When the voters elect their representatives for local, state, or federal offices, some of the main questions should be will these candidates represent all the people and work to make their lives and community better.
Fortunately, for the residents of the new Arizona Legislative District (LD) Two, the choice is clear on which candidate will work for all of the people and try to improve their lives.
It is NOT Steve Kaiser. As a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, the Republican has demonstrated his aversion to helping the people by voting to:
- Pass a major voucher school expansion program that only benefits the rich and the fringe right.
- Discriminate against transgender children in sports programs.
- Remove limitations on firearm possession.
- Put barriers on mail-in balloting.
- Give tax cuts to the rich.
With Mr. Kaiser clearly undesirable, the clear choice for the voters of LD Two is educator, school board leader, 2020 Maricopa County School Democratic Nominee, and Secular Arizona head, Jeanne Casteen.
Running on a message of “fighting to defend the common good,” Ms. Casteen pledges to work for all the people in LD Two and Arizona.
If elected, she will work on:
- Fully funding public schools.
- Proving affordable housing.
- Protecting a woman’s right to choose.
- Helping to solve the water crisis.
- Protecting access to the ballot box.
She is endorsed by the following organizations:
- The Arizona AFL-CIO
- Save Our Schools Arizona.
- National Organization for Women Arizona
- Moms Demand Action
- Planned Parenthood
- Working Families Party
- Stand for Children Arizona
Ms. Casteen is running as a team with LD Two House Candidate and current State Representative Judy Schwiebert.
Ms. Casteen graciously took some time to discuss her candidacy for the State Senate.
The questions and her responses are below.
- Please tell the voters at least three reasons they should vote for you over your opponent.
“Number one, I will focus on issues that actually impact everyday Arizonans and not focus on culture wars with imaginary enemies. because that’s pretty much what’s been going on this last legislative session and for a few before that, to be quite honest
Something that’s really big for me is defending the common good. The common good is something that’s touted in a lot of our documents from our history: to promote and defend the common good. I don’t see a lot of that happening. Instead, it seems current leadership wants to defend the wealthiest one percent’s best interests or the corporation’s best interests.
So, by focusing on education, healthcare, and housing, that will allow us to provide for the common good for everyday people and not just the ones who are making the most profits.
Another reason is my experience on the Creighton Elementary School Board. I know what it’s like to be part of a governing body and to focus on the common good. You’ve heard my stories before about the meal program, adult education, bilingual preschool, and comprehensive sex ed. Those are all things that happened under my watch on the Creighton School Board and each one of them has improved the day-to-day lives of the families who are able to benefit from those programs.”
- Please advise where at least three main issues in the legislative race.
“For me, talking to voters all over really, and not just limited to LD Two, the number one concern of the voters is education and taxpayer money going to fund private, oftentimes religious schools. People are also concerned about funding teacher pay. The fact that we have this horrible teacher retention crisis with a third of Arizona students without a permanent qualified teacher. My own daughter who just graduated from ASU this last May graduated with a degree in secondary education with honors, and she’s already moved out of the state because of the culture wars that she was paying attention to, she said, “well, I can’t really teach history accurately. If they’re trying to get all of us teachers in trouble for telling history that may make one child in the classroom feel bad when they learn our true history. She already knew that the pay was low. She knew the class sizes were going to be big and she already had a bunch of little notes that her students in the class where she was student teaching, saying how much they loved her as a student teacher. Now the students are losing her, and the state of Arizona’s losing her. So, we are chasing teachers out of the classroom before they even step foot onto the campus. So, education is definitely number one.
Also in my conversations with people, while knocking on doors, I’m seeing more adult children living with their parents into their late twenties and early thirties and it’s because there’s a lack of affordable housing. So affordable housing is something that I’m very concerned about too. As the mother of children in their twenties, it is not easy for them to find a place to live. And I’m hearing more stories from friends who are my age whose children are unable to find affordable housing. In some cases, they’ve had to go back and live with parents, and grandparents, and it’s not just limited to young people. The other day I was running some errands and in this parking lot, there was a man and a woman. He had some kind of a hatchback. She had some kind of sedan. But you can tell absolutely everything they owned was in those vehicles. These were not people who looked like they were drug addicts. They look like any of us. They looked like they probably had a medical bill that crushed them financially, or maybe one of them lost their job and they were unemployed, or maybe their landlord just raised their rent because that’s happening all over the place. And there’s really nobody doing anything about that. So affordable housing would be number two after education.
Obviously, water is a big deal though fewer people seem to bring that up. There’s kind of this underlying feeling of, “we see what’s going on. We see the wildfires, these burn scars, and then the floods that rip through the burn scars afterward. I mean, we’re living in some strange times and all the scientists are screaming their heads off trying to get people to do something. And again, instead of really coming up with thoughtful, comprehensive collaborative plans to address our water shortage crisis that we face, it’s instead been about whether trans kids should be able to play on sports teams, or how much are we going to fine teachers when they teach something that might make a child uncomfortable. So, dealing with water is really important.
Also, abortion has come up in more of my conversations at the doors as well. It started right after the Supreme Court leak and especially what I encountered were young women and men who are concerned about bodily autonomy and privacy. And especially the fact that the Supreme Court Justices lied when they were getting confirmed and said that they would protect that right but they did not. I hope that that will help to motivate people who maybe aren’t always voting in their elections and maybe not always voting all down-ballot races in their elections, because the only way we can change this in Arizona is to flip the legislature. So, I’m really hopeful that it’s something that’s going to get them to the ballot box in November.”
On protecting access to the ballot.
“I couldn’t believe the number of bills that they’re probably over a hundred bills that were attacking our voting freedoms. That is actually another topic that comes up quite frequently. I talked to a woman last weekend and she was so angry over the fact that there are still people two years out trying to reverse the 2020 election. And quite frankly, it’s not some kind of farfetched dream at this point. There’s a Supreme Court case coming up that would open the pathway for somebody like Mark Finchem to overturn our election and essentially deny the will of the voters. There were so many attacks on voting freedoms and over 90 percent of the people, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents: they like to mail in their ballot. I like to mail in my ballot. It’s very convenient.”
- Please describe your campaign strategy to reach voters in your new LD district.
“We are contacting low efficacy Democrats to increase turnouts. These are some of the Democrats who maybe only show up for presidential campaigns and who maybe don’t go all the way down the ballot because they’re just not sure who to vote for. We’re also contacting independents. You never quite know what you’re going to get when you knock on an independents door but I would say most of the time, it’s actually a pretty pleasant conversation and we find out that we have more in common than we do not. Even some moderate Republicans and libertarians. I actually love talking to libertarians. Whenever they answer their doors and we have come across a lot of people who were lifelong Republicans that do not like the way that the party has been going for the last, what, six years now, and the same with the libertarians. Libertarians are the party of small government, and they can say the Republican party is no longer the party of small government. So, they don’t like people controlling their healthcare and family planning decisions or funneling their tax dollars to private schools.
Our plan is to walk to doors and make lots of phone calls. So, we expect to knock on over 40,000 doors and make over 30,000 phone calls before election day. Currently, we’ve already knocked on 12,000 doors and made over 13,000 calls. We’re also writing postcards, letters, and little notes to those who are unreachable by the doors and phones and then sending texts. To some of these select targets, we are working on our mailing plan and a digital plan for targeted advertising on our persuasion and turnout operations. We have a multi-prong approach, but knocking doors, and making those personal contacts are really what our focus is and on those that we know we need to get up and get out the vote.”
- Please describe how you’ll do outreach to both independents and Republicans.
“You know, our current legislature would rather focus on the culture war issues rather than the issues that directly affect everyday Arizonans and a lot of Arizonans are sick and tired of that.
So, I’m running to make sure every student has access to a high-quality education from preschool all the way through college. I’m running to make sure Arizonans have access to affordable healthcare, and housing, and that we build an economy that works for everybody, not just those at the top.
Sometimes what that comes out like at the doors too, people do bring up inflation, the price of gas, and the price of food. And things have increased quite a bit and if you’re on a fixed income, it, you notice it, especially the gas prices, which thankfully are coming down but when people bring that up, then I tell them there’s not a whole bunch that I can do as a candidate, but I can explain to voters what happened last legislative session, that would’ve actually helped working-class people. When I explained to them that their current legislature wants to give thousands of dollars to wealthy families who already have their children in private schools and that $7,000 does not cover a private school education in Arizona. It’s more like $20,000-$25,000. So that $7,000 is really just a taxpayer subsidy that we are funding their education while they’re taking money out of our public schools. When folks hear that, they get really frustrated.
We have a minimum bed count in our private prisons despite the fact that we don’t have enough prisoners to put in there, but these contracts state that those private prison owners are still going to get paid because that was the number that was guaranteed to them. The people are usually pretty outraged.
I’m able to kind of talk about how the party of fiscal conservatism is really no longer that. That the party of local control really is no longer that because they want to determine what every teacher and every child does throughout their day and deny school boards the ability to do what’s best for the members of their community.
Independents and Republicans are not okay with that. They used to be the party of small government. Now, I feel like we should put the sign from 1984, Big Brother is Watching You’ because they’re going to take a look at text messages and apps that people use to determine whether they’re trying to terminate a pregnancy. So, there’s nothing small. I mean, Kari Lake even said that she wants to put video cameras in all teachers’ classrooms.
There’s this whole idea of local control and small government. This is no longer the party of local control, small government, or being fiscally conservative. I would argue that it’s the Democratic Party that really espouses all of those beliefs at this point in time.”
- Is there anything not covered in the first four questions that you would like to discuss about you or your campaign?
“I went to a breakfast where all the state candidates and I think that Adrian Fontes (Secretary of State Nominee) basically said something about how we need to get voters to the polls, because this may be the last chance that we have to actually vote. This could be the last chance that we don’t have an election that truly is going to be rigged or overturned, especially if that Supreme Court case happens. This could be our last election and I don’t think he was being hyperbolic. I think we have a lot to worry about right now. I guess the last thing I would like to say to people is that find a candidate, find a race, find somebody from the five targeted districts, 2, 4, 9, 13, 16, or, you know, maybe find somebody in a school board, but we have to do everything that we can right now to flip our legislature, to protect our school boards, and to get a good, strong slate of sane, rational, and compassionate leaders at the state level. So, find a race, knock on doors, and support us so we can save our democracy.”
Please click on the social media sites for more information on Jeanne Casteen and her candidacy for the State Senate in the new Legislative District Two.