of these candidates is Daniel Hernandez Jr., up for reelection for the first time since taking office in 2011.

Currently the acting president of the governing board, Hernandez was once a student in Sunnyside Unified School District. Although he is not even 25 years old, Hernandez already boasts incredible political experience. He has worked for numerous congressional campaigns, and he passed his first bill at 19 years old. After the shooting at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event, where he was working as an intern, Hernandez felt compelled to give back to the public by running for office. Since 2011, he has been a passionate advocate for students as a member of Sunnyside’s board. He hopes to maintain his position so that he may continue to improve public education in Arizona.

On October 23, Mr. Hernandez took time out of his busy schedule to meet me for coffee and discuss the issues surrounding the upcoming election.


“I’m hoping to work with next year’s board members to make sure that comprehensive sex ed becomes solidified in policy.”


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a Tucson native. I grew up on the south side in Sunnyside Unified School District, which is the district where I am now the president. I was born in the 1990s so I’m a little on the young side, but I’ve already had a lot of interesting experiences working in public policy and politics.

My first foray into politics was back in 2007 working on the Hillary for President campaign. I then worked on Gabby Gifford’s campaign for Congress, which led me to spend a lot of time thinking about the influence of policy. After her campaign ended in 2008, I became part of the Arizona Students’ Association, which works to make sure that students have all the resources they need to be successful. We have three public universities in Arizona (ASU, NAU, and U of A), and I was part of a team that represented all 150,000 students in the university system. I lobbied at the Legislature and got my first bill passed when I was 19. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: James Burton for State Representative, LD 14

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!

James Burton LD 14East of the Tucson metropolitan area, LD 14 comprises Cochise County (Sierra Vista, Douglas), Greenlee County, Graham County (excluding the tribal reservation), and the far eastside of Pima County (Rosemont area, Corona, Vail, Rita Ranch, and the surrounding mountains of East Tucson). Here, James Burton is running for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, where he is facing incumbents David Gowan and David Stevens.

David Gowan is the current majority leader in Arizona’s House of Representatives. He is running on a platform that includes “limiting government and promoting individual responsibility,” yet he voted in favor of SB 1062, which, through the government, would have allowed businesses to discriminate against individuals on the basis of religious beliefs. He also voted in favor of HB 2284, which authorizes the government to perform unannounced inspections of abortion facilities without a warrant, which makes it that much harder for individuals to obtain a medical service that is protected under the U.S. Constitution. Burton’s other opponent, David Stevens, voted in favor of SB 1062 and HB 2284 as well.

Both Gowan and Stevens also support the government prohibiting an individual’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion; and oppose comprehensive sex education, which would serve to educate an individual on how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and prevent unintended pregnancies. Further, both oppose adding “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” or “gender expression” to the classes of race, religion, age, sex, and ancestry in an anti-discrimination law that would serve to protect the individual. Lastly, both oppose unmarried domestic partners receiving the same employee and health benefits as married couples — discriminating against people who make the personal choice to remain unmarried.

Burton, running on a platform of inclusiveness — including listening to the people of LD 14 — was the only one out of the three candidates who attended the district’s debate. Answering a series of moderator-provided questions, Burton stated “the voices of the district need to be heard.” Burton is the only LD 14 House candidate running on a platform of inclusiveness, and we recommend Mr. Burton for a single-shot vote.

Mr. Burton was kind enough to speak with us on October 15, 2014.


“The government should not interfere in anyone’s health care choices. Period.”


Tell us a little about yourself.

When I finished high school in 1968, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. I served four years with service in Vietnam and as a hospital corpsman with the Marine Corps minefield team at Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba. When I was in high school, I began insulating pipes, boilers, and air conditioning systems with my father, at his insistence. Thanks, Dad. After my honorable discharge, I returned to that trade. After a short time I left the Midwest for the environs of Arizona. Arriving in Phoenix on St. Patrick’s Day, 1973. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Brian Davidson for Osborn 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!

10498597_1459086937673271_6501604788517873548_o (1)Among elected officials, school board members are in a unique position to directly affect the lives of students under their governance. When a school board understands that accurate, comprehensive, and inclusive sex education is part of a well-rounded education for all students, it can help empower students to make informed, healthy relationship choices and to respect the humanity and diversity of the individuals they’ll encounter in their lives.

Brian Davidson has lived in the Central Phoenix Osborn School District for 10 years, where he’s been an active community volunteer in that time. Currently, Mr. Davidson seeks to serve his community by running for Osborn School Board, where he plans to advocate for smaller class sizes, continued arts and music education — areas that have been cut in many districts throughout the state — and more classroom resources for teachers.


“Children need to be empowered with information about their bodies and prepared to make responsible decisions by the time they are in middle school and high school.”


Brian Davidson was kind enough to take the time for an interview on October 16, 2014.

Tell us a little about yourself.

A third generation Phoenician, I grew up on the west side of Phoenix. After attending Phoenix College, I graduated from Northern Arizona University. I worked for nonprofits focused on education and career development. From 2003 through 2011, I worked in environmental policy for the State of Arizona and the Environmental Protection Agency. A resident of Central Phoenix since 2002, I served on the Encanto Village Planning Committee and the Woodlea Melrose neighborhood board. I live with my wife Michelle and two children.

Why is it important to you to be involved with education in your community?

As the parent of two school-age children, the quality of our public education system is of fundamental concern to our family. I want to ensure every child in our community has access to a world-class education. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Sheila Ogea for State Representative, LD 25

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!

Sheila Ogea scaledLegislative District 25 is located in Maricopa County, covering much of Mesa. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed two candidates in the House race: Sheila Ogea and David Butler.

In stark contrast to their Republican opponents, our endorsed House candidates in LD 25 are strong supporters of reproductive health and justice. As Ms. Ogea told AZCentral.com, “We need to make sure abortion is safe and accessible and work together to decrease unwanted pregnancies by making birth control and sex education available.” We asked her to talk to us in more depth about her views on reproductive-rights issues in Arizona.

Ms. Ogea was kind enough to share her thoughts with us on October 17, 2014.


“I strongly trust in a woman’s right to make her own decision about her body.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am one of six children raised by a single mother. We lived in Arizona and California when I was growing up.

I have been married to my husband, Robert, for 47 years. We have two daughters. We lived in Michigan for about 30 years. I was a housewife, working part time occasionally as a waitress and volunteering at the school. When my daughters were old enough, I started going back to school, taking word-processing and accounting classes. I starting working through temp agencies to try and get some experience, and eventually I got a job with Wayne County Health Department.

I joined the National Organization for Women (Downriver Chapter in Michigan) in 1989 right after attending a huge rally for abortion rights in Washington, D.C. Our chapter used to volunteer to escort patients at a local abortion clinic. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: David Butler for State Representative, LD 25

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!

David Butler 2014In the House race for Legislative District 25, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed two candidates: David Butler and Sheila Ogea. LD 25 covers much of Mesa, where earlier this year high school yearbooks drew attention to Arizona’s high teen pregnancy rate by featuring a two-page spread that spotlighted the high school’s teen parents. Ranked against other states, Arizona’s teen pregnancy rate has been among the highest in the nation for many years.

David Butler is running for one of the House seats in LD 25 because he would like to see education improved in Arizona — and that includes sex education. His position on that and other reproductive justice issues earned Butler an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona when he ran in 2012 — and again this year, as he makes another run for the Arizona Legislature.

Butler faces two opponents in the race, Republicans Russell Bowers and incumbent Justin Olson, both of whom hold positions that would be detrimental to reproductive justice if given legislative traction. Bowers, who has a zero percent rating from the Stonewall Democrats of America, opposes access to abortion and does not support medically accurate sex education. Olson, too, wants to restrict abortion access and sponsored a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

Butler generously took the time on October 18, 2014, to tell us why he is optimistic about this year’s election and to elaborate on the positive changes he’d like to see in Arizona’s health care policy.


“Caring for patients should be in the hands of the doctors and not the politicians.”


It’s great to talk to you again! 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?

My commitment and desire to serve the citizens of Arizona continued to grow over the past two years. Where policy is concerned, our state is still stuck with its head in the desert sand. My hopes and convictions are focused on the 2014 midterm elections. I feel strongly that our Democratic ticket of candidates is very strong from top to bottom. I’m amazed at the excitement and hope that so many volunteers are showing.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law?

I am against HB 2284 because in my opinion it is anti-woman and anti-health care. Also, in some negative way it is tied to Planned Parenthood, since Planned Parenthood is one of the providers it targets. Continue reading