Charting a comeback to the Arizona legislature, Democrat Victoria Steele asserts that ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment is a first step to improving the Tucson economy.
“Women are an economic powerhouse. But if you are a woman of color, you make 54 cents for every dollar white man makes,” she said. “We need a constitutional amendment that guarantees wage equality. Until we have constitutionally guaranteed protection for women, we won’t have wage equality.”
She spoke at the hot new political gathering, the Over-60 Liberals Who Do Breakfast and Lunch meetup on Saturday at Monterey Court on Miracle Mile.
The 4 E’s
Steele is running for the state Senate seat in northern Tucson that opened up when Steve Farley launched a run for Governor. The economy is one of the four “E’s” that are guiding Steele’s return campaign: Education, economy, environment, and equality. Each is affected by the other.
“Nevada ratified the ERA this year,” said Steele, State Legislative Coordinator for the National Organization for Women and co-founder of the Tucson NOW Chapter. “I will work to push it over the edge in Arizona.”
“Education is so tied to what we do in our economy. We have to find a way that we can have early childhood education,” she said. “I remember being a young single mother. I had just moved to Tucson and was doing the morning news at Channel 13. Preschool today costs $800 per month per child. If you are young women in her 20s, probably making only $1500 a month, and spending $800 on a cheap apartment, and another $800 for child care, how are you going to buy food?”
Women collectively earn 80.5 percent of what men receive, according to a report released in September by the US Census Bureau.
“Education is key if you want to bring new businesses and families to our community, and if you want to attract the Amazon.com of the world to Tucson,” she says. “Their No. 1 criterion is how good is the education system. Our education funding sucks. We have a lack of teachers because they are leaving the profession because we don’t pay them well.”
Solid legislative history
Steele was one of Tucson’s state representatives from 2013-2016. She voted to expand Medicaid in the state, bringing health insurance to 350,000 people in Arizona.
During her first term in office, Steele overcame partisan politics to secure a half-million dollars into the state budget for Mental Health First Aid.
Re-elected to a second term in 2014, she worked across the aisle. Out of the 1,000 bills introduced into the Legislature, only eight of those that passed were Democratic bills ─ and two of those eight were Steele’s bills.
Steele is well-liked and has high name recognition. Democrat Jim Love is also running for state Senate in legislative district 9. No Republican challenger has stepped forward yet.
A strong advocate of rooftop solar power, she was on the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “There’s so much we can do to build solar technology. With our amount of sunshine, we should be the global leader in solar energy. Yet we’re not. Solar power would provide jobs and could lift people up in poverty. If you ask the military, they’ll tell you their No. 1 security issue is solar energy.”
The U.S. Department of Defense, the single largest energy consumer in the world, has embraced clean energy sources in recent years, doubling its renewable power generation between 2011 and 2015.
In 2016, Steele lost the Democratic primary in the race for US Congress. “Losing a race doesn’t make you a loser,” she said. “It makes you smarter. I know I can make a difference. I want to go back to the legislature and make some changes. We need more Democrats in the state legislature.”
Steele is the featured speaker at the Democrats of Greater Tucson luncheon on Monday, November 27 at Noon.
“I love doing this work,” Steele said. “I was born to do this.”