Fear and Loathing in Phoenix: Legislative Edition

The following guest post comes to us via Kelley Dupps, public policy manager for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

Once again, Phoenix was a site of flagrant “lawmaking” as representatives and senators from every corner of the state descended upon the Capitol for 2017’s legislative session. With so much bad news — and so many scandals — coming from Washington, the shenanigans pulled by lawmakers closer to home might have flown under most of our radars. But make no mistake — rights are under attack in Arizona: human rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, equal rights.

Bills: Passed and Signed

Compared to recent legislative sessions, 2017 proved to be relatively quiet on the abortion front. The GOP’s only abortion bill was SB 1367, or the fetal torture or “live delivery” bill, depending on your worldview, which was signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.

SB 1367 proposed — in the face of science — to bind doctors to laws written by people who don’t understand how medicine is practiced, all in the hopes of getting closer to the extremists’ coveted Ban on Abortion. SB 1367 requires fetuses delivered at 20-24 weeks to be given “lifesaving” measures — even though the chances of a late abortion resulting in a live delivery are slim to none and the law would have “cruel consequences for grieving parents.”
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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: 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: Adrian Fontes for Maricopa County Recorder

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!

Adrian Fontes croppedAdrian Fontes, a Democrat, is running for Maricopa County Recorder, an office that became the target of public rage and national bad press during the Presidential Preference Election on March 22, 2016, when thousands of voters found themselves stranded in long lines at Maricopa County polling places.

The current recorder, Republican Helen Purcell, had reduced the number of polling places from more than 200 to 60, causing bottlenecks and preventing some voters from casting ballots.


“The disenfranchisement of thousands of voters is contrary to the principles this country was founded on.”


Fontes, a father of three daughters, decided to run because he was outraged by the events of March 22. Mother Jones headlined an April 11 story about him: “Angered by Arizona’s Botched Election, One Man Decides to Run for Office.”

In his August 12, 2016, email to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, he said that “the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters is contrary to the principles this country was founded on. This needs to stop. We need solutions, not excuses. My campaign is about protecting democracy for every voter.”

At an Arizona House Elections Committee hearing after the debacle, an angry Fontes said, to cheers and applause, “A political culture that worships at the altar of slashing budgets will eventually lead to the complete collapse of our most sacred democratic institutions: the right for Americans to vote. You are as responsible for this as anyone else.”

Fontes, who speaks fluent Spanish, graduated summa cum laude from the Arizona State University Honors College in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in communication.

Tell us a little about your background.

I am an Arizona Native, former U.S. Marine, small business owner, and attorney with more than 10 years experience in criminal prosecution, law enforcement, and issues of Constitutional rights. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Scott Prior for State Senator, LD 16

The Arizona primary election takes place TODAY! Find your polling location here. 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 today’s 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!

Scott Prior cropped scaledScott Prior is resilient and tenacious in his commitment to underrepresented citizens. He is running for the state Senate in Arizona’s Legislative District 16 for the third time. He previously ran in 2012 and 2014, at which time he shared his thoughts with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA). PPAA has endorsed Mr. Prior each time because as a Democrat who is independent-minded, he places the interest of people over the interest of profit. He is committed to individual freedom and believes that human dignity should come before corporate, government, or religious interests. Mr. Prior’s wife is running in the same district for the state House of Representatives. Scott and Cara have been married 20 years and live in Apache Junction. They are both committed to reproductive justice.


“Sex education should be age-appropriate and provided in schools.”


Legislative District 16 includes Apache Junction, East Mesa, Gold Canyon, and northern San Tan Valley. Mr. Prior will be running against Republican David Farnsworth. Sen. Farnsworth believes that abortions should always be illegal and does not believe that the Arizona government should fund clinics and medical facilities that provide abortion services. Sen. Farnsworth also does not support sex education in schools, increasing funding for programs to prevent teen pregnancy, the inclusion of sexual orientation in Arizona’s anti-discrimination laws, or recognizing same-sex marriages.

On July 8, 2016, Mr. Prior generously took time to share his thoughts with PPAA again via Skype, sharing why he is more determined than ever to win this election.

Since PPAA last spoke with you, 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?

The serious mistakes made over the last two years by the state Legislature have made me even more resolved to make a difference in the state of Arizona. Funding for schools has been slashed while corporate tax breaks and funding for private prisons have been increased. I do not want to see what has happened in Kansas happen in Arizona. In Kansas, there has not been enough money to keep the schools open the entire year.

As a secular humanist, I do not believe or follow any religion. It is unacceptable for the Phoenix City Council and the Arizona Legislature to deny all but Judeo-Christian faiths from taking part in opening invocations. It is important that we all understand the importance of the separation of church and state. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Cara Prior for State Representative, LD 16

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!

Cara Prior cropped scaledCara Prior is seeking a House seat in Arizona’s Legislative District 16, where her husband of 20 years, Scott Prior, is also running for state Senate. Legislative District 16 includes Apache Junction, East Mesa, Gold Canyon and the northern portion of San Tan Valley. Ms. Prior is an independent-minded Democrat who is running a grassroots, person-first campaign centered on progressive values. She believes personal freedom should not be jeopardized by corporations, non-democratic government regulation or religion. She and her husband have lived in Apache Junction for 17 years.


“The government does not belong in my health care decisions or my bedroom.”


Ms. Prior generously shared time with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona via Skype on July 8, 2016, to discuss her background and her campaign.

Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in New England. Working in the semi-conductor and manufacturing industry, my husband Scott and I relocated to New Mexico as sub-contractors for Intel. We later moved to Arizona and bought a home. I currently work for Quantum Global Technology. The company cleans and refurbishes parts for manufacturing companies.

I have always followed politics but I became more actively involved in 2012 during the Occupy Movement. Scott and I were encouraged to become more involved. I began to think that maybe I could be that voice. There was nobody that I felt was representing me. Maybe if I stepped up to the plate, I could make my voice heard and be the voice for other people as well. Continue reading