Connect with us

Arizona

A story full circle, Daniel Hernández makes a run for a U.S. House seat

The gay son of an immigrant mother from Mexico and growing up in Southern Arizona, he knows the obstacles and challenges facing that community

Published

on

Arizona State Rep. Daniel Hernández, (D-Pima) courtesy of the Daniel Hernandez for Congress campaign

BISBEE, AZ. – Walking through this historic border town only eleven miles north of Mexico, the young man towering over his elderly woman companion listened intently. For Arizona State Representative Daniel Hernández, it was his first full day of campaigning as he was speaking with voters in Cochise County as a declared candidate in the race to represent Arizona’s Second U.S. Congressional District.

For Hernández though, this race brings his personal political story full circle. The thirty-one year old native of Tucson, while attending the University of Arizona in his hometown had a job as an intern for then Congresswoman Gabrielle Dee Giffords, who held Arizona’s 8th Congressional seat in the U.S. House.

It was a tragic event while working for Giffords that would change the trajectory of Hernández’s life, altering it forever.

Giffords, known affectionately as ‘Gabby’ by family, colleagues, friends, staffers and even voters, had held a constituent meet and greet at a Safeway in her district on January 8, 2011, when at around 10:10 AM that Saturday, a 22-year-old man armed with a pistol shot her in the head before proceeding to fire on 18 other people, killing six.

Hernández immediately went to Giffords’ aid applying pressure to the gunshot wound on her forehead, and made sure she did not choke on her blood. He and local paramedic Aaron Rogers were credited with saving her life. Then U.S. President Barack Obama, at a memorial service for the victims held in the arena at the University of Arizona after the mass shooting, called Hernández a hero.

Working for Giffords’ and seeing her commitment to public service for her fellow Arizonans, after graduation he went on to advocate for access to reproductive health care and education as program manager for Raíz, Planned Parenthood’s Latino outreach program.

Education has also been of critical concern stemming from his being the first-generation college student in his family. This factor propelling him to his first run for an elected office where he was elected to the board of the Sunnyside Unified School District in Pima County and later on where he became the youngest school board president in the district’s history.

Since 2017, Hernández has served in the Arizona State House’s 2nd District, and also as one of four openly gay law makers. In addition to being one of the youngest elected legislators he is also a co-founder of the House LGBTQ caucus.

He has worked with both Republicans and Democrats to pass bills protecting survivors of sexual assault and secure $20 million for school resource officers, counselors, and social workers. He also led the fight against legislation that would discriminate against LGBTQ Arizonans.

Now he says he wants to expand his reach and influences beyond the confines of the State House Chamber in Phoenix to ensure better “progressive” representation in Washington.

The son of an immigrant mother from Mexico and growing up in the Latino culture of Southern Arizona, he knows intimately the obstacles and challenges facing that community. But he also understands the challenges that confront all Arizonans especially now as the State recovers from the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation it has wrought. But beyond the economic recovery healthcare and education are also very much priorities for Hernández.

Immigration concerns, border security, and racial injustice are also very much a part of his portfolio as he looks toward hopefully representing the people of his district.

The Blade had an opportunity to ask Rep. Hernández his take on policies, his platform, and questions regarding what he would desire to accomplish should he be elected.

What would you say is your number one- all out most important priority in your portfolio of issues that you are running on?

Asking me to pick just one is like asking me to pick my favorite dog out of the five my family owns. I think that for me the one that has risen to the top, particularly during the last year, is the issue of health care. I have seen firsthand the challenges that exist for many to have access to high quality, affordable health care. When I was seventeen, I nearly died from an autoimmune disorder called Graves’ Disease. My parents at the time were out of work and could not afford health insurance and I went months without real health care.

Eventually I was accepted into the state children’s health insurance program (SCHIP), a program which saved my life. As soon as I had access to insurance, I was able to get tests and treatment, but it took nearly a year. During that time, I started having lung and heart issues. While I was fortunate to be a child and qualify for SCHIP, too many people still don’t have access and even having a plastic card that says you have insurance isn’t enough.

In the last year I saw once again in the communities that I represent those issues around health care access. During the pandemic I worked with Republican Governor Doug Ducey to save a hospital where the next nearest hospital was 29 miles away in a retirement community. Due to a complex set of federal regulations this hospital had 2 weeks worth of money for payroll when they asked for help. I was able to help secure a $5.5 million dollar grant to keep it open in a rural community filled with seniors.

As recently as this February, the county that I represent on the border called because they were only receiving an allotment of 250 vaccines a week in a population of 50,000. I once again worked with our Republican governor and increased that amount to 1,500 doses a week and eventually that county became one of the most vaccinated in the state.

In the legislature I have worked to expand access to affordable health care insurance programs for small businesses. This was done in a bipartisan way to ensure that sole proprietors and small family businesses can buy into more affordable plans. I’m focused on protecting and defending the hard-fought progress of the Affordable Care Act. Let’s build upon this vital program and bring equity and access to all Americans regardless of whether they live in a city or rural community.

Let’s talk more about healthcare for a moment, especially for elderly folks and notably LGBTQ seniors, accessibility is an issue, insurance, medicaid and medicare. What do you propose to offer as solutions for some of the more problematic issues confronting seniors?

Caring for our seniors is particularly important to me. As life expectancies have increased and diseases such as HIV have become manageable, we have more seniors that are LGBTQ than ever before. By 2030 SAGE predicts we will have 7 million LGBTQ seniors in the United States. That number provides both opportunities and challenges for a system that is not quite prepared to care for these individuals with dignity. There are some great opportunities to look at the work being done by both SAGE and the AARP to help inform our decisions as policy makers on how to better support our LGBTQ seniors receive affordable high-quality health care.  

For facilities that are in-patient we must continue to require providers to undergo training for cultural competency on how to work with our community. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services instituted new rules a few years ago that require person centered care plans. While that is a positive step, we must create stronger requirements for trainings for staff and the care of LGBTQ seniors.

Outside of long-term care facilities, there are a few things I think we should do including increase funding and create incentives for local area agencies on aging to help keep seniors that can be independent in their homes. Over the long-term, having people live in their own homes with support will produce better health outcomes. Giving more funds but with requirements to create LGBTQ inclusive and supportive program will be critical.

Courtesy of the Daniel Hernandez for Congress campaign

The Dreamers and a path for citizenship for them as well as the 11 plus million undocumented immigrants in the United States, it seems that immigration reform always is the “can kicked down the road” without real solutions. What do you propose?

I have lived in Southern Arizona my whole life. It is an all-too-common trope that every few years politicians come to the border for photo opportunities to show how dangerous it is and how there’s a new “crisis”. The reality for most people along the border is that we live in partnership with our Mexican neighbors. Our neighbors in Mexico are important partners for trade and they are vital to the sustainability of cities in Southern Arizona.

We need to resist calls to label undocumented people as dangerous. We must work in a bipartisan way to bring people out of the shadows and create a pathway to citizenship. We can look at the work done in the recent past by people like Senators Schumer and McCain during the gang of eight in 2013. That bill that passed the Senate with 68 votes can serve as a template.

I think we have a unique opportunity to push this soon. But if we keep waiting for the perfect time the can will continue to be kicked down the road. We need politicians to stop talking about this problem and get working on it.

LGBTQ Equality. Some politico pundits and others suggest that passage of the Equality Act in a 50-50 split Senate makes it a political impossibility. Conversely others argue that Religious exemptions and carve outs will be the only means to gain passage or Republican support. Do you feel that a compromise is a reality or will it take removing the obstacle of the filibuster to be the only path forward?

Working in Arizona’s state legislature has not been a walk in the park. It has served as a good training ground for having to approach policy making with an eye towards educating and assuming best intentions. I have worked with community partners for years to educate my colleagues on LGBTQ issues and I’m proud to say that I was able to secure bipartisan support for my bill to create protections from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

I’m going to take that same approach to Washington DC. I’m a firm believer that we can educate and get people to understand the reasons why the protections in the Equality Act are important. I’m hopeful that this will be done by the time I’d start serving in 2023. But if it’s not I’m ready to roll up my sleeves to work to ensure we educate those who don’t understand the issues to find new partners.

In a follow-up, given the legislative attacks on the Trans community this past legislative session as well as bills such as the anti-LGBTQ education measures, including the one you voted No on and ultimately was vetoed by the Governor- what measures can be taken to further protect the LGBTQ community?

First, we need to pass the Equality Act. Then we need to work to bring in new partners in the fight for LGBTQ equality. Through education we’ve built new alliances with the business community and with local Republican leaders. It is my hope that with this work we will reach a point where LGBTQ rights are no longer used as a political wedge issue.

Courtesy of the Daniel Hernandez for Congress campaign

You served as a Congressional Intern. How would you structure your office to better serve your constituents? Are meet and greets, town halls, and assemblies effective or do you favour a different approach? How would you prioritise the needs of your constituents?

In public life it is important that we go where people are. To wait for people to come to you means you will never fully know the needs of your constituents. This is why I always appreciated the “Congress On Your Corner” events that Gabby Giffords used to do. 

As a legislator I’ve driven all over southern Arizona to be accessible. During the pandemic I made sure to be out in my community from volunteering at vaccine distribution centers to helping constituents fill out information to get their stimulus checks. I’ve always been hands on. My plan is to be out in the community as much as possible and to hire staff that can help go to the most remote parts of the district to ensure we have coverage everywhere.

Jobs jobs jobs.’ It is the mantra of virtually every politician. But in reality, given the nature of the district, what would realistically bring greater economic stimulus in your opinion?

Depending on the part of the district the needs of the community differ. In Cochise County we need to invest in hard infrastructure like roads and bridges while in Pima county we need to find ways to help support startups particularly in the tech space. In both places we need to build out broadband infrastructure to better ensure access to commerce, telemedicine, and educational opportunities.

Education is key to success. What is your priority for Educational progress for your district and all Arizonans?

I’m extremely passionate about education. It’s why I ran for school board in 2011. Our schools need a strong advocate who will fight for our students and learning communities. During my tenure as a school board member, I tried to work to improve education but was hindered by massive cuts from the state.

Arizona has severely underfunded education for nearly two decades. My priorities are increasing funding for our k-12 and higher education institutions. We need to offer a livable wage particularly for our teachers to ensure we stem the loss of people leaving the profession due to high stress and low pay.

Courtesy of the Daniel Hernandez for Congress campaign

Finally, the First Nations have suffered greatly not only with the pandemic but also with a studied indifference from Washington especially in key areas of substance abuse, housing, and economic opportunities for Natives especially youth. What are some of your ideas to assist the tribal leaders and the elders in receiving better parity in dealing with the Federal and even the State government?

Arizona has 22 sovereign tribal nations and while I don’t currently represent any in their entirety, I have consistently worked to ensure we are listening to the needs of our Native American communities. My colleagues in the House Myron Tsosie and Arlando Teller taught me the importance of simply asking “Have Tribes been consulted on this?”.  Even though I have done my best to reach out to the Tribes, this taught me that I needed to work even harder to seek their input. My plan is to build upon the strong relationships I have, particularly with the tribes in Southern Arizona. I would establish a Native American Kitchen cabinet and meet with them regularly to hear about their needs. We need to not make assumptions and listen to these leaders directly about their needs.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Arizona

Arizona lawmakers and activists push back against anti-LGBTQ bills

Arizona is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ bills. In 2020 lawmakers sent an anti-LGBTQ education bill to Republican Gov. Ducey’s desk- he vetoed it

Published

on

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs hung Trans & LGBTQ+ Pride flags on the balcony of the historic state Capitol building on Friday, June 28, 2019. Courtesy of Arizona Secretary of State’s Office

PHOENIX – Political leaders and activists in Arizona are sounding the alarm bells over nearly a dozen anti-LGBTQ bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in the state legislature. 

The discriminatory bills – totaling nine to date, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – mirror much of the anti-LGBTQ bills introduced last year around the country, in what was a record year for legislation attacking the LGBTQ community, particularly trans people. 

Three of the bills – Senate Bill 1130, which would ban gender-affirming care for minors, Senate Bill 1165, an anti-trans sports bill, and House Bill 2112, which could prohibit the teaching of racism and sex discrimination – are set for committee meetings this week. 

Senate Bill 1130 was introduced by Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, who, as the Blade reported last year, is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and a member of the far-right anti-government militia organization Oath Keepers.

Other bills would limit gender markers on official documentation to only “male” and “female,” make educators only use incorrect pronouns for students if it differs from their birth certificate and force students to get written permission to join clubs involving gender identity or sexuality. 

“This is an attack on human rights,” said Arizona state Rep. César Chávez, chairman of the Arizona LGBTQ Legislative Caucus, at a press conference hosted by the HRC. “We’re criminalizing individuals for being who they are. On top of that, we’re criminalizing doctors and health care workers, individuals that are doing their job.”

Sponsors of these bills say that they will benefit their communities and protect women and children. However, Chávez accused the Republican party of wanting to “attack our youth and those individuals who identify as LGBT+.” 

Lizette Trujillo, a parent of a trans child in Tucson, Arizona, detailed the toll that the proposed legislation takes on her son and her family. 

“Legislators in our state are wielding their power to leverage the most vulnerable youth in our state to further their political careers,” she said, adding: “This causes irreparable harm on the transgender community.” 

She also had an urgent message for members of her community: “Help us stop power-hungry legislators in this blatant attack,” she said. “Help us stop our government from using parents like me and kids like mine as their political pawns. Transgender kids exist – protect them, believe them, support them and affirm them.

Trujillo, who is also a member of the HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council, has become accustomed to the fight for her son’s rights. In 2019, the HRC featured her for “leading the charge” for LGBTQ-inclusive education within the Tucson Unified School District. 

Arizona is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ bills. Last year, state lawmakers sent an anti-LGBTQ education bill to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. But he ended up vetoing the bill, calling it “broad and overly vague.” 

Now, pro-LGBTQ lawmakers and activists in the state are readying to push back against such legislation. 

According to Bridget Sharpe of HRC Arizona, the group plans to show up to the statehouse and testify against the anti-LGBTQ legislation. She said that is the best way to get results. They will make their first appearance Thursday, where Trujillo will be a speaker. 

Chávez wants to have conversations with his colleagues across the aisle, noting that it has “become a rarity here in the Arizona State Legislature,” but that they are “very meaningful.”

“I will say that it’s going to take political will from my Republican colleagues to be able to vote against these bills,” he said.

Continue Reading

Arizona

Arizona lawmaker proposes two draconian anti-Trans bills for 2022 session

The laws would have potential to inflict considerable harm on Transgender Arizonans and the medical professionals who treat them

Published

on

Sen. Wendy Rogers speaking to the Cottonwood Oathkeepers in March 2021. (Photo via Twitter account of @WendyRogersAZ)

FLAGSTAFF, Az. – Two proposed laws would have potential to inflict considerable harm on young Transgender Arizonans and the medical professionals who treat them LGBTQ+ activists say.

The author of both proposed measures is Republican state Senator Wendy Rogers (R-SD6), an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump and a member of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia organization whose members took part in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. This past Fall in October 2021, Rogers spoke at a QAnon-linked political conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rogers first measure, Senate Bill 1045 would prohibit medical procedures that affirm the gender identity of children and teens who are transgender. The law would ban medical professionals in Arizona from performing gender affirming surgeries on Trans minors and also would forbid prescribing testosterone to Trans male youth or estrogen to Trans female youth who are under 18. Any Health professional found guilty would be convicted as a Class 4 felony offender, with a prison sentence of one to three years.

Her second measure, Senate Bill 1046 would restrict transgender children from participating in sports at public and private schools, community colleges and universities. The measure would divide all interscholastic and intramural sports teams into male, female and co-ed teams “based on biological sex.”

Under that definition, the measure prohibits transgender girls from participating in girl’s sports. It would also mandate a medical review of a student’s anatomy, hormone levels and genetics if the student’s biological sex is disputed while seeking to participate in sports programs at public and private schools, community colleges and state universities.

State Representative Daniel Hernandez, (D-HD2), a member of the Arizona Legislative LGBTQ Caucus told the Blade Wednesday, “State Senator Rogers is using her power to target the most vulnerable children in our communities. The discriminatory and unjust efforts to stop transgender youth from receiving medical care shows Senator Rogers is trying to get in between patients, their doctors and their families. She once again is trying to ban our children from participating in school sports based on nothing more than hate. It pains me to see another attack made on the transgender community.”

Speaking to the Arizona Mirror, a local Arizona media outlet, Ryan Starzyk, a board member of Phoenix Pride noted; “It is dangerous and it is deadly because if (children) don’t have the foundational information, if they have nobody they can turn and oftentimes is the only one they can turn to is the professional at school before, (the legislature) is laying the foundation for students suicides.”

The Arizona Interscholastic Association has policies and guidelines in place that govern Trans youth participation in sports across the state: “All students should have the opportunity to participate in Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the sex listed on a student’s eligibility for participation in interscholastic athletics or in a gender that does not match the sex at birth.

Rogers has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ animus. In October she expressed her extreme displeasure over a new comic book storyline debuted by DC Comics-Warner Brothers Media on National Coming Out Day.

“Superman loves Louis Lane. Period. Hollywood is trying to make Superman gay and he is not. Just rename the new version Thooperman so we can all know the difference and avoid seeing it,” Rogers tweeted.

Commenters on social media were quick to point out that in the DC Multiverse canon it is ‘Lois Lane not Louis while others took umbrage with her use of the word ‘Thooperman,’ labeling it an offensive phonetic characterization of a stereotyped gay man’s lisping in speech patterns.

Starzyk is opposed to SB1046. He said it reminds him of the bullying he constantly faced in the military for being gay.

“The legislators are bullying our youth, the same way I was bullied in the military,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking to see that instead of encouraging our young people who are finding themselves sooner, the legislature is classifying our young future generation as not being good enough.”

Starzyk told the Arizona Mirror that youth should be celebrated for affirming their gender identity, instead of being deprived of an important opportunity for growth that sports provide.

“We should be embracing that as a society, to know who you are at such a young age,” Starzyk said. “Years ago you couldn’t even be yourself.” He added that Rogers has “some radical view of the gay community.”

Continue Reading

Arizona

Arizona lawmaker launches homophobic attack on new Superman comic

New York Times best selling author Kurt Eichenwald led the twitter thread in response calling out Rogers for her homophobic tweet

Published

on

Photo montage via twitter account of Republican Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers

PHOENIX – Republican Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers, a retired United States Air Force officer and Vice-Chair of the Arizona State Senate’s Judiciary Committee, expressed her extreme displeasure over a new comic book storyline debuted by DC Comics-Warner Brothers Media on National Coming Out Day Monday.

“Superman loves Louis Lane. Period. Hollywood is trying to make Superman gay and he is not. Just rename the new version Thooperman so we can all know the difference and avoid seeing it,” Rogers tweeted.

Commenters on social media were quick to point out that in the DC Multiverse canon it is ‘Lois Lane not Louis while others took umbrage with her use of the word ‘Thooperman,’ labeling it an offensive phonetic characterization of a stereotyped gay man’s lisping in speech patterns.

New York Times best selling author Kurt Eichenwald led the twitter thread in response calling out Rogers for her homophobic tweet:

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular