Over iced tea and ice water at the Starbucks in Chandler, LD 17 Democratic House Candidate Jennifer Pawlik and LD 17 Democratic Senate Candidate Steve Weichert enthusiastically discussed their united vision for taking care of children in poverty, who have been largely forgotten by the current Republican LD state representatives and senator.
The LD 17 District in Arizona contains parts of Gilbert, Chandler, and Sun Lakes. No Democrat has ever claimed victory in this district. Two Republicans in the State House currently represent it. This includes the current House Speaker J.D. Mesnard who has decided to run against Weichert for the State Senate Seat being vacated by State Senate President Steven Yarbrough. Pawlik is the only Democrat running for a seat in the State House.
Pawlik and Weichert are not newcomers to the political arena in Legislative District 17. They ran for the same state legislative seats in 2016 that they are running for today. While the results did not turn out as they hoped in 2016, they feel that three trends will propel them to victory in 2018:
- The marked increase in voter enthusiasm, ignited by the election of Donald Trump.
- The insensitivity of the Ducey Governorship and his allies in the state legislature.
- The spark of the Red for Ed Movement.
Like neighboring LD 18, the Democratic candidates and District Chair Jacob Schmitt see their electoral prospects improving with an increasingly bluer (or purple) population receptive to the centrist problem solving progressive ideas and vision that they offer. Both Pawlik and Weichert have united as a team, tailoring their message to all the people in LD 17, especially those ignored and forgotten by the current Republican leadership in the district who has fallen under the influence of anti-democratic, tax cutting, special and Dark Money interests.
Who are the candidates?
Jennifer Pawlik is a native Arizonan who is a wife and mother of two college students. An elementary school educator with 17 years of experience, she has also been very active in the local public affairs of her district. In addition to running for the LD 17 State House seat in 2016, she has overseen and served on various initiatives promoting the investment in education and the growth of the Democratic Party in the area. These include co-chairing the Yes for Chandler Students Override Committee, representing instructors in the Chandler District as they negotiated for “better contracts and benefits,” volunteering to help other LD 17 candidates and serving as the Secretary of the LD 17 Democrats.
Running again for one of the LD 17 State House seats, Pawlik relays that her reason for wanting to serve is that she “wants to represent those who do not have a voice: children and any communities that are underrepresented in the legislature.”
She sees herself as a listener, problem solver, and a person that is willing to collaborate with others.
A native of California, Steve Weichert is a husband and father of two elementary school children who has lived in the Chandler area since 2003. Earning a degree in Criminal Justice from San Jose University, he switched directions and worked in the tech sector for Palm Inc. (The Palm Pilot).
After the recession of 2008, Weichert chose to “reinvent himself” and went back to school, attaining an MBA in Health Care Management. With his new degree, he obtained a position at Gila River Health Care as a Data Analyst at first and a Clinical Support Director later. Interested in politics, he, like Pawlik, volunteered to help in the same LD 17 campaign and would help manage and run others before running himself in 2016.
Echoing Pawlik, Weichert states that he wants to serve because “vulnerable communities that not are being served in the legislature.”
He sees himself as a strong communicator; open-minded, analytical and willing to see all sides of the argument.
A United Team
Both candidates are running as a united team heading into the November elections.
Both candidates are committed to serving the public if elected to the legislature and not themselves or special interests, hiding behind Dark Money.
Both see themselves as centrist progressive problem solvers whose united program emphasizes “Putting people first” by investing in fully funding education, reducing child poverty, health care for all, quality jobs where people can be paid a living wage, affordable housing, increased voter access and equality, infrastructure, and green energy. They see their opponents as agents of special interests, dark money, the wealthy, and societal division.
Where does the team of Pawlik and Weichert stand on the issues?
In this section, the candidates presented unified positions on the issues. These include:
Education is the number one issue with both candidates. Decrying their opponents support of education as a charade to promote choice (code for vouchers and roundabout tax cuts for the wealthy), both Pawlik and Weichert, calling themselves the real Education Candidates in the district, want to fully invest in Public K-12 Education.
Saying that education is the key to getting good quality jobs and recruiting companies like Tesla and Amazon to come to Arizona and provide higher paying positions, both candidates call for:
- Investing in a statewide Pre-K program.
- Fully funding full-day kindergarten.
- Education standards and a modern curriculum that include factual science.
- Recruiting and retaining certified and highly qualified teachers that are consistently well compensated and respected. Pawlik went a little further calling for the return of certified instructors for the early grades where knowledge of child development is paramount.
- Modern technology in the classroom with computers that are not older than the students.
- Greater funding to build, modernize and renovate school buildings with equal access to state funds for schools all around the district and state through the School Facilities Board.
- Greater funding to go to classroom assistants.
In order to fully fund education, both candidates believe everything “should be on the table” even if Invest in Ed passes because that initiative would only fund up to 70 percent of our schools’ needs. They favor looking into comprehensive tax reform as the way to close loopholes and maybe small increases in the sales tax to address the funding disparity facing our schools.
Thinking these are nothing more than disguised tax cuts for the rich, both candidates say they are against voucher expansion under Proposition 305, maintaining that there is no accountability now to the limited voucher opportunities already available. The candidates do think an exception should be provided for special needs children whose families want these scholarship opportunities.
While there are very good public charter schools serving children, both candidates feel the system needs the same accountability and transparency guidelines reserved for traditional public schools.
Both candidates feel, per the State Constitution, tuition should be as free as possible for students.
Dreamers and Instate Tuition
Both candidates support in-state tuition for Dreamers.
Free Community College
Community College should be free and both candidates support the Achieve 60 program where 60 percent of Arizona residents aged 24 to 25 will earn a degree or certificate by 2030.
Training our Workforce of the Future
Both candidates fully endorse funding C.T.E. and JTED School to Career Programs and support the program at the East Valley Institute of Technology (E.V.I.T.)
The Economy and Jobs
According to the candidates, the key to promoting a vibrant economy with good quality high-paying jobs is a universal good quality education system. Both Pawlik and Weichert feel that good and high-quality school systems, rather than lower corporate tax cuts, are the key to luring major businesses (such as greater Tesla and Amazon involvement in the state) and the high paying jobs they will recruit for.
Furthermore, Weichert points out that the President’s emerging trade war with Mexico (and others) may hurt Arizona workers and businesses and 41 percent of the state’s exports go to our friends south of the border. Weichert also suggests that our businesses should diversify their exports, selecting other countries in South America rather than just Mexico.
Minimum and Living Wage
Both candidates feel no one can live comfortably in the district on less than $2,000 a month and that $12.50 an hour is not enough for a person to thrive. They support a higher living wage. They also support a strong labor movement reinforced by unions that can negotiate fair wages, benefits, and conditions for workers.
Both candidates favor clean energy and the innovation essential to attaining it. They favor solar, wind, and algae clean sources as well as the Clean Energy Initiative destined for the ballot this November.
They think this is a great, yet costly idea that should involve partnerships between the states so the whole country can be connected with modern railways.
All families and students should have affordable access to fiber optics and high-speed Internet. Both candidates want greater development of high-speed broadband for impoverished areas
They emphasize conservation measures and techniques to maintain the 100-year supply.
Expansion at the Chandler Municipal Airport is good for the community and will provide stable high paying jobs.
Needs to be continually upgraded and modernized. The State has to stop touching the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) to allocate for other budget areas. They also said that an increase in the gas tax, untouched since the 1990’s, might need to be considered.
People should be able to buy into the well-administered, low-cost waste State Medicaid program known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS)
The Poor and Homeless
Reducing child poverty (at 27 percent according to Pawlik) is a major priority for both candidates. Both feel this can be partially addressed through forging public and private partnerships like alliances between the community government and local faith-based organizations like AZCEND and the Chandler Community Center. They also feel that the state should no longer reduce monies for anti-poverty programs in favor of tax cuts and that funding for these areas should be restored with advocates not being forced to fight for “scraps.”
They are for responsible gun ownership and support the Second Amendment. However, they want universal background checks, waiting periods before a purchase is completed, safety measures where children cannot access weapons, no access to firearms for domestic abusers, and greater school safety programs without having to arm teachers. Both candidates commend the efforts of students in the March for Lives movement and condemn the inaction of the State Legislature for not addressing school safety before the close of the session.
Strong borders that are secured by technology like drones and increased border patrol rather than a wall that can be tunneled under or climbed over.
They and their parents should be allowed to stay as long as they are obeying the law.
Equal Rights Amendment
Arizona should be the 38th state to pass the E.R.A.
Fully endorse equal rights for members of the LGBTQ Community and oppose any attempts to discriminate against them.
A Woman’s Right to Choose
They support. Pawlik is endorsed by Arizona’s List and both soon expect to receive support from Planned Parenthood.
Dark Money and Voter Suppression
Both candidates were passionately vocal that Dark Money should be outlawed and the identity of all campaign donors publicly revealed. They both favor the Outlaw Dirty Money Initiative.
Voter Suppression and other Anti Democratic Measures.
Along with outlawing Dark Money, the candidates were equally adamant against Republican attempts and success at suppressing voter turnout including taking away weekend voting (a measure that had bipartisan support), making it a felony for a third party to carry a ballot to a polling place, and making it increasingly strenuous to gather signatures to place ballot initiatives on the ballot. Furthermore, the candidates are against their opponent’s stances on trying to take away clean election mechanisms or the Independent Redistricting Commission.
As Pawlik and Weichert work to win their races this November, they are amazed by the groundswell of community support since the last elections. Some of it they feel is due to name recognition and community awareness from 2016. More factors include the election of President Trump, the insensitivity of the Ducey Governorship and his allies in the state legislature, and the spark of the Red for Ed Movement.
The age range of their volunteers is college age to 90. The number of Precinct Committeemen and Women in the district has more than tripled from this time in 2016. They have already knocked on 11,000 doors. As in LD 18 and LD 21, the party has had to rent larger facilities to accommodate all the residents that are eager for change and want to know what they can do to make it happen.
By knocking on doors, conducting house parties, and intensive social media campaigns, both Pawlik and Weichert feel their time is now, especially with an open House seat this election year in the district and a Speaker with a dubious record of serving corporate greed running for the Senate, to push their electoral fortunes over the top to victory. Both candidates want the voters to see them as hardworking problem solvers, united in their desire to serve the public good and move the district forward. If people in LD 17 want a better future for their families and community, they should consider Jennifer Pawlik’s and Steven Weichert’s forward-looking ideas and legislative agenda for the district. Please access the below links to Pawlik’s and Weichert’s sites below for additional information on their ideas and positions.