U.S. House, District 4: Affordable, accessible health care is top priority for Delina DiSanto

Delina DiSanto, who is challenging incumbent Paul Gosar in the District 4 race, says Americans need better choices for health care insurance plans. (Photo courtesy of Delina DiSanto campaign)

Candidate name: Delina DiSanto
Political affiliation: Democrat
Position sought: U.S. House of Representatives, District 4
City of residence: Cave Creek
Age: 63
Career: Registered nurse, former hospital finance administrator

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?

“It was just as slow as the national plan,” said DiSanto, who thinks Gov. Doug Ducey could have been more direct with his plan to reopen the state. DiSanto would have reopened businesses in phases and more slowly, and she would have mandated masks.

What would you do differently to combat the disease?

DiSanto said she hopes a new administration will work toward a national plan “so people wouldn’t be as confused as they are today.”

She said it’s important to ensure people wear masks at all times in public.

And she added that she would support funding public schools to ensure they have enough resources to hire enough teachers, clean regularly and conduct health checks.

Do you have concerns regarding the security of our election?

Disanto said one of her concerns involves so-called Second Amendment sanctuary cities, where local officials have declared state gun safety laws don’t apply in their communities. She worries that armed militia members in those municipalities could intimidate voters at the polls, and she hopes sheriff’s deputies, police officers or members of the National Guard are stationed at polls to keep this election safe and fair.

Mail-in voting isn’t a concern for her, but reports of disruptions in Postal Service duties are.

“Arizona has been mail-in voting, early ballot voting for quite some time,” DiSanto said. “The only concern I may have is with the dismantling of the post office.”

With the removal of mail-sorting machines and mailboxes in some cities, she said, there’s a risk that ballots may get delayed and, ultimately, not counted.

How could race relations be improved in Arizona?

Elected officials should start by bringing together communities of different ethnicities and races, she said. They should meet with leaders from each community and listen to their concerns and figure out what each community needs.

“Excuse me for saying this, but we can’t all sit down as white leaders and then decide for our communities what they need,” DiSanto said, “because we don’t know what they need.”

Defunding the police is not the answer, she said.

DiSanto, who grew up in New York, has family members who were police officers and detectives. After discussing issues of police misconduct with them, she concluded that police officers should be better trained.

“We already have SWAT teams,” she said, “we already have the National Guard. We already have our military. We don’t need to have our police department be SWAT teams.”

DiSanto said she wants police officers to become community leaders and focus on keeping communities safe and secure. Police workloads should be lightened, she said, and perhaps different personnel should respond to some police calls. For example, a social worker might be better suited to respond to 911 calls involving nonviolent domestic disputes.

“What we need to do is retraining for the police department and fund it that way,” DiSanto said.

What other issues are important to you and your campaign?

DiSanto is a registered nurse and has worked as a finance administrator in a hospital, so affordable health care is a priority. She supports a “Medicare for all” type of insurance plan for Americans, adding that one problem with the Affordable Care Act is that premiums are too high.

“We need to have a Medicare plan, just like seniors do. But have it so that you can choose that plan so that you don’t have these $10,000 to $20,000 deductibles and that you have coverage on all levels.”

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Medicare for all also would help hospitals “because now they’re not going to have as much of a large bad debt if they know that everybody that comes in can get on a Medicare plan,” she said.

People with private health insurance or insurance through their employer could keep their plans, she said, but those without insurance need another option.

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

COVID-19 has greatly affected many people financially because of what isn’t covered in their health insurance plans, she said.

“If they are in the hospital for any length of time, say a month or two months … those bills are not cheap and so they could be $100,000, they could be $500,000.”

If elected, DiSanto said she would work on legislation for a Medicare type plan that would retroactively start in January 2020, “so that anybody that was hit by COVID-19 with these high bills … that they would be covered.”

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

DiSanto said she learned a great deal from working with former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who represented Colorado in Congress for nearly 20 years. DiSanto worked on his campaign from 2001 to 2003.

“I learned a lot about how to work across the table, how to work across the aisle, how to build bridges. Talk to people, get to know them, get to know their districts and how to work with them in regards to legislation.”

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

“It’s my emotion when I speak about women who have lost their lives because of health care people,” DiSanto said.

Traveling to rural areas and meeting lower-income Arizonans who are struggling to stay afloat is emotionally taxing for her.

“I think my personal thing is I get too emotional sometimes, and I have to be able to speak with their voice and not become emotional about it because they need to be heard.”

Please share a quote or advice that you live by

“Integrity and compassion, I believe that we have to be truthful and honest, but we also have to be very compassionate to people.”

DiSanto stressed the importance of telling the truth, especially at a time when misinformation is spread quickly on the internet.

“If we don’t tell the truth, then we’re going to get wrapped up in that fear and hatred and divisiveness, and so we have to start telling the truth. And we have to be honest.”

Campaign website: delinadisanto.com.