Gunnery Sergeant JoAnna Mendoza, a twenty-year Marine Corps veteran, is one of many who have recently served to protect the citizens and national security of the United States to decide to run for political office, as a Democrat.
The Republican Party, especially in the age of Bush and Trump with its questionable military, homeland, foreign policy, and social justice directions, has driven many members of the military and intelligence communities to run as Democrats in search of better ways to move the country forward at the local, state, and national levels.
She is running for the Democratic Party nomination to run against arch-reactionary Arizona Legislative District 11 State Senator Vince Leach in the November 2020 elections.
The district, which ranges from the Ak-Chin Community and Maricopa in the North to the outskirts of Tucson in the south and includes Casa Grande, Eloy, Marana and Oro Valley, has been subjected to Senator Leach’s conservative dogma (in both the State House and Senate) for close to five years.
A native of Eloy (which is in Legislative District 11,) Gunnery Sergeant Mendoza is committed to public service and is on a mission, for her child and the rest of the state’s children, to become part of the legislature and steer the ship of state in a forward pragmatic progressive direction.
Gunnery Sergeant Mendoza graciously responded to questions outlining her qualifications and positions on the issues.
The questions and responses are below.
- Please tell the reader about yourself (education and experiences).
“I’m just a kid from Eloy, Arizona. I come from a family of farmworkers and grew up in poverty. I worked in the cotton fields from a very young age, until I could legally get a job at the age of sixteen. I was the kid that started school late because my parents couldn’t afford to buy school clothes and I didn’t own a jacket during the winter months. My siblings and I layered long sleeve shirts during the winter and would run to school, just to keep warm.”
“At the age of seventeen, I answered the call to serve my country and joined the US Navy. I served one enlistment honorably, before, answering the call to serve again, in the United States Marine Corps. I retired from the Marine Corps finishing out a 20-year military career as a Gunnery Sergeant out of Quantico Virginia. I’ve been forward deployed to a combat environment-twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. I’ve made Marines and Marine Officers, as a Drill Instructor and led hundreds of Marines.”
“I have a Bachelor of Arts in Intelligence Studies from the American Military Institute with an emphasis on counterintelligence, a Master of Science from Grand Canyon University in leadership with an emphasis on disaster preparedness and currently, pursuing a second master’s in public administration. I’ve taken a break to run for the State Senate seat in Legislative District 11.”
“I am a governing board member of the Red Rock Elementary District, Latino Familia Initiative board member, graduate of Valle del Sol’s Civic Leadership course the Hispanic Leadership Institute and Emerge Arizona political campaign training.”
- Please tell the reader what are at least three qualifications you have for the Legislative seat you are seeking.
“First and foremost, I am a public servant. I have served all of my adult life; holding a variety of roles and titles in professional military service and community settings. I have taken an oath to protect and serve many times. I understand what it means to place country over self because I did it for over 20 years and still doing it in my community.”
“Secondly, I am an experienced leader. As an active duty US Marine, I was a Drill Instructor, Corporals’ Leadership Course Chief Instructor, and Sergeant Instructor at Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. Not to mention leading a team in Afghanistan to retrograde military equipment for redistribution back to the United States. I also held additional duties throughout my tenure such as: a uniformed victim advocate, curriculum developer, and substance abuse control officer. These positions require leadership. I would have not been selected or appointed to these positions if I did not possess exceptional leadership or the special trust and confidence of my commanders, peers, and subordinates.”
“Lastly, I care about people and the district. It’s the district in which I grew up in. While this might not be seen as a qualification, compassion must be an essential characteristic for elected leaders. Without compassion, we risk creating reactive policies that seek to harm people and our environment.”
“Since my retirement, I continue to do work that has meaning and purpose. I have worked in professions advocating for vulnerable populations, such as finding foster homes for adults and children with special needs and veterans.”
- What are at least two reasons you would be a better public servant than your likely Republican opponent?
“My experience and education speak for itself when it comes to why I am a better public servant and qualified to lead legislative district 11. As stated in question number two, I am a public servant and have served in many capacities. The proof is in the various positions I’ve held. You need to have a vision for the future that puts people first and I do not think the incumbent is currently doing that. I do not think he has a public servant mindset.”
- If elected, please describe the top two education issues you would like to focus on as a legislator?
“I’d like to focus on passing legislation that would require that every school bus in Arizona to have air conditioning. Our children in rural areas often have bus rides in excess of 30 minutes or more in buses with no air conditioning. Not to mention having our bus drivers that are equally being exposed to unsafe working conditions. How can we expect our children to be successful in school if we aren’t giving them every opportunity to do so? With the constant heat advisories, air conditioning on school buses must be made mandatory.”
“The other issue would ensure that our schools are safe, which means that we address the backlog at the Arizona School Facilities Board (AZSFB). There are schools in the district that have been waiting years for the AZSFB to address the infrastructure issues that make school unsafe for our kids to attend. For example, the Red Rock Elementary School has doors that do not properly shut, sandbags that must be filled each monsoon season and placed under the gym doors to prevent flooding (because the doors are not aligned) and separating walls and cracks (sometimes a foot long) in classrooms. This has been going on for about eight years. The Governor needs to fix existing schools before building new ones. We would not be able to protect roughly 400 children if an active shooter came to the school because the doors do not close properly.”
- If elected, please describe the top two healthcare issues you would like to focus on as a legislator?
“We must find a way to help our most vulnerable populations when it comes to healthcare. The cost of medication is too high for our seniors and families. When I was on active duty, I remember coming home on leave and spending time with my 91-year-old Nana. I often found myself paying for groceries and her medication because she could not afford them. This is an injustice, especially, when pharmaceutical companies make billions off of people’s conditions.”
“The other issue I’d like to focus on is Arizona’s rural health center infrastructure and tackling the lack of primary care physicians. Ensuring that constituents in rural areas have access to primary and preventative care will reduce emergency room visits and lowers the cost of health care. Additionally, focusing on placing and retaining primary care physicians will create jobs in rural communities and grows the faculty needed to mentor and train needed providers, such as nurses.”
“The lack of pediatricians in the area is of concern as well.”
- If elected, please describe the top two sustainability issues you would like to focus on as a legislator?
“In addition to increasing the amount of energy comes from renewable sources like solar and wind to 50% by 2030, we need to focus on water conservation and environmental justice. I believe that working together with stakeholders, such as our agricultural communities, university think tanks, and water planners and providers we can develop innovative and effective water conservation strategies. Additionally, we must ensure that we are addressing the water quality in rural and underserved communities, which includes testing and monitoring water quality in all our schools.”
- If elected, please describe the top two helping children issues you would like to focus on as a legislator?
“Working with displaced children in the custody of the Arizona Department of Child Safety, I was exposed to how overwhelmed the system is. There are not enough caseworkers to adequately address the needs of children in need. We must place an emphasis on ensuring that resources are available to prevent entry into foster care and reduce the number of times children is in the foster care system. Removal from home creates an adverse childhood experience (ACE) that places these same children at higher risk for other traumatic events. I’d also like to see a protocol put in place for identifying and treating postpartum, as a preventative measure for healthy families. Motherhood is life-changing. Added stressors like paying for childcare, bills, and lack of support and resources can leave parents feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.”
- If elected, please describe the top two helping the most vulnerable issues you would like to focus on as a legislator?
“Issues pertaining to children, their health and their safety are issues that I would like to tackle head-on. We must also do a better job of ensuring that our Veterans do not end up homeless. Providing transition services and support for our transitioning members will ensure that they can continue to be contributing members of our communities.”
- If elected, please describe the top two law enforcement issues you would like to focus on as a legislator?
“I’d like to thank our law enforcement officials for all they do to keep our communities safe. They have a tough job and do it well. One area I’d like to see strengthened that would help them do their jobs and help keep us safe is to strengthen interagency coordination. Our federal system is overwhelmed, and I believe that interagency coordination at the local level, in addition to collaboration with community stakeholders can help address the gaps. I’d like also to ensure that our law enforcement has access to mental health and counseling services. Like our military service members, first responders are at greater risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. We need to make sure we are taking care of them so that they can continue to keep us safe.”
- If elected, please describe the top two immigration issues you would like to focus on as a legislator?
“Immigration is a complicated issue with many layers. One area that I would like to focus on is working with the Arizona farmers to identify issues with hiring migrant farmworkers (H2-A visa applicants). As I understand it, the approval for H2-A visas is an extremely long process. Farmers and ranchers have stated that they need migrant farmworkers, as the type of labor doesn’t appeal to Americans. However, the second portion of this would be to ensure that migrant farmworkers have more bargaining power for fair wages and fair labor conditions. The other issue that goes without saying is stopping family separations at the border. This is a reactive policy that has caused harm/trauma in the children that have been separated from their families.”
“Of course, we must also protect our borders and public safety in that area. However, I do not agree with the current administration’s policy of taking money from the military like housing and equipment for a wall when more efficient technological methods can be employed.”
- If elected, please describe the top issues facing women, minorities, and the LGBTQ communities that you would like to focus on as a legislator?
“It’s unfortunate that even today, in 2019, we are still seeing gender discrimination. Arizona needs to ratify the equal rights amendment. It is long overdue. The law needs to be clarified so that it is fair and consistent across the board when it comes to how courts deal with sex discrimination claims.”
“A woman’s right to choose is another top issue in Arizona. Eighty percent of counties in Arizona did not have clinics that provided abortions. Access to healthcare is already an issue for rural Arizonans and now women will have greater challenges. No one has a right to tell a woman what to do with her body and what reproductive health care tools and options she has. This is a private matter, not one for the state to dictate or decide! That outrages me that we are still dealing with these issues.”
“I strongly oppose the recent State Supreme Court ruling in favor of the two printers against the Same Sex Couple.”
- If elected, please describe the top two government reform issues you would like to focus on as a legislator?
“I’d like to ensure that constituents have access to their state legislators, which is something that our current State Senator in District 11 is making it difficult to do. People should have the ability to contact their legislators to share concerns and their needs in the district. Currently, my Republican opponent seeks to suppress the people’s voice by limiting access to him on all public forums, to include social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook. Most recently, he blocked a campaign team member from accessing his Twitter account. I am assuming because he did not share his party affiliation and could have a difference in opinion. This is wrong. As a State Senator, he represents all people in the district, not just the ones that share his views. He routinely only goes to special interest events instead of hosting public town halls. I’d propose that we make this an offense and one with consequences. Our legislators MUST be held accountable for their actions! My Republican opponent has already sponsored several bills that would make it more difficult for the people’s voice to be heard at the voting booth and the ballot initiative process. I’d like to see no photo IDs to vote, as they suppress the vote. Not everyone can afford a state ID and by requiring an ID we are saying that their right to vote is not valued or free. We are asking them to pay a price to vote by forcing that people have a state ID to cast their votes. How is that being able to vote for free?”
- Are there any issues not mentioned in the previous questions that you feel should be addressed by the Legislature.
“Ensuring that our transitioning military service members can continue to provide for their families after leaving military service. We must ensure that our service members who have given so much for us are taken care of after they leave service. When I was transitioning, I had the toughest time trying to get a job and I had 20-years of military experience and a degree. I was repeatedly told that my military experience did not transfer over to a civilian job in public service. It was important for me to continue being a public servant but was told that I would be better suited to being a truck driver. Being a truck driver is a respectable position, but my time in the Marine Corps did not involve driving trucks. I was frustrated and stressed out that I would not be able to find a job. Even with a military retirement pension, I still had to work full time. These are the times we are living in. It is imperative that we translate military experience to relatable professions in the civilian sector so that our service members can continue as contributing members of our society.”
- Is there anything you would like to let the reader know about yourself that has not been addressed by the previous questions?
“I am a proud mother of a toddler named Aidan who is the reason I am running for office. Our children deserve to grow up in a district that is safe, healthy, and thriving. They will inherit what we leave for them and it will become their burden to fix. Right now, we are at a crossroads, if we don’t do everything in our power to change things, we will have severed the last light of hope for them. Join me! Together we can create the future they deserve. I’ve geared up (once again) and ready to fight to protect Democracy.”
Gunnery Sergeant Mendoza is running a traditional grassroots campaign so she could better excite the people of Legislative District 11 in spreading her forward and inclusive message which stands in sharp contrast to Mr. Leach’s backward and restrictive one.
She has a team of dedicated volunteers who believe in her and what she stands for. They are confident their legions of volunteers will grow as the campaign season intensifies.
Gunnery Sergeant JoAnna Mendoza is a very dynamic candidate who has a long strong history of serving others. She is someone the voters in Legislative District 11 should consider when deciding who they want to face reactionary Vince Leach in the 2020 elections.