U.S. House, District 3: Raul Grijalva says change requires investment in people

Rep. Raul Grijalva is seeking reelection in Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District. A member of nine congressional task forces, he has first elected to the House of Representatives in 2002. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Raul Grijalva)

Candidate name: Raul Grijalva
Political affiliation: Democrat
Position sought: U.S. House of Representatives, District 3
City of residence: Tucson
Age: 72
Current office or career: U.S. representative for District 3 since 2002; Pima County supervisor from 1988 to 2002

With the election just days away, Cronkite News is profiling candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot.

How would you rate Arizona’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Arizona’s response was a microcosm of the disastrous national response, Grijalva said.

Gov. Doug Ducey and some state agencies were reluctant to fully recognize the severity of the virus, he said, and there were more questions than answers about how to control the spread and pinpoint infection rates.

“The response in Arizona was very much like the federal response by (President Donald) Trump – to deny, then to do half steps and then to go back and forth,” Grijalva said. “It was an avoidance of what the real challenge was.”

Grijalva discussed weighing the health crisis with its economic implications, noting that the two don’t always mix.

“If we were more assertive at the beginning, six or seven months ago, I think we would have been fine,” he said.

If reelected, what steps would you take to mitigate the impact of this disease?

Rebuilding requires a significant financial investment, the congressman said. Grijalva pointed to Trump and Ducey’s reluctance to spend money to improve conditions for Arizonans.

“Until people are working and feeling secure, until our schools are fully functional and we’re doing in-person instruction again, the economy is not going to fully recover,” he said.

In addition to strengthening the economy, Grijalva recommended investing in health and making a coronavirus vaccine available to all. But going back to the way things were before the pandemic is not the answer, he said.

“The greatest asset we have going for us to recover and to rebuild is the American people. And I don’t see why we shouldn’t invest in them,” said Grijalva, who serves on the House Committee on Education and Labor.

He praised essential workers, such as grocery store clerks, sanitation workers, farmers and health workers on the front lines, and said teachers have been taken for granted for too long.

Do you have concerns regarding the security of our election?

The president’s rhetoric about a supposed rigged election is dangerous to the American people, Grijalva said.

“You see our institutions, from the Department of Justice under Attorney General Barr, walking lockstep with the president in terms of getting more authoritarian, questioning the elections and continuing to breed doubt and suspicion on the part of the American voters about their own elections,” the congressman said.

He pointed out that Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general, is a major Trump donor. Grijalva said he sees the dismantling and slowing down of the Postal Service as intentional, although he predicts 2020 voter turnout will be huge, both in-person and by mail.

Grijalva also mentioned concerns over Russian interference in the 2020 election, pointing to the 2016 election as an example.

“Russia is now more energized and more fixated on this election than it was in the past, he said. “And I think that is another tampering with our democracy by a foreign power.”

He also criticized Trump’s activation of military units to police American civilians last spring, saying “prohibitions in law and in the Constitution” prevent that.

How could race relations be improved in Arizona?

“The hardest thing that I see in terms of talking about race is just the idea that you talk about it,” he said. “The idea that there’s disclosure to our experiences, depending on who we are and the color of our skin, is very different in America.”

Arizona is at the heart of the racial issue – the southern boundary of Grijalva’s district abuts Mexico for 300 miles – he said, citing racial profiling under Arizona’s SB 1070 law in 2010, the separation of families at the border, the militarization of the border and campaigns to root out undocumented immigrants as examples of discrimination.

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Growing up in Tucson, Grijalva remembers being punished for speaking Spanish in school. In 1987, Grijalva Elementary School, which uses a Spanish-English dual language immersion model, was named after him.

It’s time to end the “structural neglect” found in such institutions as police, health care and education, he said, and he sees hope in younger generations who seem more open to confronting the historical realities that brought the country to this place.

Grijalva said he views Arizona as a mixture of people, cultures, histories and languages.

“That’s our history and that’s our makeup. Instead of ignoring it or using it to divide people or create fear or say it’s us versus them, accept the fact that this is Arizona. I think accepting that would make us stronger.”

What is the greatest issue Arizona residents face, and how would you address it?

Climate change “crosses all ZIP codes, lines, colors and tones.” As an arid state that is dependent on a finite source of water, the congressman said, Arizona’s response to politics, Arizona, Raul Grijalva, Tucson, House of Representatives, US House, 2020 election, education, immigration, climate change, COVID-19, congressmanclimate change will define its future economy and quality of life.

Grijalva, who is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, pointed to California’s horrendous wildfires and Arizona’s long term drought as consequences of ignoring climate change. He also noted that minority communities often are left behind when upheavals occur, citing the pandemic as an example.

Climate change, he said, “is tied to many things: public health, air quality, water quality.”

“And to some extent, this is a huge international issue that we must once again participate in if we’re going to do this right.”

What other issues are important to you and your campaign?

Grijalva listed investing in education through teachers, early childhood programs and a more inclusive curriculum, as well as making college tuition more affordable.

At a time when public school demographics have shifted more toward people of color, he said, investment and funding for those schools have diminished.

He said that public schools are integrative and democratic institutions that promote the country’s values.

“The education system now has to open up after the status quo doesn’t fit anymore: more inclusive, different curriculum, close the digital divide,” among other things, Grijalva said.

What in your past work, political or volunteer experience makes you a better candidate to hold this office?

The congressman reflected on his lengthy career, saying that he would not be satisfied by “being a potted plant that just got watered” every few years.

“It’s a career of public service. But it shouldn’t be a career that’s totally guided by self-preservation.”

Grijalva talked about being a first-generation American and college student, and his gratitude toward his parents for the sacrifices that they made. They instilled a work ethic in him that remains strong today, he said.

“My love for this country of ours is based on the idea that you can continue to change it and make it better, more perfect,” he said.

The congressman reflected on what he has learned by working with various groups, from welfare-rights organizations to those dealing with poverty or education. He said that he sees making things better as his “contribution to the whole.”

What is a personal challenge you feel you need to overcome?

The congressman said he’s working on a couple of things: “I try to take on more than I can do, or I get really frustrated with things not moving.”

Although those are normal human reactions, he constantly must choose what’s most important.

“Sometimes you can’t do everything, and you have to learn to prioritize,” Grijalva said. “Even at my age, that’s still a problem.”

Please share a quote or advice that you live by

Grijalva called his father a stoic man who didn’t say much. When Grijalva suffered setbacks as a child, his father would remind him to be like “little drops.”

“It’s a big rock, mijo. You’ve got to keep chipping at it.”

Those words still come to him in times of frustration.

Campaign website: standwithraul.com.

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