Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Grassroots volunteers mingled with local and statewide Democratic Party glitterati at the official campaign kick-off event for Dr. Randall Friese, who is running for a seat in Arizona House of Representatives.
Friese recently announced his candidacy for one of LD9’s two seats in the Arizona House. Currently, LD9, which stretches from Speedway in midtown north into the Foothills, is a competitive district being served by Republican Ethan Orr and Democrat Victoria Steele in the House and Democrat Steve Farley in the Arizona Senate.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband Mark Kelly hosted an estimated 130 stalwarts of the Pima County Democratic Party, including current County Chair Don Jorgenson, past Chair Jeff Rogers, and several current and former elected Democrats: LD9 Rep. Victoria Steele, LD10 Reps. Stephanie Mach and Bruce Wheeler, LD10 Senator Dave Bradley, Tucson City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, former Attorney General and current Secretary of State candidate Terry Goddard, and former Rep. Nancy Young-Wright. (Farley was conspicuously absent, following a social media dust-up on Friday over this article in the Arizona Daily Star.)
Former Giffords’ staffer Pam Simon and Kelly gave impassioned speeches about Friese, who was one of the University Medical Center trauma surgeons who cared for Giffords and others who were shot on January 8, 2011. During Giffords’ long stay in UMC’s intensive care unit (ICU), Kelly and Friese became friends and had many late-night ICU discussions on multiple topics– including politics. According to Kelly, Friese and Giffords are similar in that they are dedicated to finding solutions, not playing politics.
Friese was friendly but decisive in his short speech. He laid out five key issues: public education, reproductive rights, responsible gun ownership and universal background checks, marriage equality, and voting rights. As someone who has attended many of these events, Friese’s forthrightness was a breath of fresh air, compared to other politicians who dance around tough issues like choice and gun control– rather than give an concrete opinion.
Friese, who is trying to oust anti-abortion Christian conservative Orr, made unequivocal statements in support of reproductive rights, contraceptive education to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and marriage equality. Although Orr’s campaign website doesn’t mention any of these issues, he recently signed a pledge to fight for fetal rights and fetal personhood. The pledge was created by the Center for Arizona Policy, a group that fights against reproductive choice and marriage equality and fights for religious exemptions to federal laws.
Citing a decrease in the number of abortions, Friese said, “We are moving in the right direction, but our legislature want to move us backward” by denying access to free or reduced cost women’s health care, contraception, abortion, and reproductive health education. (Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups were strongly represented at Friese’s kick-off.)
On gun control, Friese asked supporters to send him to Phoenix to seek “middle ground” on responsible gun ownership; this has long been key issue for Giffords and Kelly, who are gun enthusiasts who believe in gun control. Their Americans for Responsible Solutions has played a key role in trying to move the US Congress toward “solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership”.
According to Friese, the issue is not about taking guns away or about owning as many guns as possible.
“There is a middle ground where responsible, law-abiding Arizonans’ rights are protected and at the same time we keep guns out of the hands of mentally unstable individuals and criminals,” Friese said. “I want to go to Phoenix to find that middle ground. I want to go to Phoenix to keep us safe.” (Although gun rights/gun control are not mentioned on his campaign website,Orr voted for several pro-gun/Second Amendment bills in 2013, was endorsed by the NRA, and received a 92% approval rating from the NRA.)
On marriage equality, Friese said that Arizona is one of 33 states that have stood against marriage equality; he said he doesn’t want Arizona to be “the last state that shakes off its prejudice” about the freedom to marry whom you love.
Citing the Arizona Legislature’s multiple attempts at voter suppression, Friese concluded his speech by saying, “I stand for making it easier to vote and not harder.”
Voter suppression is another key issue where Friese and Orr are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Although Orr’s campaign website doesn’t mention voter suppression as an issue, Orr voted with Republicans to pass the Omnibus Voter Suppression Bill (HB2305) in the dead of night at the end of the 2013 session; more recently, he voted with Republicans to repeal HB2305– thus stopping a citizens’ referendum on voter suppression and paving the way for new anti-voter laws.
Orr and the local media have worked hard to paint him as “moderate” Repulbican, but with his pro-life, pro-gun, pro-voter-suppression stances, he’s clearly not a moderate. The choice between Friese– who clearly states his opinions– and Orr– who votes with Tea Party conservatives but dodges tough issues and specifics on his campaign website– is crystal clear.
Dr. Randy Friese
|Public Education||Supports strong public education system.||Wants “smart and successful approach to educating to our children” but no mention of how on his website.|
|Reproductive Rights||Supports choice, reproductive rights, and contraceptive education.||Signed pledge to support fetal rights and fetal personhood; generally known as pro-life.[Issue not listed on campaign website.]|
|Gun Ownership||Supports “responsible” gun ownership and universal background checks.||Voted for multiple pro-gun bills in 2013; endorsed by NRA; has 92% approval rating from the NRA.[Issue not listed on campaign website.]|
|Marriage Equality||Supports marriage equality.||No public statements on Internet.[Issue not listed on campaign website.]|
|Voting Rights||Supports “making it easier to vote”.||Voted to suppress voting (HB2305) and to stop citizens from voting on Omnibus Voter Suppression Bill (HB2305).[Issue not listed on campaign website.]|
More event photos available at the Tucson Progressive’s Facebook page.