Voters will face a nuanced decision when they head to the polls on Aug. 30 to choose two Democrats to advance to the general election for Legislative District 9 in the Arizona House of Representatives.
Three Democrats are vying for the two House seats in the district, which includes central Tucson, the Catalina Foothills and Casa Adobes area: Incumbent Reps. Randy Friese and Matt Kopec are facing a challenge from Pamela Powers Hannley, a blogger and former managing editor for the American Journal of Medicine.
While the candidates tend to align on matters of policy—such as increasing education funding, supporting abortion rights, freezing ongoing tax cuts for businesses and addressing the gender wage gap—each brings his or her own strengths and objectives to the table.
Friese, a trauma surgeon who is finishing his first term in the Arizona House of Representatives, says voters should return him for a second term because he has proven that he can build relationships on both sides of the political aisle.
He points to the passage of bipartisan legislation such as the reinstatement of healthcare funding for children under the age of 19 and the restoration of vocational and technical training in the last legislative session.
"I established some really good important relationships not only with my own caucus, my Democratic colleagues, but also across the aisle," Friese says. "I really established relationships with some people that are potentially going to be in leadership next session, after the election. I think it's a matter of building respect for each other, and then you develop trust, and then you can begin to think about compromise and negotiating."
Friese wants to focus on issues pertaining to healthcare, public education, gun control and voting rights. During his time in legislature, Friese has introduced bills pertaining public school tax credits, a study on gun violence and teacher retention.
Before joining the UAMC as a trauma surgeon, Friese studied at the University of Maryland, University of Chicago and the University of Texas. Friese served in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps as a surgeon in Okinawa, Japan and Camp Pendleton, Calif. for four years beginning in 1997.
He was one of the surgeons who operated on the victims of the 2011 mass shootings at Gabby Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event, in which six were killed and 13 wounded.
While he is already serving in the House of Representatives, Matt Kopec is making his first run for the office. He was appointed to the seat by the Pima County Board of Supervisors in January 2016 after Democrat Victoria Steele resigned from her seat to make a run for Congress against incumbent Martha McSally.
Kopec is currently the youngest member of the Arizona State legislature at age 27, so, he says, "when I go door to door and I talk to young people, I'm able to keep them engaged."
"I think that that kind of engagement is what we need, because we've seen what happens when younger folks don't participate in the process and their voices are left out," Kopec says.
Although Kopec hasn't had much experience as a legislator, he is experienced in working on campaigns for former congressman Ron Barber, Tucson City Council members Shirley Scott and Karin Uhlich, and others. He also worked as an aide for Uhlich's Ward 3 office before his appointment to the House.
Kopec intends to focus on issues regarding economic development through infrastructure improvement, education funding and allowing local jurisdictions to drive their own policies.
As a Tucson native, Kopec feels he connects well with the values of voters having attended Catalina High School and graduating from the UA in 2011 with degrees in sociology and political science.
Both Friese and Kopec are doing traditional fundraising, while the third candidate in the race, Powers Hannley, has turned to the Clean Elections program for her campaign dollars. Powers Hannley takes a broad economic approach on the issues with a focus on funding illustrated by her own campaign funding.
She also supports a national movement away from private investment firms in favor of public banking to reduce the political and economic power of Wall Street bankers.
Additionally, her agenda includes paycheck equality for women, a campaign against the opiate pandemic in Arizona, a fight for a living wage and women's rights for access to contraception and abortions.
Powers Hannley received her bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University in 1973 and a master's in public health from UA in 1996 after moving to Tucson in 1981.
After working in public relations and freelance, she took the position of managing editor for the American Journal of Medicine before stepping down to take a part-time job as social media/technology editor to focus on her campaign.
"I believe that I have a unique skill set that I bring to the Legislature," Powers Hannley says. "I've been in management for many years. I've also been in health care and public health, and so, although my career spans communications and public relations, mostly I've been working in management and research. I've also been a small-business owner. I've had two small businesses that were successful."
The two winners of the primary will face Republican Ana Henderson in the November general election.