Juan E. Méndez is a lawyer and human rights activist known for his work on behalf of political prisoners.
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Hi Reddit, I'm a long time redditor and look forward to sharing my
experiences growing up in Arizona, how I got into politics and what I
think about the state of our Democracy.
I am honored to be endorsed by Our Revolution -
I won my August State Senate primary and move on to the general
election without any competition. We can talk about Arizona politics
but I would love to ask for your help Moving Arizona Forward
Arizona is the only state in the U.S. with the potential to flip the
Republican control of our State Senate or at least tie 15 Democrats -
15 Republicans. I am a Clean Elections politician - I don't take money
from lobbyist or the wealthy. I raise my funding through small dollar
donations from people in my district that get matched with public
funding. But I need your help to get more progressive candidates
elected in Arizona with this 2016 election. Please donate what you can
to a PAC I created to move Arizoan forward -
Today is also the last day to register to vote in Arizona.
http://servicearizona.com/ Please help me make sure everyone in
Arizona knows that we have the potential to raise the min wage (we're
getting $8.05 here), legalize adult use of cannabis, elect Arizona's
first Women US Senator and I'll be Arizona's first open atheist State
Senator. You could help us win a Democratic controlled State Senate
and I could end up chairing a State Senate committee.
Our early ballots get mailed out either this week or the next, help me
raise enough money to educate voters about which candidates will help
us win a Democratic State Senate Majority in Arizona!
Twitter - @Repmendez
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/mendezforaz/
8:53am - I'll let some questions pop up and start answering them a little after 9am AZ time. I'll try and stay available for as long as I can today. Thanks
How do you claim that you don't take money from lobbyist yet you have a Political Action Committee which if I understand correctly is used to bypass public financing option (as show by Colbert in 2012 elections)?
I'm a fan of Lawrence Lessig, he's a constitutional scholar, tried to run for congress and then president this year.
We both want to bring about real progressive campaign financing but we're also equally tired of waiting for our current politicians to drop their addiction to money. Every year the Clean Elections system I use to keep money out of my election is threatened. This last legislative cycle I honestly believed we were going to lose our Clean Election system. It was only saved because of other drama and egos that pre emptively ended our session early.
I wasn't getting anywhere by myself - though I was part of a team that fought off traditional dirty candidates in my own district. We've won as many seats as we're going to win with clean elections as it currently is. The system is by no means perfect. As a clean elections candidate I'm limited to just $40K to win a primary and general election. That is more than enough for me in my district but doesn't mean anything to anyone running in a truly competitive seat.
I'm certainly campaigning in these other districts to get progressive candidates elected but because of how much traditional candidates are allowed to raise all our hard work equates to nothing more and wishes and hopes.
Again and again, what Arizona wants, our legislature doesn’t do — because the citizens who fund elections are represented, and the rest of us are not.
Every issue — from climate change to gun safety, from water to education spending — is blocked by this fundamental problem: Our current legislature does not represent the people.
The solution is to fix our democracy because a politician's reliance on a small group of funders denies equal citizenship in a way that resembles racial discrimination in voting.
So I started a PAC to do just that - I want to get people elected to office that will end the reign of PACs and I'm using a PAC to do that. I can't use the money on my own election.
College aged native here. What are your thoughts on the new recreational marijuana bill? Do you personally believe it has a chance to suceed even though a few portions have generated controversy?
I think this initiative took too long to get to the ballot but at the same time this election is perfect to pass this initiative.
I'm confident AZ will legalize cannabis this election. I don't think the initiative is perfect, I'm a little worried about having so little shops for the whole state. But with the amount of new voters we registered this election along with the minimum wage increase I'm confident in a large progressive turnout.
Every progressive thing Arizona has done has come through voter initiative. We have publicly financed elections, our public research college ASU, somewhat of a min wage to begin with and even an independent commission to deal with redistricting. Plus we've rejected pay day loans through the initiative process.
So I'm confident legalization has more than a chance. The hardest part was just getting it on the ballot. Going forward the conservatives have made it almost impossible to get more initiatives on the ballot.
Juan I've heard from multiple people both democrats and republicans in Arizona that you are a "nightmare" to work with and that you continually refuse to do bi-partisan work. How are you working to change your image with your co-workers in order to keep moving Arizona forward?
I'm one of the more progressive legislators in Arizona and I don't apologize for my views.
There is very little room for bi-partisan work in Arizona. But I would interested in your opinion of a good bill I didn't work on or support. I'm not going to jump onto an awful and abusive piece of legislation just to make a little more digestible for our image while it still hurts our community.
I created this PAC Moving AZ Forward to get us passed the legislators that are road blocks to progressive change. I have no problem making a compromise in a situation but I won't compromise my values. I'm not doing this to look good and get re-elected.
Pardon the language, but is there any fucking thing you can do in the senate about that sociopath of a sheriff named Joe Arpaio? I know he might be under indictment soon. Maybe you can speed that along?
The most we can do as legislators is make noise and organize our community against our sad excuse for a county sheriff.
We have a great candidate Paul Penzone running against him and great Democrats running for county offices that will be able to reign in his office and spending if he for some crazy reason wins his re-election.
Plus we're always knocking on doors and talking to more voters that's the fastest way tot speed this whole mess along
Have you always wanted to eventually run for office, and if not, what made you decide to do so?
How difficult was it to start your first election campaign (whether that's this race or a previous one)? What's the hardest part about it that people wouldn't expect?
(Edited a typo)
I’m personally motivated to be in politics cause I come from debilitating poverty and can’t afford to wait for someone else to represent me and work to end poverty.
At first I thought I was going to work in campaigns. I started out interning, then worked my way up to student organizing and eventually community organizing - for candidate campaigns and then organizations like my local Ironworkers union.
I only ran for office because Arizona has public financing for state legislative races and the former incumbent for my current office happened to be indicted by the FBI.
So a seat opened up and we literally had no one else to run for office. Our biggest problem in Arizona is we don’t have people waiting in line to run for public office at any level.
At what age did you know you wanted to be involved with politics?
I was probably 20 years old and still in college. I had just went to a Model United Nations conference in Chicago and a national convention for Young Democrats in San Francisco.
I grew up poor and latino in racist Arizona. After learning who was already involved in politics and how easy it was to talk and lobby different people I knew I couldn't turn away from politics.
I didn't know I was going to be running for office until much later. Until after I learned about Arizona's Clean Election system - public financing and after working to organize my community for political change
How would you advise the average person to enact political change on a large scale? What can we do to fight a two party system which spits out presidential candidates such as....these?
I run a bill every year to bring Ranked Choice Voting or Instant Run Off voting to Arizona that would end our problems of a two party system.
But as an individual person the biggest thing you can do is build your own power. If you can become recognized as an influential person in your community who can organize people to work on something you can eventually move mountains.
I seen people move up from simple volunteers to huge power brokers just by building relationships with people. So bring your own seat to the table. The average person gets run over by politics because he isn't following or contributing to larger constituent group. Even if you're not going to be that influential person that person needs you to help them.
As a Democrat, if you had to pick any Republican to be Arizona's Congressman who would you pick?
I am a moderate voter so I like to see which opposition candidates are seen as reasonable.
As a student, when I was even more radical, I went to congress to lobby Jeff Flake. After 15 mins he had me laughing and taking photos with him. If I had to vote for a Republican I guess I would vote for him.
But as far as the Republicans I work with in the AZ state House and the Senate there aren't many I would want in any higher office. I wouldn't mind Rep. TJ Shope or maybe Sen. Bob Worsley.
I don't really follow Republicans outside of AZ
This is a good question, albeit a little rough. Mendez's bill sponsorship history is pretty light. He better do more work in the Senate - and do it in the respectful manner in which the Senate usually works.
Your research seems to be a little light. I pretty confident that I've sponsored the most legislation every year I've been in office. Our Arizona Legislative site just got a make over and it doesn't show my work from previous session. But just this session I got multiple republicans to co-sponsor my legislation.
A friend of mine does some awesome research and at the moment this is the best evidence I can share with you right now. It's a link to her facebook post talking about how much legisation I've introduced - https://www.facebook.com/amy.umaretiya/posts/10210156592097256
I can't seem to get the movingazforward.com site to load. That being said, I'm a very liberal Democrat living in very Conservative southeastern Arizona. You recently stated on Twitter that you wouldn't be where you are without SNAP (food stamps). Can you go into that a bit more? Additionally, what advice would you give to someone who was interested in running for office (local or state lege)?
Seems to be working for me but try it with this nationbuilder part just in case.
I was using food stamps when they used to look like monopoly money. It was my mom and my three other siblings. We'd just seperated from my drunk abusive father. My mom was working and going to community college part time. I was the head cook at home. I had to deal with the stress of stretching out meals and making sure everyone had enough to eat.
I hated food stamps because it felt super embarrassing like if I need to explain to everyone why we had them. Especially when we had to split up the bill according to what could be used for food stamps and what couldn't be. It felt like if someone was judging us for the way we spent the little money we did have.
Every year this great nonprofit asks us as legislators to take the food stamp challenge and try and live off of food stamps for a week. It was embarrassing to learn that all I had to do was stop buying coffee and avocados to have the same amount money for food that person on food stamps gets.
If you're interested in running for office. Start out as a Precinct Committee Person. It's the smallest public office in Arizona. You're pretty much the official volunteer for your neighborhood. You're responsible for voter education and turn out. That's where I started. So that when I ran for office I got all my signatures and initial funding form everyone in my neighborhood. It gives you the skills and relationships to start working politics. Everyone wants to work with you if they know you can turn out so many people
Where do you stand on separation of church and state?
I think they should be separate. I don't think our government should be recognizing or normalizing any religion.
At first I was totally against prayer before political business, now I'm a little more tolerant to the idea. But I'd rather we didn't pray before business and that people kept it to themselves.
Do you think Arizona will go blue in this year's national election?
What are your thoughts on boarder security? Do they reflect Trump's or something else?
How does immigration impact your State's economy? Are there hidden positives? What are the negatives? How do they weigh against each other?
I don’t think AZ is as red as people make it out to me. Just an election or two ago Democrats used to have a majority of the congressional seats in AZ. There are many factors that used to hold us back from our potential. Statewide we still have a voter disadvantage which holds us back from winning many statewide seats. The last Dem Gov we had took a perfect storm scenario to get her in office.
But this year we’ll be bringing over 150K new voters to this elections. So this year I think we have the potential to put democrats in control of the state senate and win both the legalization of cannabis and the raising of the min wage. We’ll be the only “red state” still recovering economically to have raised the min wage so high.
Even with all that I wouldn’t start calling AZ a blue state but we’ll have to stop assuming it’s so conservative. We just haven’t overcome all the gerrymandering and corrupt campaign financing schemes.
To the Immigration part of your question -
The way AZ has tried enforcing immigration policy is always holding our economy back. There‘s the people who choose not to do business with AZ cause of our ignorance then there are all the people who don’t feel safe fully engaging with society because of all the hate and fear that certain legislation causes.
This is a little off the economy but I think it’s still connected - We recently had a serial shooter in our Phoenix valley in an area more heavily latino. The police started complaining that no one was calling to give them any tips cause the neighborhood was too afraid to engage the police. If that part of our society is falling apart because of how we choose to enforce immigration than I would also say it’s hurting us economically.
My dry cleaner says he lost a huge part of his profits when people left the urban cities just off of calling cards that people used to buy. Plus lots of our schools lost a lot of students out of fear.
So overall our immigration laws are negatively impacting my community