Five years ago this month, I started my first campaign to run for the Arizona House to represent Legislative District 9.*
In 2016, I ran an unabashedly progressive Clean Elections campaign based upon economic reform, equity, and public health.
I promoted raising revenue by eliminating unnecessary lawsuits, tax loopholes, sweetheart deals, and corporate tax giveaways and by creating a public bank to spur the economic development, without draining governmental coffers.
I advocated raising the minimum wage, tackling income inequality, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and fighting discrimination against women and other minority groups.
Lastly, I was the only person back in 2015 talking about refocusing funds from the War of Drugs to tackle the opioid epidemic and to end criminalization of marijuana. Far too many people — mostly men of color — are warehoused in Arizona prisons because of activist county prosecuters and over-policing of marijuana possession.
I promised to be the voice of the people in the Arizona Legislature, and as a Clean Elections candidate, I have been free to speak my mind because I am not dependent upon big money donations.
Now more than ever, with the COVID19 virus creating financial and public health insecurity, Arizona needs experienced leaders who will fight for the people and not kowtow to the corporations.
The Coronavirus has revealed deep-seated inequities and widespread race, sex, and gender discrimination in our systems. Underfunded public schools, mass incarceration, voter suppression, food and housing insecurity, environmental degradation in the name of profit, healthcare deserts, medical bankruptcy, and violence against innocents– whether it be domestic violence, gun violence, domestic terrorism, or police violence — these broken systems are baked into our laws.
It’s time for reform.
It’s time for historic change in the Arizona Legislature and in Washington, DC in Nov. 2020.
It’s time to end austerity for the people and welfare for the corporations.
Giving away billions of taxpayer dollars annually was already an unsustainable path. Continuing Arizona’s carte blanche corporate and special interest tax giveaways during the COVID19 era and beyond is fiscally irresponsible. We will need funds to rebuild our state; the tax breaks have got to stop. We can’t afford them.
Arizona should be investing in future generations. We should fund the People’s To-Do List: education, roads, healthcare,
and security — not the corporate wish of tax giveaways, deregulation, privatization, and sweetheart deals.
In the Legislature, I have served on key committees: Health and Human Services for four years and Ways and Means, Regulatory Affairs, and Banking and Insurance for two years each. I have the knowledge and experience to negotiate the tough medical and financial decisions we face. We made progress on some of those issues that I proposed back in 2015.
- The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act was passed in early 2018, and I played a major role in crafting and passing it. I helped the Democratic Caucus craft our comprehensive COVID19 response package, which the Republicans refused to debate or even discuss. (Not having a plan or any Legislative guidance for the Governor hasn’t worked out well for the rest of us.) I worked to expand access to mental, physical and dental health care, and I fought for research-based medicine, instead of Internet-based conspiracy theories.
- Dozens of corporate tax giveaways were stopped between 2017-2020. In 2017, Progressives and Libertarians consistently voted against tax giveaways– long before Red for Ed started in 2018. To date, I am the only Democrat who voted against every tax giveaway in four years. Tax giveaways are a bipartisan issue — with Ds and Rs on both sides. (Look at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce endorsement list or the campaign finance reports for reference.)
- In 2020, using the social determinants of health, I proposed major legislation to improve and expand maternal and child health, improve birth outcomes, and save money while doing it. When I analyzed the data from the Arizona Department of Health Services, I found a 12% overall drop in access to prenatal care in Arizona in 2013; among African American women in Arizona, there was a 30% drop in access to prenatal care in the same time period. I asked dozens of people what happened and how we can fix the problem that was obviously hurting young lives and costing the state money. I never got an answer beyond “poor contract management”. Arizona is losing billions of dollars a year because of premature birth or other poor birth outcomes.
- Arizona has the WORST record in the US for Adverse Childhood Experiences (food insecurity, housing insecurity, death or loss of a parent, domestic violence). Far too many single Moms and their children are forced to live in poverty with food and housing insecurity in this state, and THE ARIZONA LEGISLATURE HAS DONE NOTHING ABOUT THIS. I proposed expansion of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to the full five years and to raise the amount, currently set at 36% of the 1992 poverty level.
- I advocated for full restoration of funding for the Housing Trust Fund, the public education system, the universities and community colleges, and childcare subsidies to 2008 levels. After the Wall Street crash, the Republican-controlled Legislature cut billions of dollars from education and social services in the name of austerity. When Arizona’s economy perked up, funding for those programs was never restored. In fact, an “surplus” funds were given away in tax breaks.
- I proposed implementation of fair tenant landlord laws and property tax assistance for the elderly to slow evictions, keep people in their homes, fight gentrification and stem the tide of homelessness. I fought for a living wage, for workers’ safety and health, for paycheck fairness, and for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
- I fought against voter suppression, weakening the Citizens Initiative processing, hurting the Clean Elections system, legalizing junk insurance plans; funding unregulated fake pregnancy clinics; weakening workers’ compensation laws; lowering the minimum wage; criminalizing standing on traffic medians; forcing citizens to buy license plates, whether they need them or not; jeopardizing our water supply; and raising sales tax on the people, while creating new tax giveaways for corporations.For decades, Arizona’s Republican-led Legislatures have been passed stingy policies that force people to live in poverty. The Republican majority refused to hear any of my bills that are designed to improve the lives of Arizonans. Republicans prefer to ignore the needs of the people and pretend there is a budget surplus to be given away in tax cuts. That is an unsustainable path.
What will the future bring?
The post-COVID19 world will be different from “the before times” and hopefully better than now. In my opinion, the past will never return exactly as it was, and we have to plan for that. Travel, tourism, consumerism, healthcare, entertainment, higher education, work life, prisons … many changes will come in these areas and others, whether we want substantive change or not.
Our job is to create the world we want. I support reform on multiple areas — healthcare, immigration, prisons, police, charter schools, campaign finance, and gun violence laws. Here are some of my priorities for 2021 and beyond.
There should be no new tax giveaways until the state’s financial health and public health have been restored. The Arizona Legislature has to stop the tax giveaway gravy train. The vast majority of Arizona’s tax giveaways have no end dates, no employment goals, no economic performance goals, and no transparency, but many have built-in annual increases.
Tax giveaways are a bipartisan issue. In 2019, I was the only Democrat to attend both the Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) meeting and the Arizona financial outlook conference and to serve on Joint Legislative Committee to Review Income Tax Credits. I heard the head of ATRA decrying local governments for “picking winners and losers” and doling out tax breaks. He said one of ATRA’s goals was to stop the cities and counties “from giving away all of their money.” At the financial review committee meeting, a taxpayer from rural Arizona gave an impassioned speech about “picking winners and losers”, stopping the corporate tax giveaways, and helping local businesses, instead of big business. When I gave a speech about tax giveaways and gentrification on the south side in March, the Latino activists used the same language about fairness and “picking winners and losers”. When you have Libertarian suits in Phoenix, rural Republican businessmen, barrio activists, and Catholic workers on the same side of an issue, it’s time for politicians to pay attention.
Tax giveaways drain the General Fund and starve programs that the people value, like education, infrastructure, healthcare and security. There should be a moratorium on all new tax giveaways until the Legislature finally reviews all of the tax giveaways (including tax credits), eliminates the tax giveaways that are not performing or not used, and assigns sunset dates and performance goals to any that remain. Any new post-COVID19 tax giveaways must have specific performance goals and five-year sunset reviews. Bills to do this have passed one house of the Legislature in recent years but have never been signed into law. It’s time.
Lastly, I believe establishment of low-cost loan programs through a public/private partnership between a state public bank and local community banks and credit unions is the most sustainable and most equitable way to “build back better”. Low-interest loans can help local small businesses rebuild and expand; help municipalities build infrastructure; make college tuition affordable; rebuild the General Fund; and help Arizona recover from COVID19.
Public Health and Wellbeing
It doesn’t do our country, our state, or our community any good to force people to live in poverty and sickness. I plan to reintroduce my bills to improve and expand maternal and child health, to implement Truth in Renting, to restore the Housing Trust Fund, and to prevent evictions and homelessness.
Some economists are predicting that as many as 50% of the jobs that existed before COVID19 will not exist in the post-COVID world. Some jobs will be created by the pandemic, but many jobs will be lost because they are not needed.
We already knew that workers would need retraining, due to technology. BUT more workforce changes will come because of the new lifestyles we adopted during COVID19.
The pandemic unemployment showed us what universal basic income could do for people. What would it cost to give Americans a basic income — enough to put food on the table and a roof over their heads? We already know that “housing first” is the cheapest and most humane way to deal with homelessness. Why are we evicting families, forcing parents onto the streets, and putting their children into foster care? These policies make no sense from a financial standpoint or from a humanitarian standpoint. What could be created or invented if people felt financially secure and had some time and breathing room to innovate? Would universal basic income be more cost effective than the welfare state? Obviously, people would be healthier if we guaranteed food and housing security — through universal basic income during times of crisis and through living wages when we get beyond COVID19. This is another area where some progressives and libertarians overlap in their thinking.
On these five levels– voter suppression, Citizens Initiative attacks, Clean Elections attacks, money in politics, and suppression of local governments — Republicans are attempting to suppress your voice and the voice of your community. Government should work for the people … and not for the money.
Arizona must reform its election laws. For too many years, Republicans Legislators have passed laws that make it harder to vote. We must end voter suppression and repeal past laws that perpetuate it. We should ensure secure voting by adequately funding the Secretary of State’s Office, promoting the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL), and instituting automatic voter registration at age 18, same day registration, and expanded early voting.
Moreover, Republicans have repeatedly attacked the voter-created Clean Elections system and the Citizens Initiative process, which has been in the Arizona Constitution since the beginning.
I propose repealing attacks on the Citizens Clean Elections Commission that make it more difficult for candidates to choose the Clean Elections option over the big money option. Clean Elections was created by the voters of Arizona as a response to the AzScam bribery and money laundering scandal in the Arizona Legislature in the 1990s. Clean Elections should be expanded to county races and unpaid boards. Why does anyone running for county supervisor need a maximum donation limit of $6250? These high individual donation limits just open the door to big money donors looking to buy elections. People running for unpaid boards — like school board — shouldn’t have to raise tens of thousands of dollars to serve for free. I propose revising the Clean Elections law with some of the reforms suggested in Arizona Advocacy Network’s Citizens Initiative, such as raising the funds for Clean Elections candidates and lowering campaign finance limits. (The virus stopped this initiative from getting to the ballot.) In addition, I propose repealing attacks on the Citizens Initiative that have made the process more difficult and more expensive and litigation more likely.
I propose repealing the bills that rolled back AzScam-era reforms, dramatically raised the individual contribution limits, and made campaign finance less transparent. I backed the Outlaw Dirty Money Efforts. If we can’t get transparency in campaign finance through a Citizens Initiative, the Legislature should do it, in my opinion. After AZScam, then Speaker of the House Jane Hull led bipartisan reform efforts. It’s time for reform of that magnitude again.
Lastly, I propose repealing SB1487 — the worst local government pre-emption law in the US — and other state laws that hurt local independence. SB1487 is the law that stopped Tucson’s Gun Buy-Back Program and Bisbee’s plastic bag ban by threatening the cities with loss of state-shared revenue.
My 2020 Campaign
It’s no surprise that the Chamber of Commerce Republican in the LD9 race is targeting me in 2020. The choice is crystal clear between the two of us. During my four years in the Arizona Legislature, I have been the most outspoken critic of tax giveaways for corporations and austerity for the people. Back in May, when the Governor opened up the Arizona economy too soon and didn’t require face masks, my opponent Brendan Lyons was aligned with the Governor and the Chamber — not with public health experts, as I was. He backed opening up the Arizona economy, regardless of the COVID19 pandemic, and said masks were a personal choice. Premature opening of the economy in May gave us more death and disease and more shutdowns in July. Lyons is for privatized, for-profit health insurance, which has given the US the most expensive patchwork of care in the world. He’s for continuing the tax giveaway gravy train. He’s for school choice. Lyons completely silent on public education, poverty, food and housing insecurity, reproductive choice and women’s issues, fair wages and the Equal Rights Amendment, the financial and physical wellbeing of Arizonans, civil rights (except to brag about his police endorsements), and even his party affiliation. He’s funded by developers, businesses that thrive on the prison industrial complex, and big money donors who have become wealthier and more powerful, with Republicans controlling the Legislature. Lastly, Lyons has the seal of approval from the Republican establishment: Governor Doug Ducey, Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, Senate President Karen Fann, Jim Click and more.
LD9, do you want your representative to be a solid Republican vote in the Legislature OR a solid Progressive vote?
I think I know your answer. LD9 is one of the most progressive districts in the state. Let’s do this. The victory will be even sweeter to beat a Chamber-backed candidate with Clean Elections funds.
To learn more about me, to see my video updates, or to find out where I stand on the issues, go to PowersForThePeople.net. As a Clean Elections candidate, I take no Big Money donations. Please vote for me on or before November 3 in the upcoming election.
*NOTE: The bulk of this blog post is the speech that I gave to Democrats of Greater Tucson on August 24, 2020. Below is the video on the online event.