Arizona Senate, District 26

Arizona's 30 state senators each represent a unique district of voters. Republicans have held the majority in recent years, although most recently by only a handful of votes.The job pays $24,000 a year, plus mileage and per-diem during session.

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    Juan Jose Mendez
    (Dem)

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Biographical Information

What makes you the best person for the job? (for YouTube VIDEO only)

Do you support or oppose an independent examination of whether private prisons save taxpayers money?

What can the state do to reduce the number of children in foster care?

Do you support the Legislature’s decision to expand KidsCare, the state’s child health program? Why or why not?

The Groundwater Management Act applies to the state’s metropolitan counties, and ensures a 100-year water supply as a condition of development. Does rural Arizona need similar protections, why or why not?

Should Arizona help build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico? If so, how should it fund such it?

Which state agency or agencies do you believe are underfunded and why? Which state agency or agencies do you believe are bloated and why?

Do lobbyists have too much influence over the lawmaking process? If so, what should be done to rein them in?

Should the Legislature continue to hold key budget debates in the middle of the night, as has been the custom in recent years?

What is your opinion on the tuition charged by Arizona’s public universities? What, if anything, should the Legislature do about it?

Does the state need additional regulations on abortions? If yes, how would you regulate them?

Many Arizona municipalities say the state has usurped local rule by prohibiting or limiting ordinances on vacation rentals, plastic grocery bags, minimum wage and paid sick leave. Do you support limits on municipalities' ability to govern themselves? Why or why not?

Should Arizona legalize marijuana? Why or why not?

Should the Legislature do anything to try to prevent mass shootings? If so, what?

Gov. Doug Ducey said Prop. 123 was the first step for school funding. Do you see a need for additional steps? What should they be?

Should the Legislature make additional funding for schools a priority?

What reforms would you suggest to improve Arizona's education system?

Do you support expanding the empowerment scholarship account program to all Arizona students?

Gov. Doug Ducey has promised to cut taxes every year. Would you support additional tax cuts? If so, which taxes and why?

Do you support Gov. Doug Ducey’s goal of reducing the state income-tax to as close to zero as possible? If so, how would you achieve that goal? Would you support an increase to other taxes to offset income tax cuts?

What is the greatest threat to Arizona’s future, and how would you address it?

Do you support your party's nominee for president, why or why not?

What is the best piece of political advice you ever received?

What is your favorite book (besides a spiritual text)?

What favorite movie has meaning for you?

What is your favorite place in Arizona?

Which Arizona political figure past or present do you most admire and why?

Age 34
Family Mother Graciela Mendez, Siblings Mat, Lewis and Veronica
Twitter @mendezforaz
Campaign Phone (480) 389-5826
I have four years experience in the Arizona House, where I served as the Ranking Democrat on our Child and Family Affairs committee and I was recently elected by my peers as the Chair of the Arizona Latino Caucus. I’ve done all this with never having to rely on dirty money from lobbyists, corporations or the wealthy to fund my public campaign for office. In order to run for public office to represent my community I introduced myself to thousands of voters in my district, sharing my story and taking note of the issues and values important to my voters. I believe my responsibility is to reach out to the voters in my district and help make them a part of the process, while never having to be beholden to special interest and their money. Before running for office I ran a nonprofit, Arizona Community Voicemail, where I help connect thousands of Maricopa county residents to jobs, housing and hope. When I’m not at the legislature I am a substitute teacher for Tempe and Mesa high schools.
I do support an independent examination of private prisons that will end up telling us what we already know. Building new private prisons that come with mandatory minimum occupancy rates will only require us to incarcerate more people for longer. Last time I checked we were sixth in the nation for highest incarceration rate in the country. More private prisons will only require us to maintain even higher incarceration rates. Which can only cost taxpayers more money and do nothing to make us any safer. With recent news of multiple Measles outbreaks in our prisons these are the last places that should be cutting corners and neglecting adequate staff to turn a profit at our expense.
The purpose of child protection is to help families, not rescue children from crime. The failure to provide a health and human services safety net to cover basic needs resulted in foreseeable negative impacts on families. Our purpose can’t simply be to investigate reports of abuse or neglect after the fact. Yes, to protect the kids in danger and to prevent unnecessary separations we need the appropriate tools to evaluate and track cases. But the costs per family for child care assistance and TANF are very low, compared to the costs of DCS investigations and foster care. If we value our families, we must stop treating them like criminals and start working with them to make things better. It’s what’s best for the kids and it’s less expensive.
I voted to restore KidsCare not only because it was economically unsound and morally disgusting to deny healthcare to our kids in the first place, but because it was detrimental to our kids education. It is easier to educate a child when they’ve had their basic healthcare met. It is more affordable to treat kids with preventative care then to deal with complications of diabetes and heart disease in adulthood. Too many of our youth missed out on regular wellness checks where developmental delays or issues with vision or hearing, could have been detected. The earlier the detection and interventions put in place, the better the chance we could have prevent them from impacting school readiness or academic performance.
No single strategy can address projected water supply imbalances across the state. While we should always recognize the uniqueness of the regions throughout Arizona and their varying challenges nobody anywhere should be able to develop without an assurance of at the least 100 years of water. It’s not news that our climate is warming and drying and that the little water we all rely on can’t take much more abuse. If we’re gonna live in the desert we have to stop thinking about and treating groundwater different from surface water. Even if you don’t believe it is our fault and even if you aren’t a scientist you have to understand that as a result of our climate changing we’re going to have to change our way of dealing with water in Arizona.
No, because a wall won’t do anything for racism. This question isn’t just innocent clickbait - this question legitimizes a dangerous, ignorant and hateful notion.
Every avenue or opportunity to work with people so that they might have a secure and successful life has been underfunded or crippled because a perverted ideology of individualism has radicalized the republican majority into believing if they were to help children of working poor families with something as basic as healthcare, that little assistance would morally stunt the child and they fear the child will never learn to provide for themselves as an adult.

The most public money with the least public scrutiny is our Game and Fish Heritage fund. We need public support to reaffirm our voter protected initiative to preserve, protect, and enhance Arizona’s natural environment instead of flying in fish from Florida and the Northern U.S. so Arizona can fish all year around.
The amount of influence a lobbyist incurs through already regulated gifts is nothing compared to the influence a lobbyist receives from the institutional knowledge we as legislators will never acquire because of term-limits. Or the influence they exert from having more staff and infrastructure than our unequip legislature. Our “part time” legislature guarantees that lobbyist run the show as we are faced with convoluted and overly orchestrated calendars, with no real time to reach out to experts, stakeholders or the public. We need a more modern legislature that offers something other than poverty wages that comes with enough staff so that legislators don’t have to share essential staff and we need to end term limits so that lobbyist are never the only other informed person in the room while decisions are made
Key budget debates in the middle of the night are just the tip of the iceberg that sunk our democracy years ago. We need to put an end to dark backroom budget deals all together and require our budget to go through the full committee process that last longer than what it takes for all the democrats to explain how a budget is a moral document and ours is sorely lacking.
The rising cost of tuition should be seen as a rise on taxes for families trying to support the educational careers of their children. I graduated from ASU in 2008 paying over four thousand a year and I’ll still be in debt for the foreseeable future but at least I was given 6 months after graduation to start paying off my loans. Today in-state freshman are required to pay twelve thousand a year at the least and must begin paying back their debt the day after they graduate. The legislature should end all the cuts to taxes we can’t afford so that there is investment for for our kids education.
We've already been barred from passing unnecessary laws that have the purpose or effect of placing substantial obstacles in the ability of women to access their constitutional rights without interference. Arizona’s recent attack on women’s choice the admitting privileges and surgical center requirements, requiring new HVAC systems, and the requiring of widening hallways is not only entirely unnecessary but also a flatout obstruction to basic health care. The undue burden tests was supposed to balance the state’s interest with women’s access to their constitutional right. It was never meant as an excuse for republicans to legislate their disgust for a women’s right to choose. The fact that the republicans feigned concerns for women’s health while neither of these provisions offers medical benefits does not justify these undue burdens on a woman's right to choose.

Woman, not politicians, should make the informed decisions when it comes to her own pregnancy.
I am for local control and I am ashamed by our governors threats to withhold shared state revenues from cities who choose to exercise their own local control. We’re guaranteed to more democracy than just the governor and our republican leaderships limited view.
The “war on drugs” has never had any success in its campaign to end the popularity or use of cannabis . Nor, after decades of common use, has cannabis been proved to be the evil weed of “Reefer Madness.” We would all be better off had we dedicated our resources to education and treatment rather than, through prohibition, to empowering criminals and cartels, not to mention ruining our youth's lives, systematically creating second class citizens with results that put Jim Crow Laws to shame.

Cannabis isn’t altogether harmless — abuse is abuse — but adults should be able to consume it without fear of legal repercussions, just as we consume alcohol. Our children should be offered treatment before they are labeled criminals for behaviors that mostly required parental attention.
It’s irresponsible to sit back and pretend there isn’t anything to be done about mass shootings or gun safety. I’m committed to common sense solutions that don’t interfere with the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners. I support a universal background check that makes it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun - convicted felons and people convicted of domestic violence. Our current background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer need to be expanded to guns purchased at our many gun shows or over the internet, otherwise why have background checks at all. No single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence but never trying feels like complacency.
Prop. 123 was a way to abdicate our responsibility to fund public education. A true first step would have been to fund education appropriately. Since we have yet to fund public education according to the results we wish to see our next step needs to be investment for teacher pay raises. Then a renewed investment in buildings and facilities.

Outside of the legislature I am a substitute high school teacher for Tempe and Mesa public schools. After passing out textbooks that were most likely outdated when I went to high school I am disgusted by how many subs our school system relies on. Last year I started subbing for a freshman/senior English class in October. They were never able to fill the position for the fall or the spring. Five overcrowded classes of students shuffled through subs because we’ve yet to fully fund education.
Additional funding would be great. But our current students and current obligation still needs to be honored. Prop 123 only happened because we didn’t make our current students a priority. We jump quicker to build new beds for prisons than we work to ensure equitable schools.
I would suggest we reform our funding model so that we invest in schools to see the results we want. Our students can’t hold their breath while we hope and wish their schools can stretch their dollars to get by. I would suggest we raise our teacher pay structure so that we’re the most competitive in the country.
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) are vouchers that give parents an debit card with no accountability. Vouchers take our taxpayer dollars allocated for our public schools and funnel them into unaccountable private schools not only dramatically draining the resources of our shared public schools but also creating the potential for our generations modern version of White Flight.

Until our traditional public schools are adequately funded and maintained, I will honor my constitutional duty to keep taxpayer dollars in our public school classrooms by standing up to the anti-education legislation and special interests who wish to dismantle our public school system. ESA's goal is to move designated tax money out of the public sector and transfer it into private hands.
Taxes are promises we keep with the past and promises we make to the future. To reduce taxes to simply present transactions limits our potential to work together to do great things. Working poor families receiving almost decade stagnant wages would benefit from reduced taxes but sadly these are not the taxes the governor is interested in. A tax cut is a permanent reduction in our potential as a state.
Corporate income taxes are already scheduled to be cut over the next couple of years and our individual income tax rates already range from 2.59% for the lowest tax bracket to 4.54% for the highest. Lower taxes are unrealistic and irresponsible. Taxes can’t be cut further without more major budget cuts or increases in other regressive taxes to offset the lost revenue.

According to the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee just for fiscal year 2015 the corporate income tax cut will cost the state $35.7M. The next cut is projected to add another $35.8M to the state deficit.

Why is this an acceptable way to add to our deficit, but we can’t invest our taxes in our own schools and communities.
Our greatest threat to Arizona's future is our lack of opportunity for meaningful early childhood education. In the future the fact that we’re waiting until kindergarten to start investing in our kids education will be one of our most shameful mistakes. According to First Things First 90% of major brain development happens in the first 5 years. Waiting until kindergarten before we start investing in education is why we have unequal 3rd grade reading scores and graduation rates.
Though my party did not choose my candidate I support my party’s decision to nominate Sen. Clinton for President.
Everything is constantly changing. Learn to anticipate and even monitor change so that adapting and welcoming change becomes intuition.
My favorite book is Victor Villaseñor’s Rain of Gold. Parallel stories of two families and two countries are weaved together in a kind of Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude kind of magical realism if it wasn’t for the fact that it's all a true story that isn’t that different from the story of many mexican american families. I always remember the this book because of all the strong mother characters that persevere through struggle because of family and shared dreams.
It may be a little slow and predictable but I always fall for the Socratic method use in the movie Peaceful Warrior. Two great quotes that having meaning for me are “A warrior is not about perfection or victory or invulnerability. He’s about absolute vulnerability. That is the only true courage.” and “There is never nothing going on. There are no ordinary moments.”
My favorite place in Arizona is the Fossil Creek Trail in Strawberry outside of Payson it's one of two Wild and Scenic rivers in Arizona.

It’s a rare riparian area with many Dilzhé’é (Western Apache) cultural sites. Also with year round water it’s a natural water park with tunnels and caves to swim in, rope swings and waterfalls to jump off

Advance permits are required from May 1st through October 1st. Maybe I’ll see you hiking after the election.
I’ve always admired Cesar Chavez as an example of standing up to exploitation and discrimination. But he also shared a great cultural competence that is sorely needed today. Chavez always understood that “Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.”