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

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting starts today! 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!

Scott Prior scaledCovering parts of Pinal and Maricopa counties, including Gold Canyon, Apache Junction, and parts of Mesa, Legislative District 16 is home to more than 220,000 Arizona residents. Scott Prior made the decision to run for Senate in LD 16 so that his fellow constituents could be represented by someone who advocates for workers, makes education a priority, and supports equality for Arizonans regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Both he and his spouse Cara are seeking to represent LD 16 to bring more attention to those issues in the legislature, with Cara running for one of the open seats in the House of Representatives. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed both Scott and Cara Prior because of their commitment to reproductive justice.

Mr. Prior returns to the campaign trail after running in 2012. At that time, he shared his thoughts with this blog on the many issues that needed to be addressed in the legislature, including Arizona’s high teen birth rate, inadequate sex education, and health care policy that interferes with private decisions between doctors and patients.

On October 4, Mr. Prior generously took the time to share his thoughts with us again, highlighting many of those same issues but explaining why he is hopeful for a better outcome in this year’s election.


“Let’s leave the practice of medicine to the doctors … and keep legislation out of it.”


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?

Over the past two years, it has become even more imperative to get common sense people in the state legislature. We have seen a continuing shift over the past several years of elected officials working for the benefit of corporations and special interests, and away from helping the people of our great state. I firmly believe that until we can elect people who will concentrate on the important issues of the economy, creating jobs, and fixing our failing education, we will continue to be the laughingstock of the late-night comedy circuit.

This election cycle will be different, I believe, as my opponent doesn’t have the [same] name recognition and popularity as my opponent in 2012. This gives me hope that I might be able to make a difference, and have a good chance that this election will be much closer of a contest. My convictions are strengthened by the fact that in the 2014 primary, I gathered more votes than I did in the 2012 primary. This means that people are more interested in getting their voices heard, even in a midterm election.

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 personally believe that HB 2284 is just another way for those who don’t believe women can make their own health care choices to try to intimidate and prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights. If those same people who supported this bill spent as much time working on taking care of children after they are born as they do before they are born, then my district would not have a 16 percent child poverty rate, 11 percent of the children in my district would not be without health insurance, and education statewide would not be ranked so low compared to other states. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Carmen Casillas for State Representative, LD 8

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014. 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 general election, you must register to vote by October 6 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2014!

IMG_0920 (2)Legislative District 8 is geographically expansive, ranging from just north of Maricopa northeast past Globe and south as far as San Manuel. It includes all of Globe, Florence, and Coolidge, parts of Casa Grande, and many smaller communities. By making education, jobs and the economy, public safety, and comprehensive immigration reform cornerstones of her campaign — and by knocking on plenty of doors — Carmen Casillas seeks to represent this district in the Arizona House of Representatives.

She took time out from canvassing on September 19 to participate in the telephone interview transcribed below.


“Everyone, it doesn’t matter — color, race, creed, religion, sexuality — everyone should be treated equally and with respect.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am a mother of three — I just lost my son, 36 years old, on August 2 — a grandmother of nine, and a great-grandmother of one. And I’m very proud of all of them. I am born and raised here in Globe, Arizona, and I’ve tried to improve the quality of life here. Hopefully, I did.

I was a past vice mayor for two years and past councilwoman for four years with the city of Globe. I am the founder and CEO of the DVVA Response Team, an acronym that stands for the Domestic Violence Victims’ Advocate Response Team. This program was started from scratch and ran for a period of 10 years. I am co-founder of the Boys and Girls Club here in Globe. I am co-founder of Gila House; that is a program for families who have been burnt out or are in the process of a foreclosure that is not due to their own making. And now we are moving into helping members of the homeless population who have passed drug tests and background screenings. I am a strong leader in my community. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Denice Garcia for State Representative, LD 29

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, and early voting began on July 31. 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!

Denice GarciaA competitive House race is underway in Legislative District 29, a West Valley district that includes Glendale and West Phoenix. Four Democratic candidates are competing in this month’s primary election, and the two winners will go on to face Republican challenger Aaron Borders in the November general election. Mr. Borders proudly touts his opposition to abortion rights, so it will be important to support our endorsed candidates in November.

The Democratic candidates are preparing for the primary election, which will be held on August 26. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed three candidates running for House in LD 29: Richard Andrade, Denice Garcia, and Ceci Velasquez. Below is an interview with Denice Garcia — check out our interviews with Richard Andrade and Ceci Velasquez as well!

Ms. Garcia took the time for an interview via telephone on August 11, 2014.


“Making informed decisions should continue to be regarded as personal.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I’ve lived in Phoenix, Arizona for eight years. I’m married, three children, and originally from California. For several years, I’ve worked with children in behavioral health, wards of the court, youth in the judicial system, as well as provided court-mandated counseling for those affected by drugs and alcohol. In addition, I worked with an early intervention program that catered to babies and children born with various disabilities (nonverbal). I taught toddlers, children, and caregivers American Sign Language so that they could learn to communicate with each other. Working with youth, families, and communities is what I am both familiar and comfortable with.

Here in Arizona, I worked for DES/DDD, specifically the Division of Developmental Disabilities. Once again, I found myself advocating for the clients I served, both children and adults, being a voice to defend their rights as well as promoting and advocating for their quality of life.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, the warrantless inspections bill, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about the need for heightened privacy and safety for patients seeking reproductive health services?

I think in any health network or environment, we should all have the right to privacy. I think that it’s wrong that some of our leaders have put such powerful restrictions that not only intimidate people, but invade their right to privacy and choice. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Ceci Velasquez for State Representative, LD 29

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014. 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 primaries, you must register to vote by July 28 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2014!

Ceci VelasquezA competitive House race is underway in Legislative District 29, a West Valley district that includes Glendale and West Phoenix. Four Democratic candidates are competing in next month’s primary election, and the two winners will go on to face Republican challenger Aaron Borders in the November general election. Mr. Borders proudly touts his opposition to abortion rights, so it will be important to support our endorsed candidates in November.

The Democratic candidates are preparing for the primary election, which will be held on August 26. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed three candidates running for House in LD 29: Richard Andrade, Denice Garcia, and Ceci Velasquez. Below is an interview with Ceci Velasquez — check out our interviews with Richard Andrade and Denice Garcia as well!

Ms. Velasquez took the time for an interview on August 18, 2014.


“It is of a great importance to have sex ed classes in our schools.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am a third-generation Arizona native. I grew up in the Central Phoenix and West Valley areas. I am proud of my roots and strong heritage and I am committed to serving my community. I am a mother to five wonderful kids.

My profession is within the legal field; I currently serve as a paralegal for an accomplished Phoenix attorney in the areas of family, dependency, and criminal law, with experience in bankruptcy and election law.

Prior to working in the private sector, I worked for the State of Arizona in the area of social services for more than 10 years. My tenure at the State of Arizona helped me cultivate my passion to serve my community in a greater way. I earned an associate’s degree and paralegal certificate from Phoenix College and I’m currently earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in nonprofit leadership and management from Arizona State University.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, the warrantless inspection bill, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about the need for heightened privacy and safety for patients seeking reproductive health services?

I think safety and privacy is important. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Bruce Wheeler for State Representative, LD 10

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, and early voting began on July 31. 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!

Bruce Wheeler HeadshotWhen we first interviewed Bruce Wheeler in 2012, he demonstrated his commitment to reproductive justice and access to family planning health care services. In 2014, he seeks to serve another term representing the the eastern Tucson region that is Legislative District 10.

In addition to a continued strong stance on reproductive justice, Mr. Wheeler has stressed issues such as public education and the problem of discrimination against the LGBTQ community as key issues in his campaign.

Mr. Wheeler took the time for an interview on August 4, 2014.


“Government and politicians have absolutely no right to dictate a woman’s most personal medical and health care decisions.”


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?

I am more committed than ever because of critically important personal and policy issues at risk in Arizona. What has given me hope, in spite of horrible legislation proposed and passed, is that some of that horrible agenda has suffered setbacks due to public awareness and pressure, as well as a handful of significant successes by progressive legislators.

The passage of Medicaid expansion was transformative. We now have more than 330,000 Arizonans with health insurance who previously did not.

The defeat of SB 1062 was galvanizing not only for the majority of Arizonans, but nationally as well. The instant demand that this bill, which would have codified discrimination against our LBGT community, be vetoed succeeded in just that. Continue reading

Tipping the Balance: Why Primary Elections Matter

Arizona state Senate“We will remember in November,” say activists vowing to effect change at the polls. General elections, held in November, are contests between the candidates nominated by their political parties and decided by voters. They are phenomenally important, as their outcomes determine who our presidents, senators, representatives, and other legislators will be.


Not all Democratic candidates support reproductive rights, so check our list of endorsed candidates before voting a Democratic ballot!


What rhymes with August? “You’ll eat sawdust in August”? “We want laws just in August”? I’ll work on that, but for now you should know that the primary elections will be held in Arizona on August 26, and many important races will be decided in August rather than November. How is that possible? Sometimes, only one political party has candidates running for an office, meaning that whoever wins their party’s nomination in the primary election won’t face opposition in November.

In three such races, all featuring Democrats running for the state Senate, reproductive rights are at stake. So, in case you were wondering why voting in the primary elections is so important, read on to learn about these crucial races! And tell your friends in these Phoenix-area legislative districts that the decisions they make at the polls have the potential to bring balance to our state legislature in terms of reproductive health care access. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Jo Holt for State Senator, LD 11

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, and early voting began on July 31. 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!

Jo HoltArizona’s Legislative District 11 covers northwest Pima County, including Marana, Oro Valley, and Catalina, and parts of Pinal County, including SaddleBrooke, Casa Grande, and the town of Maricopa. Jo Holt, who is running for the Arizona Senate, lives in Oro Valley.

Dr. Holt is a retired research scientist with a background in biochemistry. More recently, she has been involved in Arizona politics; she previously ran for state Senate in 2012, when she was also endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. You can read the interview we conducted with her then to learn more about her background, as well as her positions on conscience clauses and sex education.

She was kind enough to answer some questions for me this year as well, on July 31.


“I believe in an America that lends a helping hand, not one that punishes at taxpayer expense.”


It’s great to talk to you again! How has your desire to serve 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?

Thank you, Rachel. I am still very much committed to making a difference in the lives of the people of Arizona, and to becoming an effective advocate for those who live in my legislative district. The extension of Medicaid, the successful petition drive against the voter repression bill, and Gov. Brewer’s veto of the “religious liberty” bill all give me hope that the public is getting increasingly fed up with our state legislative majority. Continue reading