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The time to fight back — and fight forward — for reproductive justice is fast approaching. The stakes are high in this year’s state election, with candidates for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and other races on the ballot. The Arizona primary election will be held August 28, 2018, and voters need to be registeredby July 30 to cast their ballots. Reproductive health has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who put our health and our rights first. Get to know them now in our series of “Meet Our Candidates” interviews, and make your voice heard in 2018!

When David Garcia ran for superintendent of public instruction in 2014, two friends, independently of each other, told me I would like him a lot. So when he announced last year that he was running for governor, I listened to his reasons and was impressed.

The same groups in Arizona that push anti-abortion legislation so strongly also have other interests, including state funding for religious schools in the form of “vouchers.” The Empowerment Scholarship Account program, which gives money to parents to spend on private or religious school tuition, is already available for children with special needs, or who attend public schools that perform poorly. Last year, these groups lobbied successfully to extend this program to all children. The problem is that these moneys come out of public school funding, hurting the rest of Arizona’s students.

The program, which was scheduled to begin this school year, had just been signed into law when Dr. Garcia decided to run for governor. Although he has been involved in education policy for years, and was looking forward to making positive changes as superintendent of public instruction, he felt he could no longer run for that office. As he said, “The superintendent’s role is to implement the voucher bill, and there’s no way I could put together a full-throated campaign for a position whose responsibility would be to dismantle public education.”

Fortunately, thanks to a strong grassroots effort, enough signatures were collected to get a repeal of the voucher law onto the ballot this November. On the strength of this widespread opposition, the courts put a permanent injunction on the law until voters get to have their say, a decision the Arizona Supreme Court recently upheld.

It is no surprise that Gov. Doug Ducey didn’t just sign voucher expansion into law — he also actively lobbied state legislators to help pass the bill. Ducey is involved with the far-right Center for Arizona Policy, which has been responsible for anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, and religious freedom bills for years. Its director, Cathi Herrod, has been one of his policy advisers since his first race for governor. If Ducey is reelected, we can confidently expect more of the same.

So instead of running for a position in which he would have to implement educational policies made by others, Dr. Garcia decided he would have a greater impact on education, and other causes he believes in, as a governor who will lead on policy matters and moderate our extreme legislature as needed.

It is time for a change of direction in Arizona, which is why, when I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Garcia for the PPAA blog, I took it gladly. On March 20, 2018, Dr. Garcia generously offered further insight into who he is and what he believes.

Tell us about your background and how it would inform your performance as governor.

I am the son of working people — my dad was a commercial painter and my mom worked at a factory — and I know what it means to struggle. I know how hard people work just to get by and I understand why so many Arizonans feel the system, economy, and government is rigged for those at the top and against the rest of us. As governor, I am going to fight for working families like the one that raised me.

I’m also passionate about education. Like many of our students, I am the first in my family to graduate from college. I went on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, then my wife — another native Arizonan — and I came back here to build a life in the state we love. As the associate superintendent at the Arizona Department of Education, an analyst in the Arizona Senate, a national consultant with the U.S. Department of Education, or as a professor in the university, I have traveled this state and experienced up close the successes and challenges public schools face in Arizona. I believe childhood is a precious resource and today it grieves me that we are one of the worst places to be a kid. As governor, I will fight to make Arizona a great place to be a kid.

I’m also a dad of two young girls and a husband to my best friend, a woman I met when we were in high school and who has pushed me to be the man I am today. These three are the most important people in my life. I have been and will continue to be a strong voice in support of women’s reproductive rights; comprehensive health education that includes ALL our students; access to family planning and women’s health services, including access to legal and safe abortions; and policies that are inclusive, fair, and strengthen families.

Medicaid expansion has been a success in terms of insuring more Arizonans. What will you do to build upon that success and ensure every Arizonan has access to quality health care?

I support health care as a right, not a privilege, and believe Medicare for All is the fairest and most effective way to provide for the health care needs of our citizens. That will largely be fought at the national level and while we work for that, I believe expanding Medicaid to essentially serve as an in-state public option should be our next step. We should expand Medicaid, especially here in Arizona where our Medicaid system, AHCCCS, is very efficient. This is a great stepping stone on the way to universal single-payer health care.

The state Legislature has introduced more than 120 anti-abortion bills since 2009, with 32 laws enacted. Explain why you feel a moderating influence in the governor’s seat is important.

As governor, I’ll veto anti-abortion bills and work to overturn laws that erode any rights to make our own personal health care decisions. Without a moderating influence in the governor’s office, Arizona will continue to see bad legislation that chips away at women’s reproductive rights.

What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to sign into law, especially in terms of health care, abortion access, and education?

As your governor I’ll make education my priority — including comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate health education that includes educating on issues of healthy relationships, abuse, and consent. I will champion health care for all our communities. That means health education that’s inclusive to ALL our students regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

I’m an advocate for healthy families and will advance policies that support Arizona’s women, families, and, ultimately, the state as a whole.  I trust women to make their own health care decisions alongside their doctor — not politicians — and will oppose any attempt to make it harder for women to access quality health care.

When women succeed, Arizona succeeds. I believe that our state will thrive under Equal Pay for Equal Work laws and that when women are given equal opportunity, they will succeed at every level. As governor, I will push for equal pay legislation that levels the playing field for women in the workplace. My administration will partner with and encourage women-owned businesses and lead by example to hire the best and brightest women to help lead our state forward.

Doug Ducey is opposed to requiring inclusive, age-appropriate comprehensive health education in Arizona’s public schools. Do you think his views are representative of those of Arizona families? Are they in the best interests of students?

Arizona has the sixth highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, and STD rates among teens are rising. Still, many of our schools don’t have health education. Those districts that do are prevented from teaching an inclusive curriculum that protects our LGBTQ+ students by offensive and discriminatory state laws currently on the books. With all the things our youth face today, I think most parents would agree with me — it’s time to have medically accurate, age-appropriate, and comprehensive conversations with our youth about sex. It’s also time to talk about consent and healthy relationships.

Why is endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona important for your campaign?

I am proud to stand with Planned Parenthood. The work of Planned Parenthood in Arizona and with my own family has meant a great deal to me over the years. Earning Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s support tells me I am on the right track and we are running the kind of campaign that is not just focused on the right things but that can also win. I am in this race to change the direction that Arizona has been moving on the issues important to Planned Parenthood. In recent years, Republicans in the state Legislature have been relentless in their assault on women’s health, spending millions of taxpayer dollars on failed attempts to close any health facility associated with Planned Parenthood. They voted to defund Planned Parenthood health services, putting cancer exams and affordable birth control at risk for thousands of Arizona women. That will all change when I win this election, and I look forward to working alongside Planned Parenthood to enact policies that support Arizona’s women, families, and, ultimately, the state as a whole.

Tags: superintendent of public instruction, Empowerment Scholarship Account, CAP, single-payer health care, Center for Arizona Policy, teen pregnancy, education, comprehensive sex education, Ariziona, Medicaid, Cathi Herrod, Arizona Department of Education, David Garcia, LGBTQ, U.S. Department of Education, sex education, Meet Our Candidates 2018, public education, veto, AHCCCS, religious freedom, equal pay, governor, Doug Ducey, Abortion, Health Care, Medicaid Expansion, medicare