Combatting Climate Change.
Protecting Voting and Human Rights.
Fully Funding Public Education.
Those are the issues Arizona State Senate Candidate Priya Sundareshan is running on in the new Legislative District (LD) 18.
A Tucson native and graduate of both M.I.T. (chemical engineering) and the University of Arizona (Juris Doctor and Master’s in Natural Resource Economics,) Professor Sundareshan has worked as an environmental activist and counsel.
Married and a mother of two, she is currently a Professor of Natural Resource Law at the University of Arizona.
If elected to the State Senate, she will fight to preserve Arizona and move it forward for her children and future generations.
Professor Sundareshan graciously took the time to discuss her candidacy for the LD 18 State Senate seat.
The questions and her responses are below.
- What are at least two reasons you want to run for a term in the Arizona State Legislature?
“I have a number of reasons for wanting to run for the Arizona Legislature, this cycle.
I think the most pressing reason is that I’ve been advocating on a number of issues for a long time now, specifically environmental and climate change– related issues including the transition to renewable energy. Also, I’ve been advocating on voting rights and expanding the right to vote and access to the ballot and making sure that we’re not suppressing the vote. Rather, we should be making the vote accessible to as many people as possible.
I’ve been an advocate for a long time on these issues and in some cases feeling like I hit against the wall with the decision-maker – and in the legislature, the legislators are the decision makers on many of these issues.
So having advocated for a number of years, I felt that the best way to make change would be to try to be that legislator so that I could make progressive change myself as the decision maker.
So that’s one reason.
And then the second reason is that I’m a mom of two young children. My older one is almost two years old and my younger one is seven weeks old. I want to make sure that Arizona is a sustainable and healthy and thriving place for my children and all children in Arizona so that they have the experience growing up in Arizona that I did.”
- What are at least two reasons voters should elect you over any opponent in the legislative race?
“The first reason that voters should elect me to represent District 18 in the State Senate is that I bring a lot of experience to the table.
My career has been in environmental issues and energy issues.
I had a minor in environmental policy in college. I have an engineering background as well. Then I went to law school for the specific reason to study and pursue environmental law and policy.
I then practiced a broad range of environmental and energy law issues in DC before advocating for sustainable fisheries for a non-profit organization.
I then moved back to Arizona where I teach Natural Resources Law at the University of Arizona.
So, I bring a lot of experience on environmental issues, on one side.
On the other side, I’ve also been advocating for voting rights and expanding access to the ballot for a number of years as well.
Experience on both of those issues is one of the reasons why voters in LD 18 should choose me.
Another reason that I think voters should choose me is, again, I’m a mom with young children, so I understand a lot of the issues that working families face.
I’ll bring that experience to the legislature.
Finally, I was born and raised in this district. I am intimately familiar with the history and the places in this community. I really want to make sure that I bring that as well to represent LD 18.”
- If elected, what are at least four issues you would focus on the legislature?
“The first one is climate change and the environment, and I’ll even loop in water in there as well, because it is an environmental issue, although sometimes it is substantive enough on its own to merit its own discussion.
Climate change, the environment, water, those are all pressing issues. Climate change, we’ve knownfor decades now, but every IPCC report that we get underlines the fact that we are running out of time to act on climate change.
We have known that climate change is a problem and we’ve known that it is a phenomenon that is occurring since the nineties. We just have not been able to act with the speed that we need to. Now we’re at the point where we must take drastic and stronger action in order to move us away from fossil fuels as an energy source and really boost the use of renewable energies like solar and wind.
We need to develop energy storage systems in order to make those renewable energy systems really robust.
That’s one of the major issues that I’d like to address in the Arizona Legislature by providing additional incentives for the building of solar and wind, especially for residential areas.
I think we really need to improve solar and storage, especially in Arizona where we’ve got so much sunlight, and look into a number of other things that will help us transition from fossil fuel use to renewable energies and other things that are part and parcel of the broader climate change picturesuch as agricultural practices that make up a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions. There are ways that we can incentivize the agricultural community to be a much better,lower–emitting industry sector, so we can focus there.
We can also look at public transportation and try to improve it in Arizona. We have a long way to go and a lot of room to improve in that respect. And I’d love to work with the Mayors of Phoenix and Tucson to get high-speed rail between Phoenix and Tucson, because I would like to sit on the train, when I’m heading to the legislature from Tucson, I’d like to be able to get some work done rather than just focusing on traffic.
Then there is water, which of course, you know from reading the news is a pressing issue for Arizona right now. We’re already in a drought. And we see that climate change is further reducing snow pack in the mountains, which is reducing the amount of water that’s available to us from our own surface waters and the Colorado River.
We need to be thinking deeply about some of the hard questions that arise over our water use and how can we be more efficient and what laws can we change or incentives can we provide from the state legislature to make sure that we’re using water in a more sustainable fashion?”
If elected, would you promote the sustainability policies at the local level that Mayor Romero and the Tucson City Council have been championing?
“Absolutely. Yes. Climate change is a broad problem. It affects everybody at every level and we’re going to require solutions at every level. So that includes, solutions at the city level. Our mayors are doing a great job and Mayor Romero in Tucson has a real commitment to sustainability and to address climate change. She has been doing that in a number of respects. It’s also going to require action at the state legislature and at the federal level. And so, I would commit to working with leaders at the local level and the national level, but also not waiting on action from either of those levels, since the state legislature can move to take action.”
The number two issue is voting rights.
“It is a really important issue that I have been advocating for both in the state as well as nationally.
In Arizona right now, we’ve been seeing the Legislature, unfortunately, passing laws more on the side of voter suppression that are reducing access to the ballot for specific communities and making it harder to vote.
Last year, they passed a law, trying to chip away at the Permanent Early Voting List, our treasured vote by mail system which almost 90 percent of Arizonans use to vote.
PEVL is a completely secure process. But by relying on the tropes of election fraud and the big lie that seeks to undermine trust in the election system, they’ve been passing these laws to make it,unfortunately, harder to vote.
In the Arizona legislature, I would like to move us away from that and in fact, work to expand access to the ballot because voting is a fundamental right. We should be making it as easy as possible for all citizens to vote.”
The third issue is education.
“This is something that a lot of people have been doing a lot of hard work on in recent years. The Red for Ed Movement has been really fantastic in raising the profile of this issue. The fact that we are not, and have not been for decades, funding public education at the level that it needs to be fully funded.
Instead, Republican legislators are taking our state money and, instead of putting it towards public education, are using it to provide tax cuts or allow for vouchers that go into private schools that are less regulated and less robust than our public education system, which is a vehicle for opportunity for all children in Arizona to get a quality education.
I have benefited from a very high-quality education by attending the public school system that I did in Tucson.
However, I know that that’s not the case for all school districts and certainly funding has decreased over time since when I graduated. So, we need to be restoring funding to public education. Right now, the state is sitting on billions of dollars of surplus. The question is whether they’re going to allocate that money towards public education and other needed services in the state, or whether they’re going to allow that to go towards tax cuts. I am fully in favor of making sure that that sort of surplus goes to funding our education system.
And again, as the mother of very small children, I want to make sure that my children and all Arizona kids have that robust public education system that I enjoyed growing up here.”
The fourth issue is human rights, reproductive justice and gender equity for all Arizonans.
“What we’re seeing in the legislature right now is a broad-based attack on fundamental human rights. They’re targeting specific individuals and specific groups of people. Most unfortunately, the legislature has been passing laws to attack transgender children and not allowing them to participate in certain sports and other activities, and requiring teachers to make public when a student reveals to them that they might be gay. None of these are helpful for the education system and certainly not for the health and wellbeing of the children who are impacted.
That is part and parcel of the broader effort – we also saw just recently the Arizona Legislature passing a ban on abortion after 15 weeks.
I have a seven-week old, so I know very, very keenly what it’s like to be pregnant.
At 15 weeks I had very little information about my own pregnancy. And so, to restrict access to abortion, which is a needed form of healthcare for many people, to as early as 15 weeks, is just very extreme.
All of these are just examples of an attack on human rights and human dignity.
I want you to know that I would focus on trying to fight back and undo these attacks on human rights if elected to the State Senate.”
Do you support the expansion of Kids Care?
“Absolutely. I am in favor of that. I’m not sure if this is part of it, but I recently gave birth and my child was in the NICU, the neonatal intensive care unit for one week. As a result of that, I was informed of a state program that provides nurse follow up and check-ins on their development. I’m not sure if that’s part of the same program but I thought it was a good example of the state providing healthcare resources to children.”
Do you support Universal Pre-K?
“Absolutely. Yes. We need to be giving children as much support as they can get in their early development, which is just crucial in the formation of their brains.”
Do you support funding the police?
“Sure. But I also support a nuanced conversation with experts in all different fields about what levels are best and what kind of resources are best to provide mental health support, or other kinds of support that can require the help of other professionals as well.”
Do you support a secure border coupled with comprehensive immigration reform?
“I think in theory, yes. And of course, the devil’s in the details on what exactly does a secure border mean?
I want to make sure that how that plays out is smart and effective. Building a wall may not be the most effective way to secure a border. And certainly we do need to be looking at comprehensive immigration reform because we are seeing migrants coming and we need to rethink why they’re coming and be prepared to receive them and properly give asylum in the ways that they need,rather than possibly violating international law by refusing asylum or keeping them detained.”
- Is there anything that covered the first three questions that you’d like the readers to know about you or your candidacy?
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