Victoria Steele Charts a Comeback with a State Senate Bid

Bruce Wheeler, candidate for US Congress, and fellow Democrat Victoria Steele, candidate for State Senate.
Victoria Steele (right), candidate for State Senate, with fellow Democrat Bruce Wheeler, candidate for US Congress.

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 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.

Harvey Akeson leads the discussion at Over-60 Liberals Who Do Breakfast and Lunch
Harvey Akeson leads the discussion at Over-60 Liberals Who Do Breakfast and Lunch

Solar power

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.”

Find her on Facebook and on LinkedIn.


  1. I always find it a little disingenuous when politicians, mostly on the (center-)left talk about the ‘X cents on the dollar’ figure, since it’s more than a little misleading, and it suggests (falsely) that this entire sum is wage discrimination, when only a portion of it is. It also suggests, again falsely, that a simple ‘fair pay legislation’ act is going to be sufficient – or even to help to eliminate that gap.

    Ms. Steele is accurate in her assessment that education is a driver of this gap; cross-sectional data corroborates that shrinking education gaps between men and women over the last 50 years do seem to contribute to a lessening of the wage gap in younger cohorts. However, the principal drivers are almost certainly not discrimination, at least not in the classical sense. Harvard economist Claudia Goldin suggests (here: ) that the driver is that men are more willing to work longer and more irregular hours than women, and that family dynamics drive a lot of the topline wage gap, which is hardly something that legislation can rectify, if someone working 60 hours per week is worth more on a per-hour basis than someone working 40 hours (which is typical in finance, consulting, and law, among others).

    The goal of equitable pay is laudable, but the way wage gaps are portrayed by many left-wing politicians is just as a political soundbite.

    • Where I do think legislation can do work to address wage inequity is in requiring more compensation transparency between workers and firms. While the traditional Econ 101 analysis is to treat the labor market as a simple supply and demand curve with a nice intersection denoting a quantity of labor in the market and a wage level, my experience in job hunting suggests that’s not really an accurate representation of observed outcomes. Among other things, we have a market with asymmetric and imperfect information, searching costs, a large degree of segmentation, and complementarities between certain employees and firms (a law graduate can contribute far more at a law firm than as a McDonald’s fry cook). In addition, with absolutely massive companies employing millions of workers, as well as corporate consolidation in high-skill segments of the economy, a lot of the labor market is subject to substantial market power on the employer side. Negotiation ability, firms’ and workers’ knowledge of the underlying value of their labor, and the costs of job searching, among other things, cause economic surplus to be divided between workers and firms in manners that, assuming profit-maximizing firms seeking to minimize labor costs, may lead to a discriminatory outcome. While the NLRB prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who discuss their wages, those provisions can prove difficult to enforce in practice.

      I would say that a smart strategy to promote pay equity and fairness needs to start with discussions of pay and compensation transparency.

      • I’m inclined to agree with your statement that pay and compensation transparency would be “a smart strategy to promote pay equity and fairness”. The public sector, of course, is a good example. There is compensation transparency, but other forms of discrimination can still exist that are both directly and indirectly related to compensation. Even so, the compensation transparency in the public sector does contribute toward equalizing opportunities and compensation among white men, women, and minorities.

  2. another clintonista to turn off latino voters and working class white women. for her sake the district better be older /white/democratic.

      • look at saturday night live skit on nancy pelosi it will explain my comments. if you can’t see it old white liberal elitists think they are more then they are when the voters of arizona think they are less then they are. we lose election after election in arizona with these elitists. elitists think they know more then everyone else and the voters don’t trust them. tim kaine spoke spanish so clinton thought that was good enough for the mexicans. I can’t even come up with a reason why democrats put up fred duval or “boots” kirkpatrick. arpaio got defeated by angry latinos. you hope in 2018 the voters will be so angry they will hold their noses and vote for special interest elitist democrats. we will see.

    • I am a non ignorant southern white trash democrat and part native american which to a liberal elitist may seem like a republican or a troll. the party used to have a lot more of us and they came back for bernie sanders.

      • Sure thing. He’s been on the Flowing Wells School board for 17 years, and they must be doing something right since Prop. 455 was one of the few that passed on General Election Night. Results were 61.57% for (2486 votes), 38.43% against (1552 votes).

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