"Rep. Orr two-stepped around

SB 1062 vote"

 
"The Observer Weekly"
First Posted: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
By: Robert Rowley, Guest Columnist
Click here to view archived article.
 

State Rep. Victoria Steele and Dr. Randy Friese

 

In late February of this year, at the first anti-SB-1062 rally in Tucson, LD-9 State Rep. Ethan Orr (R) was proud to announce that he “did not vote for” 1062. Mr. Orr lied by omission. Rep. Orr forgot to mention that he did vote for it in its first reading and that while he didn’t vote for it in its final reading he also didn’t vote against it – he reportedly left the vote and hung out in the lounge instead of taking a stand either way.

Last week at a Clean Elections debate between Rep. Orr and Dr. Randy Friese, Ethan once again tried to talk his way around the whole 1062 debacle and it made me wonder where the two candidates running against him stand on that and other issues.

The two Democratic candidates running for the District 9 House seats are Rep. Victoria Steele and Dr. Randy Friese. Democratic State Representative Victoria Steele represents Legislative District 9 in north/central Tucson from Speedway to Ina, Sabino Canyon to Thornydale and Dr. Friese is a Trauma Surgeon and Professor of Surgery at the University of Arizona Medical Center. I spoke with these two candidates, asked them a few questions and here is what they said:

Q: Do the two of you support marriage equality?

Victoria Steele: “I most definitely support marriage equality. People should be able to marry the person they love. People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender should be able to have their relationships and families recognized legally and socially, like everyone else. I believe marriage equality will soon become a reality in Arizona and you will find me leading that fight.”

Randy Friese: “I wish there was a stronger word than ‘yes.’ One of the first things I said when I announced my candidacy for the state house was that I was not going to allow Arizona to be the last state to lose its prejudice. I will do everything I can to make sure marriage equality in Arizona becomes a reality. No ifs, ands, or buts, pure and simple equality.”

Victoria, how did you vote on 1062?

“As a member of the House of Representatives I voted against SB1062. During the long and contentious debate on the House Floor I fought hard against it because it would have allowed businesses to deny service to someone based on the business owner’s religious beliefs – this bill directly targeted the LGBT community. It broke my heart that my pleas to my colleagues to reconsider their votes on this discriminatory bill were ignored. I believe SB1062 would have been very hurtful – not just to businesses, but to individuals. After it was passed and we were waiting for the governor to veto the bill, I received a call from a young friend of mine. He was crying and said he could no longer live in a state that didn’t accept him and wouldn’t protect him.

What really angers me is that Cathy Herrod and her group Center for Arizona Policy likely feels emboldened by the recent U.S. Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision. I fully expect they will be back to take another try at passing this disgusting piece of legislation and other similarly hurtful bills. We need people in the legislature who will be on the lookout for this kind of policy and who will fight hard against it. We don’t need weak legislators who will stick their finger in the air to find out which way the political winds are blowing before they push the button to take a politically expedient vote.”

And Randy, what’s your opinion of the late 1062?

“I had the same reaction as I did with 1070. It was wrong. One of the reasons I made the decision to run is to help stop these types of bills from seeing the light of day. That’s also why it is so important to elect Fred DuVal as our next Governor.”

Ok, here’s a big one for the both of you. What about adoption rights for same-sex couples?

Victoria Steele: “In working to dismantle the old CPS and working to build the new Department of Child Safety, I have become painfully aware of how many children there are in our communities who need safe, loving homes. Whether that’s a mom and a dad, two moms or two dads should not be a factor in deciding which child gets a forever home.”

Randy Friese: “Once again, an unequivocal ‘yes.’ Hopefully, that will cease to be an issue once marriage equality is a true equality. Plus, what a child needs most is someone to love them and make them feel secure. You needn’t be a particular gender to be a great parent.”

Q: Victoria, what are your other priorities if you are re-elected to the state legislature?

A: “My top priority is our children and public education. I will continue to fight for prevention services that help make our families strong and keep our children safe. Strong public schools are the foundation of Arizona’s future. We need to restore funding to our K-12 pubic schools to prepare all of our children for the 21st century.

Growing Arizona’s economy in the future requires a high educated workforce and that starts with making sure college is affordable for all Arizona families and investing in research and innovation at Arizona’s universities so they remain the world-class research centers they have become.

We must improve Arizona’s transportation infrastructure, improve trade and tourism, and attract higher paying jobs.”

Q: Randy, what are the top three issues you feel are important to address?

A: “Our funding of public education is first on my list. I am a product of public education; I went to public schools from kindergarten through medical school. Without the commitment my community gave our public schools I would not be a successful surgeon and teacher today. Every child deserves the same quality education: access to the same books, access to the same facilities, and access to the same quality teachers. To do anything less is a disservice not only to our children but also to the long-term health of our community. I am also very concerned about gun violence. As you know I was on the medical team that cared for the shooting victims of January 8. That was a tragic day. But, sadly caring for victims of gun violence is commonplace for me. I see the results of poor gun legislation every day. We must balance the rights of law-abiding gun owners with the rights of people who don’t feel safe having guns in public places. Both these approaches have value.

We must come to the middle so that everyone feels safe. I think the first step is a mandatory background check for any gun buyer, no matter where they purchase the gun: gun store, gun show, and private dealer. This would do a great deal to take guns out of hands of criminals and those struggling with mental illness.

Third, jobs are exceptionally important, obviously. If we create a community that offers stellar public education, where people feel safe and where diversity is celebrated we will begin to see companies courting us in order to relocate to Arizona.”

Ok, one last question. Victoria, what is the biggest difference between you and your opponent?

A: “I have proven in my first session in the legislature that I can work effectively with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and that includes my Republican LD9 seatmate Ethan Orr. While we work together well there are significant differences between us particularly when it comes to issues such as reproductive justice and responsible gun ownership.”

And Randy, the same question for you. What are the major differences between you and your Republican opponent?

“Mr. Orr has 100% rating with the NRA; I will stand up to the NRA. Mr. Orr has voted six times to take public monies out of our public schools and give these dollars to private and religious schools. I will work diligently to make sure not one more dime is taken out of public education. I will help to make sure the legislature pays back the $317 million that is owed in 2015, and I will continue to ensure that all monies owed are paid back.

I believe women should make their own health care decisions. I am pro-choice. Mr. Orr is anti-choice; in fact he signed the Center for Arizona Policy proclamation declaring Roe vs. Wade as unconstitutional and pledged to work for personhood for fetuses.

I know that as a team, Rep. Steele (D) and I can do great things for this community.”

Q: Randy, how are you going to handle your surgery duties and serve in the legislature?

A: “The very first thing I did when I began thinking about running was to meet with my colleagues at the hospital. I made sure that everyone was on board with me cutting back my hours during session. People could not have been more supportive. During the session I’ll be working several weekends a month and then return to work full-time when the legislature is out of session.