I sat down for a conversation with state legislator and candidate for Congress in CD6, Kirsten Engel. I got about a half-hour with the candidate to discuss her background, views, and aspirations should she go to Congress.
During the interview, I asked Kirsten about what she would like to see changed about the U.S. Constitution and the question prompted an immediate response, and some suggestions she shared via email as a follow-up:
I’d like to suggest constitutional amendments that reverse Supreme Court decisions that take away our personal privacy and freedoms or that endanger democracy or our safety:1) A constitutional amendment to protect our right to privacy, including the right to an abortion, the right to use contraceptives, the right to love and marry whom we love regardless of race, or gender, and which keeps the government out of our bedrooms;2) A constitutional amendment that explicitly protects the right of every citizen to vote and to have their vote counted.3) A constitutional amendment that would have the effect of repealing Citizens United by making clear that money is NOT speech and corporations are NOT persons;4) A constitutional amendment explicitly authorizing health and safety regulation of firearms, including licensing, background checks, concealed carry restrictions, the designation of public places and modes of public transportation as well as sensitive places such as schools and hospitals as gun-free zones, limitations upon the age of persons permitted to own or possess a firearm and restrictions upon the ability to own or possess military style or assault weapons such as semi-automatic weapons or devices that convert firearms into semi-automatic weapons such as bump stocks.
Following is a full transcript (AI-generated and lightly edited, mistakes are mine…) of our conversation:
MICHAEL: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. This is Mike Brian with blog for Arizona. I’m the founder and editor. And I’m here today with Kirsten Engle, who is running for Congress in CD six. Welcome Kirsten.
KIRSTEN: Hello. Thank you.
MICHAEL: I’m glad that you’re here. And I see also that you have somebody, a furry friend down there with you. Yes. Please introduce him.
KIRSTEN: This is our dog Zeus and quick shot of he’s. Yeah. We hope he’s not gonna be barking during this, but he may
MICHAEL: it’s okay. If he does, we don’t mind.
KIRSTEN: He’s a watch dog.
MICHAEL: We’re here in Kirsten’s lovely backyard in Sam Hughes. And we’re gonna ask a couple of questions. Kirsten, first of all, I’d like know how did you realize that you wanted to serve your community specifically as a representative, as opposed to any other capacity?
KIRSTEN: ‘That’s a great question. And I think it’s really was born out of my experience. Both being a parent of a public school student here in Tucson as well as my work, actually as a teacher at the university of Arizona. Really, I talk about this on the campaign trail all the [00:01:00] time, but it a really a crystallizing moment happened when I was serving on the site council of my daughter’s public school here. And we were trying to get money for a field trip for the kids. And it was one of these. One of these things where we had to move money around and out of, one pot into another, just to be able to afford, renting a bus for a field trip. And I just was like, this is wrong. This is crazy. We need to do something about this. I grew up, field trips, going to the museum of science and industry in Chicago, that was like a highlight of the year. And the thought that kids would not have those kinds of opportunities because we couldn’t scrape together. The money was just really frustrating to me. And the other thing was, I think I realize, look, I have legal training. I know a lot about the law and I care a lot about the environ. This, the state isn’t doing anything about climate change that I can see. I have a role here and I can give [00:02:00] back and use my skills, for the community. Yeah. And that’s what started things off.
MICHAEL: Yeah. I can certainly testify and sympathize that at some point, every lawyer goes, who wrote this, when they’re looking at.
KIRSTEN: Absolutely. And I think there’s a little bit of a. I love teaching law and I love teaching the next generation, I also feel like teaching has to move into action too. They should be joined. Yeah. Yeah.
In what ways do you feel that your family, your faith and your personal history shape your politics today?
Oh, profoundly. I grew up in a family of teachers and I grew up in Chicago. I grew up on the south side to two parents that. Had been involved in, the struggle for civil rights and had been active in the civil rights movement, both from where they were from Baltimore, Maryland. , as well as Chicago now,
MICHAEL: Explain to viewers who mostly are gonna be in Southern Arizona. What [00:03:00] the south side denotes for Chicago
KIRSTEN: Chicago is that’s more your working class. Predominantly minority, low income. I lived in an area that was very integrated. And that was something that I was very, was part of life and was really the ideal that we all wanted to have, fully integrated neighborhoods. And one of my very formative experiences was singing in a choir. It was an all city choir. It operated out of the first Unitarian church on Chicago’s south. and the choir really took from schools all over the city and we would practice twice a week and then we would go on tours actually around the country. So we both, sang, at churches and community events and, business openings. But we also traveled around. We traveled around the south several times. East coast. And it was that experience of, if you’re in a choir, you really rely everybody has gotta, pull their own weight and every [00:04:00] everybody’s relying on you, I was a second soprano and if I didn’t come in with, my lines, the song did not go well.
MICHAEL: And we have a visitor Speaking of which?
KIRSTEN: Yeah, this is my father, Ron Engle. Talk about my hi, Ron. Good. Growing up in Chicago. you were talking, this is Mike Bryant. Yes. For interview. Yeah. Oh, great. Okay. You wanna say you from Chicago?
MICHAEL: No, I was born there in cook county hospital, but oh my goodness. That was, I was just there for a very short period of time. Not long enough to appreciate
that’s a very specific experience. Believe you cook county hospital. We were just talking to that. He was talking to a nurse who of at banner who had gotten two years training there and she said I was prepared for anything after that.
and I must. Yeah we have some experiences too. Okay. Let you guys go up by goodness. Great. Me too. Good to meet you.
So you, you mentioned your background and things about your community when you’re growing up. What, and yeah. Okay. If you want to continue, that’s fine. But I do have follow up question.
KIRSTEN: Just pull those things together. There was both a interest in civil [00:05:00] rights, equality. Yeah. Opportu. But also in the environment and they were also, they were very connected as My growing up. Especially as it was very apparent to me that kids in the inner city, didn’t have much opportunity to really enjoy, the beautiful environment. The air was polluted. They couldn’t get out. And yet I did actually have that privilege as the daughter of two teachers. We had our, we had summers that were more free and we could get out into some beautiful natural areas that both made me really value the environment, but also made me very committed to issues of environmental justice. As I believe everyone should have. Access to a clean environment and to what that brings for their life. So many people may not know, but you do practice environmental and water law and teach it and have for many years. So that’s when your conviction to your determination to, to follow that path formed was in your childhood then?
Yes. Yes. Absolutely. I went, my, I pursued that in terms of what I did [00:06:00] in college. I ended up working for a state environmental protection department Connecticut one summer I I became a park ranger in the national park service.
MICHAEL: I could see you in the uniform.
KIRSTEN: yes. Oh, that was a great experience. Yeah, I bet. And and then I went to law school with that. . As a, as an end model,
MICHAEL: you touched very briefly on a couple of the key things that are central to your political philosophy, but could you elaborate a little bit about the core convictions that you have as a result of that upbringing, your background and experience in life?
KIRSTEN: I’m very committed to equality and opportunity, and I feel that government has a very important role in bringing that. And working to correct market failures to put it in an economic context but to really enhance people’s quality of life and make sure that we are living, sustainably in our environment and that everybody has access to clean air, clean water and open space and that we are [00:07:00] not living. Basically outside the boundaries of our natural world.
MICHAEL: You must be a really good lawyer cause you just predicted my next question. And that’s what is the proper role of government in our society and in our lives? I’m let me frame that a little bit based on our context here today. Just days after Dobbs (I MEANT CASEY) being struck down. So you may want to touch on that particular intrusion of government into our lives too.
KIRSTEN: First of all, government has to be directed by people and it’s not something that directs people around people direct their government. And one of the most frustrating things that we’ve been seeing is this sort of movement here in Arizona for politicians to dictate the outcome of elections. And I know in. Little while we’re gonna have another one of these January six hearings, which shows how president Trump and the Republican party.
MICHAEL: It started six minutes ago.
KIRSTEN: We’re working toward that. But also I think in terms of, the role of government is not to dictate people’s personal lives to [00:08:00] stay clear and I do believe that people have individual rights and freedoms that the government needs to respect and that this is really fundamental to our democracy and actually to our constitutional system. And the Dobs decision overturning Roe versus Wade is a complete repudiation. I think of the direction of our democracy, which has been to. Individual rights and freedoms in our society. And it’s a huge retrenchment of that. And I’m very worried. I’m worried about our next generation as a mom of a teenager. Who’s, she’s 17 and a half years old right now, soon to be 18. The world that she’s entering is a scary one. And I think those of us who are fortunate enough to be have, to be in public. And have the opportunity to be in public office. We need to be doing something about this,
MICHAEL: I also gathered that you ha that you feel the government does have a role a positive role in our lives, not just staying out of the way and staying out of our private lives, but to actually promote some [00:09:00] good. Would you talk about well, absolutely. And feelings around that, right?
KIRSTEN: Absolutely. The commitment to equality that. In our constitution also to and making sure that we realize every person’s potential. And, as I mentioned, getting into public office really was spurred by supporting public education. And I think that works back to my philosophy in terms of realizing the potential of every individual.
MICHAEL: Can you describe for us the future of the society you’d like to help us create if you were to be elected to Congress?
KIRSTEN: It is one in which people are do have fundamental freedoms over their personal lives. Also one in which we are equal. We really eliminate the scourge of racism and. Discrimination against our LGBTQ communities. We’ve seen a lot of that lately. Also this scapegoating of transgender kids in the Arizona legislature and all over the country. Equality uh, and also one where we have a much more [00:10:00] particip. Democracy. First of all, we’ve been having, we’ve been struggling just to have to have the, an end to this Medling in voting here in Arizona and efforts to undercut, people’s voting rights, make it more burdensome here in Arizona. So that has absolutely got to stop and we need to guarantee voting rights. But voting isn’t all, we really do need to really engage people in our democracy. And I think we need to do that. Really. Have our young people make sure that we’re really reaching out and that, folks are indigenous communities are really involved. So I think that, civic engagement is not just voting. It is, working on what do we wanna see out of government and how do. How do we include those voices into our polity so that they’re actually having, could having some influence
MICHAEL: speaking of what we want outta government, and maybe you could address some more kitchen table issues healthcare wages, inflation, the economy in general, in people’s people’s [00:11:00] material security. What would you like to see in our future in that regard?
KIRSTEN: I’d like to see people having, that economic security. And not worrying about that. And we don’t have that right now. There’s constant threats to that. And of course, right now, people are reeling from inflation and high gas prices and for people on fixed incomes, this is really an issue. And for a lot of people just finding affordable housing has been a real problem. Yeah. Things that we can do. One of the, one of the things that I’ve been talking about on the campaign trail has to do with prescription drugs and the fact that here in the United States, we paid three to four times what they pay in other countries on that. And part of that is that it’s really hands off that the drug companies just dictate what those prices are. So one of the things that we can do is to empower Medicare, to negotiate Of prescription drugs and that will bring it down, not just for people on Medicare, but but others as well. A lot of things we are coming outta the pandemic and inflation, I think, [00:12:00] has been profoundly impacted by that and hits to the supply chain. So the more we can buy in America the more we can produce in America of things that we need. The more we can avoid being, the, we can avoid the supply chain barriers and delays that are jacking up prices right now. Plus, I do think that, we should look at, is our corporations being greedy and is there price gouging going on? When I was in the Arizona legislature, I introduced legislation to give our state attorney general. The power to investigate and prosecute price gouging. And couldn’t get that, couldn’t get that past the Republican majority, but there was a lot of interest in it. And it seems astonishing to me that we don’t that the attorney general of Arizona does not have that power.
MICHAEL: now, if you could cast a deciding vote, a decisive victory, vote to a solution to a critical issue facing our country, but you knew absolutely. It would end [00:13:00] your political career right there on the spot. What would that issue be?
KIRSTEN: I think right now it would be codifying Roe versus Wade into statute. That really has to be, I think, the top priority right now. Okay. And this is just such an important issue to me, to our to our younger generation. It’s just profound to to roll back this right over our own bodies like this. Absolutely. That would be a vote I would cast. Yeah.
MICHAEL: Most women alive today have not. in, in a fashion that they’re going to be living from now on
they’ve their whole lives. They’ve had the freedom inequality guaranteed by our constitution. And they’ve just stripped that away. I think we are still absorbing what that means. So I imagine that you’re right. This is going to be a very critical issue going forward. I’d like to hear you tell a person watching who thinks that abortion is a sin that extinguishes a potential human. Why it’s still a bad idea, even given that to ban abortion.[00:14:00]
KIRSTEN: I think people have to realize that that there is a realm of personal that your personal life and something like, your. Whether or not to reproduce, whether or not to go forward with a risky or a unwanted pregnancy. I cannot imagine anything that is more personal.
And this does go into areas that people have strong religious views on. And we don’t we don’t legislate on. We allow people to follow their own moral compass on something like this. And I think it’s very dangerous for the government to get into the way of legislating.
MICHAEL: Why is that dangerous?
KIRSTEN: Because it’s obvious not, it’s not gonna end with just the issue of abortion and justice. Thomas’s dissent has already said, this is not. We’re gonna be looking at these other decisions that have upheld the right to use contraceptives the [00:15:00] right to marry, who we love.
And that is it’s clear that they are willing the Supreme court, this radical radical right. Majority that is now in charge of the Supreme court that got on, got onto the Supreme court. I would say from. False pretenses is now prepared. It sounds like very possibly to take those next steps.
And that is an intrusion into our private space that is, contrary to our traditions and contrary to our individual rights. And I believe how an ordered society can.
MICHAEL: as an attorney, you’ve probably given this at least some thought. And that’s how can we put the Supreme court back in its lane? do you have any ideas or any ideas of what you might support or consider where you elected as a member of the house of representatives to actually get done about it?
KIRSTEN: I think that what we found is [00:16:00] that the current. Reflects some packing that has been done by the by the Republicans taking away Obama’s ability to appoint Merick Garland to Scalia’s spot Fast tracking Amy cor Coney Barrett weeks with weeks before an election.
MICHAEL: Weeks before an election. Yeah, absolutely. When they said in Obama’s case, in Obama’s case, yeah. It’s a year before an election. You can’t have it on Supreme court nominee, right?
KIRSTEN: Yeah. So chief, the current court has not been put in place. And then I have to say, what the statements that were made by the several of the justices during their Mo nomination hearing.
Seems to be flatly inconsistent with their votes to overturn Roe versus Wade. It seems at the very least we should have hearings on that matter in Congress and yes. Let’s I certainly am open to ideas of whether or not we rebalance the court. I think there’s also other things that we can think about doing in the short term.
I’m intrigued by a lot of the discussion going on about can we use federal [00:17:00] facilities, federal lands could the Biden administration lease them to enable us to have clinics that would abor would provide abortion care on federal lands. That’s been suggested. Have to make sure that it’s consistent with the height amendment, if the height amendment is still in effect.
But there may be other things that we can do as well. We certainly have to make sure that there remains the right to travel that is federally protected for women that will need to travel for abortion care. And certainly the use of the us mail for for abor ants sent through the mail.
MICHAEL: And if you could change one thing about our constitution, no matter how big it might be, what would that change be and why?
KIRSTEN: Most of our our rights are phrased in a way that are that are negative , and there’s a reason for that to give a space. Privacy and for individual rights. Bill of rights, not having not [00:18:00] having these intrusions you don’t have to, by government, you don’t have to confine yourself to the bill of rights.
MICHAEL: You can do the whole constitution, but I guess having having more affirmative Obligations on government to guarantee equality and respect for privacy.
So more of a positive statement, more of a positive 14th amendment, as opposed to don’t do this, you will do this right.
KIRSTEN: Exactly. Exactly. Excellent.
MICHAEL: Do you have anything that you’d like to say in closing of this interview to tell people more about yourself, how to get ahold of you? And what they might want, why they might want to come out and support you with more than just their VOTE?
KIRSTEN: The one thing we haven’t touched on really so much is the environment , and this is a major part of my campaign. And we, time is running out on climate change. We are living it right now and we’re seeing that in our drought conditions and. Issues of water are really critical to Arizona’s future.
And there’s so much that we can do. That’s very smart about water [00:19:00] use in this state that we’re not doing now. And we do need to address climate change. Drought is only gonna get worse and we really are ground zero here in Arizona in terms of the impacts of climate change. And. With all the sunshine that we have, this is just a great opportunity for our economies to invest in renewable energy.
So I’d like to emphasize that. I think that is a hugely important area and one of the reasons I’m running for Congress and we need Congress to act on this. And we’ve seen that the state legislature has done very little on this. Just recently they’ve done something on water in this legislative session.
That’s good, but not enough. And they still have done just basically nothing on climate change. Otherwise it would invite people to visit our website, which is www.angleforarizona.com. And if they like to help us out, we are, looking for volunteers. We are, going all over the state.
We are canvassing, knocking on doors, talking to people about what [00:20:00] they wanna see in their representative Congress. What policies they wanna. And we’re also looking for people to, get on the phone and talk to voters. So lots to be done and appreciate people’s interest and of course their vote.
MICHAEL: Thanks Kirsten. Thanks for being with us and sharing your time. Appreciate it. Thank you.