Meet Our Candidates: Brandon Dwyer for State Representative, LD 15

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!

brandondwyer-scaledBrandon Dwyer is running for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 15. LD 15 covers the northwest, north, and northeast areas of Phoenix and has approximately 133,019 registered voters. Mr. Dwyer would like to see Arizona level the playing field for all citizens with regard to education. He believes in equal access for all regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, veteran status, disability, or military service.


“The state should not be between me and my doctor.”


Mr. Dwyer generously shared time with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona through an in-person interview on September 10, 2016, to discuss his background and his campaign.

Tell us a little about your background.

I lived in Oregon for 26 years before moving to Phoenix in 2005 to attend the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. After I graduated, I moved to Texas, where I lived and worked for 10 years. I missed Phoenix, so I made the decision to move back and make Arizona my home.  I became actively involved in politics as a member of Democracy for America. I was a precinct committeeman for four years and served as the legislative district committee chair for LD 15 from 2014 until early this year, when I decided to run for office. Continue reading

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: Tonya MacBeth for State Senator, LD 15

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!

Tonya MacBeth croppedTonya MacBeth is running for the state Senate in Arizona’s Legislative District 15. LD 15 covers the northwest, north, and northeast areas of the Valley with approximately 133,019 registered voters. In 2012 and 2014, Republican candidate Nancy Barto did not have a Democratic challenger. However, this year Tonya MacBeth is putting up a fight for Democrats in the district.


“Without appropriate sexuality education, being a teenager is harder than it has to be.”


Ms. MacBeth generously shared time with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona in person over coffee at the Urban Beans and Cafe on July 15, 2016, to discuss her background and her campaign

Tell us a little about your background.

I have lived in Arizona for more than 40 years, arriving here as a toddler. I attended both public and private schools in Phoenix, and graduated from Camelback High School. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona, and returned to Phoenix and married my husband Doug. Doug is a retired Phoenix firefighter/paramedic. We have been married for 25 years and live in Cave Creek with our two children, Hannah and Jacob. 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: Iisha Graves for State Representative, LD 13

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!

Iisha Graves scaledIisha Graves is running to represent Arizona’s 13th legislative district. Although two-thirds of LD 13’s constituents live in Maricopa County’s West Valley, in terms of pure acreage the district is largely rural, stretching as far north as Wickenburg and all the way to the foothills of Yuma in the west.

Although Ms. Graves is running unopposed in next month’s Democratic primary election, in November she will be vying with Republican candidates to fill one of two available House seats. One Republican who she is likely to face is Don Shooter, who is running for the House after serving three terms as a state Senator — a position he used to oppose birth control access and attempt to enshrine anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law.


“We need to invest smarter in areas like education, preventive health care, and mental health.”


Voters in LD 13 looking for a candidate who prioritizes health care, education, and compassion can cast their ballots for Iisha Graves, who generously took the time to answer our questions on July 14, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in a family that struggled with addiction and abuse. Despite the challenges this created for me, I broke the cycle of abuse, educated myself, and created a different life for my children than the one I had. My experiences have shown me the importance of mental health, medical care, and social services in ensuring individuals and families thrive. For over 15 years I have been working with at-risk populations of youth and adults. My campaign is founded on the idea that it is time to mend our failing education system so that it serves all our students; to transform the for-profit prison industry into a for-people industry; and to remodel our justice system so that people struggling with addiction receive social services and medical care rather than criminal records. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Ralph Atchue for State Senator, LD 11

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!

Arizona’s Legislative District 11 covers an area northwest of Tucson that includes Oro Valley, Picture Rocks, Marana, and Catalina, and extends as far north as Casa Grande. Steve Smith is our current senator, known for his anti-choice record and involvement in the 2013 lawsuit that sought to eliminate Arizona’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.


“Reality-based comprehensive sex education is necessary if we are serious about reducing STDs and unwanted pregnancies.”


This district, or the previous district that covered much of this area, has been represented by Democrats in the past in both the state Senate and the House, and can be again. I was therefore pleased to interview Ralph Atchue, who is running in LD 11 to unseat Sen. Smith.

Mr. Atchue generously took the time to answer our questions on July 10, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

[I’m a] 33-year employee of the United States Postal Service — all in Illinois. [I’ve spent] 12 years [as] steward and local president with the National Association of Letter Carriers, and 21 years representing the National Association of Postal Supervisors. Retired as a postmaster.

[I’m a] four-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Moved to Arizona in 2005. Worked as a volunteer in campaigns from 2006 to 2014 — Obama, Kirkpatrick, McGuire campaigns. Worked for the past three years with others to rebuild the Casa Grande Democrats — [I have served as] secretary/treasurer, Democratic P.C., and member of the ADP state committee. Continue reading

May Is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

The following is a guest post by Planned Parenthood Arizona’s Director of Education Vicki Hadd-Wissler, M.A.

mother daughterAt Planned Parenthood Arizona, we hope families are talking about changing bodies, healthy relationships, love, and sex throughout the year, and with May’s National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, parents and the important adults in the lives of teens have a unique opportunity to talk with teens about pregnancy prevention. The month is aimed at helping teens to identify their plans for the future, and consider how those plans would be impacted by an unintended pregnancy.

Ongoing conversations between parents and teens build in protective factors. Studies have shown that teens who report having ongoing conversations with their parents about sex wait longer to begin having sex and are more likely to use condoms and other birth control methods when they eventually become sexually active. Even more surprising for many parents is that these studies also show that teens want to hear about what their parents have to say about sex and relationships.

Planned Parenthood Arizona can suggest some amazing resources to fit the needs of your family and to start dialogue with a teen you love. Continue reading