HomeDemocracyFormer teacher and public school advocate squares off against two anti-abortion candidates in race for LD 2

Former teacher and public school advocate squares off against two anti-abortion candidates in race for LD 2

Parker Wallis

As two Democratic incumbents leave office, central Phoenix’s Legislative District 2 has two seats open in the 2022 general election, two Republicans and one Democrat are seeking to fill those vacancies. 

The Democratic candidate for LD2 is Rep. Judy Schwiebert, who assumed office in January 2021 to represent District 20, and she is currently a member of the Appropriations and Education Committees. 

As a former teacher, Schwiebert is an ardent defender of public education and related institutions. 

Time and time again, state Rep. Schwiebert has taken the side of public school students and educators. For example, when a bill mandating what teachers could or could not say in their own classrooms was up for a vote, Schwiebert was one of the many Democrats who pushed back against the legislation. Schwiebert noted that this bill would exacerbate the years-long teacher shortage in Arizona and would “have the effect of driving those valuable teachers from our classroom,” and noted that the bill would have even explicitly barred teachers from talking about racially motivated crimes, such as the murder of Mesa resident Balbir Singh Sodhi (the first of many Islamophobic hate crimes after 9/11). The year 2020 saw the highest number of hate crimes yet recorded in the state, 71 percent of which were racially motivated, according to the Justice Department. 

Another example was her stance against the recently Republican-passed budget, which established the largest private school voucher program in the nation by expanding Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) eligibility. Schwiebert took to the House floor to push back against the provision on the basis that it “basically robs families of the resources their children deserve in our public schools,” again demonstrating her advocacy for the public school system.

“There’s no accountability for these private school vouchers and taxpayers deserve to know that their money is being used in a way that lifts the whole school up,” says Schwiebert. “With this ESA voucher expansion it’s a billion in and a billion out of our public schools.” The Arizona Education Association, Arizona School Boards Association, Save Our Schools Arizona, and other public school advocates side with legislators like Schwiebert on the ESA expansion bill. 

Schwiebert faces a 2 v 1 competition in the general election against state Rep. Justin Wilmeth (R-District 15) and newcomer Christian Lamar (R). 

AZBigMedia describes Wilmeth as a “pro-business, pro-technology conservative” as well as “huge advocate for trade” and advances in innovation, sponsoring legislation on the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Study Committee. 

Wilmeth is a conservative lawmaker who has referred to abortion as murder, agreeing with evangelist Franklin Graham’s position that “abortion has already murdered 471,000 babies this year alone,” according to his Twitter. When asked if he supported abortion to save the life of the mother, he answered that he was “morally not comfortable with abortion for any reason” and described himself as “100 percent pro-life.” Wilmeth also opposes providing state funding or referrals to facilities that perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood. Camelback Family Planning in central Phoenix performed more than 3,300 abortion procedures in 2020, according to a report by the Arizona Department of Health Services, in addition to Planned Parenthood Arizona’s regular services of reproductive health exams, HIV testing, STI treatment, pregnancy testing, and sex-postive health education. 

In contrast, state Rep. Schwiebert told her fellow legislators that in a free country people should be able to make decisions about their own health care without the “interference of politicians like us.” While on the House floor dissenting against the proposed 15-week abortion ban, the Democratic representative told a story about how her son and daughter-in-law had to make a difficult decision to have an abortion after learning the fetus had developed without a skull and would not survive outside the womb. 

“None of us can know the circumstances that any person is facing,” said Schwiebert. “Abortion is a deeply personal decision that should be respected.” Schwiebert received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Arizona in 2020 and an endorsement from Arizona List: A Committee for Pro-Choice Democratic Women in Arizona in 2020 and 2022. 

State Rep. Wilmeth has previously collaborated with election deniers in the Arizona Legislature. Wilmeth co-sponsored House Bill 2787, which seeks to strip the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors of their power and split Maricopa into four smaller counties. The result would lead to three counties controlled by Republicans and only one controlled by Democrats. 

The prime sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) posed as a fake elector in December 2020, claiming he was duly elected by the people of Arizona to cast one of the state’s 11 electoral votes in favor of Trump. Hoffman also paid teens and minors to spread election and COVID misinformation on social media. 

On the issue of gun safety, state Rep. Wilmeth is against closing the “gun show” loophole, which lets private citizens sell guns to anyone without the need for a background check. Wilmeth also voted to legalize the right for adults to bring and carry loaded firearms on school grounds, and sponsored House Bill 2489, a bill that would allow 18-20-year olds to conceal and carry weapons. When the bill failed to pass in the House, Wilmeth asked for the Legislature to reconsider the bill, according to the National Rifle Association (NRA) Institute for Legislative Action. Wilmeth was endorsed by the NRA Political Victory Fund and has an A+ Rating from the organization. 

Conversely, State Rep. Schwiebert was endorsed as a Gun Sense Candidate by Moms Demand Action, a grassroots movement working for common sense reforms to protect people from gun violence. 

Because there are two available seats in District 2, and only one Democrat running for the position, Republicans are guaranteed a seat in the district. 

The other candidate running on the Republican ticket is information technology specialist Christian Lamar. Having no previous political experience, Lamar has campaigned on the promise to decertify the 2020 election if he wins office.

 On September 5th, Lamar tweeted, “AZleg has binary power to take any constitutional action it wants against presidential electors.” Election experts say that no decertification process exists, but Lamar disagrees. 

In May, Lamar told a right-wing YouTube channel that the movie “2000 Mules” provides “irrefutable” proof of ballot fraud significant enough to change the outcome of the 2020 election. The movie posits that cellphone data can prove the existence of election fraud, a claim that remains unverified and has been disproven by experts for the most part. 

Lamar has not confirmed whether or not he thinks former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, but he has criticized Maricopa County and County Recorder Stephen Richter for how they handled the election. Richter and county officials have since released reams of data to support the legitimacy of the election, including a 93-page report released in January. 

Lamar has been endorsed by gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R), a fellow election denier. 

Much like state Rep. Wilmeth, Lamar opposes expanding background checks to include guns purchased by private individuals. Lamar’s campaign website reads, “I will fight to protect our right to keep & bear arms. No red flag laws, no concessions or exceptions.” Lamar also received an AQ Rating from the NRA, the highest possible rating for a non-incumbent. 

Lamar has also described himself as “100 percent pro-life.” 

One distinguishing factor in this race is Lamar’s domestic violence conviction. In September 2015, Lamar was charged with domestic assault after allegedly punching his then-fiancé in the face. Police records and the officer’s testimony verify this claim, as the officer who responded noticed a mark on the victim’s face. 

In 2016, Lamar filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officer on duty, the Phoenix Police Department, and the city of Phoenix, claiming that his 5th and 14th Amendment rights were violated and the investigation was maliciously turned against him due to his race and gender. The case was dismissed by a federal judge, and Lamar did not receive the $7 million in damages that he sought. 

The voters of Arizona’s 2nd Legislative District have a choice between three candidates in the upcoming November election: an election-denying conspiracy theorist with a domestic assault conviction, a conservative who is willing to collaborate with election-denying legislators and destabilize Democrats in the region, or a progressive who has been a staunch supporter of public education, reproductive rights, and ending gun violence. The choice is in the hands of central Phoenix voters.