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

Legislative District 9 Candidates Clash on Reproductive Rights

On October 6, the three House candidates for the 9th legislative district met at a church in the Foothills of Tucson to discuss economic development, education, gun control, and reproductive rights. Given that the Democratic candidates, incumbent Victoria Steele and first-time candidate Randall Friese, are such strong advocates for reproductive justice — in stark contrast to the Republican candidate, incumbent Ethan Orr — Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona was there to take notes.

Steele debateRep. Victoria Steele, having just completed her first term in the Arizona House of Representatives, used part of her opening statement to reflect on her time at the Capitol: “Outside of raising my son to be an adult, this is the most meaningful thing I have done in my life.” She drew a connection between her professional background and her desire to serve her community as a legislator. “As a behavioral health counselor, I had to empower people one on one,” she explained. “As a state legislator, I get to do that on a much wider, much broader basis.”

Reproductive rights emerged as one of the major themes of the night. During her opening statement, Rep. Steele put her desire to “defend a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions” up front and center.

Later in the debate, Rep. Steele spoke in more detail about women’s rights. She advocated for equal pay, fair and living wages, and reproductive justice. “If women don’t have basic rights over their own bodies, they cannot equally contribute to the conversation, they cannot be at the table, they cannot be a player in moving our state forward,” she asserted. “If women don’t have these basic rights, they cannot contribute to the economy, and their families cannot have the quality of life that we so deserve in Arizona.” Continue reading

Ron Barber Takes a Stand for Women’s Health

Editor’s Note: What follows is our unedited, exclusive interview with Ron Barber, the candidate who is running to complete Gabrielle Giffords’ term in Congressional District 8. Barber has worked with Giffords since she was elected to Congress in 2006, after which he became the head of her Tucson office. He is endorsed by both Giffords and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Prior to his work with Giffords, he navigated bureaucratic red tape as head of the Southern Arizona branch of the state’s Division of Developmental Disabilities, advocating for vulnerable members of the community. With strong bipartisan support, and strong roots in Southern Arizona, Barber will stand for CD8 in Washington — but first, he needs your vote. The election will be held on June 12, 2012; you can also vote by early ballot.


“Our federal and state budgets should reflect our values and not the extreme positions of a few legislators.”


Please give me a little background on yourself: where you grew up, your education, how long you’ve lived in Tucson.

I have lived here in Southern Arizona most of my life, running a small business with my wife, Nancy, and helping solve community problems — whether it was heading up Congresswoman Giffords’ district operations to help people get results by cutting through federal agency red tape, or working for 35 years to look out for people with disabilities.

I was born in England, but went to high school in Tucson, where I met my wife, Nancy. We were high school sweethearts — we first started dating in 1960 and have been together ever since. I went to the University of Arizona, here in Tucson, and received a bachelor’s degree. I’ve lived in Tucson for over 50 years — my children and grandchildren all live here as well.

What women’s health care issues do you see will need to be addressed in the remainder of this legislative term and in the next?

Access to basic care is still a major issue for women’s health. We must ensure that regardless of state laws on abortions or funding, Planned Parenthood and other clinics continue to receive funds to provide basic health care to women — from cancer screenings to mammograms. Continue reading

Special Election on June 12: Ron Barber Stands with Planned Parenthood

It’s pretty safe to say that nearly all of the political advertisements and newspaper articles covering the Congressional District 8 race between Ron Barber and Jesse Kelly have focused on Social Security and Medicare. But, the issue of women’s health care is also critical – and one that hasn’t received much attention.

Jesse Kelly is an avowed anti-choice candidate and has received support from the National Right to Life Political Action Committee. Barber, when asked about his position on choice and women’s health care, said he has always been pro-choice and believes women’s health care decisions must be made between women and their doctors.


Ron Barber is running to finish Gabrielle Giffords’ term in the June 12, 2012, special election. Early voting starts on May 17.


“There has been too much political debate about limiting our freedoms,” he told us. “Women have the right to make their own choices about contraception and any interference from the government or employers is an affront to personal liberty.”

The debate on women’s health care used to center on abortion. It has now expanded to include the availability of contraception and the “right to refusal” –  so-called consciousness clauses that allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency contraception, employers to opt out of providing insurance coverage for birth control, and health care providers to refuse emergency care for pregnant women. Barber, as do most Americans, believes that the “availability of contraception was an issue we settled 50 years ago” and employers, insurance companies, and pharmacists should not put themselves between a woman and her doctor. Continue reading