HomeDemocracyThe Two Candidates Vying for Arizona’s District 4 Senate Seat Have Vastly Different Agendas Affecting Children and Families

The Two Candidates Vying for Arizona’s District 4 Senate Seat Have Vastly Different Agendas Affecting Children and Families

Reinette LeJeune

Arizona’s 2022 elections are fast approaching, with the primary elections set for August 2nd, and the general elections set for November 8th. In Legislative District 4, which represents Paradise Valley and north Scottsdale after last year’s redistricting, voters will choose between two current state Senators for their district’s seat: Democratic candidate Sen. Christine Marsh (D-28) and Republican candidate Sen. Nancy Barto (R-15), both of whom are finishing up terms in their respective districts and aiming to transition to District 4. Although District 4 is not the only seat that will determine which side of the aisle the state will fall to, it is a crucial district this year. 

Marsh is a teacher of thirty years from Phoenix who was elected as Senator for District 28 in 2020. After 23 years of teaching in the classroom, she was named Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year and given the opportunity to travel the state. It was during her travels that she was inspired to run for office, after witnessing the difficulties that public schools all across the state faced first-hand. “One-party rule has stifled Arizona for too long, and Arizona’s most vulnerable populations have been placed at risk,” she has stated, calling for more legislative balance at the Capitol. 

As a teacher with 30 years of experience within the state’s public schools, Marsh has called for better investments into our teachers and our schools as one of her leading priorities. She has authored and introduced several bills aimed at strengthening school funding, however, none have been passed or signed into action due to Republican opposition controlling the legislature. 

Marsh has been an outspoken advocate for abortion rights since before the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade. She points to Arizona’s 1864 “trigger law,” along with an anti-abortion bill sponsored by Barto, as evidence that the state’s Republican dominated House, Senate, and Governor are examples of a government deciding policy against the majority, since recent polling from Change Research reflects that 71 percent of Arizona voters are in strong agreement with pro-choice legislation.

Marsh has made health care access a value of emphasis for her campaign, with a particular focus on the ever-present opioid epidemic – after her youngest son, Landon, passed away due to a fentanyl overdose in May 2020. She has continued pushing for legislation that would not only create counterfeit drug awareness programs, but also legalizing fentanyl testing strips by removing them from the state’s definition of prohibited drug paraphernalia. She has voiced support for keeping Medicaid and KidsCare available for eligible Arizonans, as well as maintaining affordable health care access for those with pre-existing conditions. 

After being diagnosed with cancer last year – with a prognosis she described as “excellent” – Marsh has regularly held fundraisers for the benefit of cancer research.

Barto is the current Senator for District 15. Originally from Chicago, Barto is now residing in Phoenix with her husband. In 2007, she was elected to the State House of Representatives in District 7, serving for five years before running for the Arizona Senate. 

Nancy Barto also believes in changing public education, albeit in an alternate way. She has sternly opposed the inclusion of so-called “Critical Race Theory” and LGBTQ+ history in public schools, calling it leftist propaganda. Recently, she is responsible for sponsoring SB1211, which was passed by Republicans to ensure “transparency,” but instead requires teachers to upload a list of every book and worksheet they use in their classrooms online to be left under scrutiny by parental review, not academic officials. “More sunshine on what our kids are involved in is a great thing,” Barto said, “Our kids belong to our parents, not the schools.”

In March of this year, Barto was one of the three state legislators against censuring state Sen. Wendy Rogers (R-6) after she gave a speech at a rally organized by white nationalists. In the speech, she called for her political opponents to be hanged, but Barto refused to condemn the violent rhetoric, claiming it would infringe on “free speech.” Barto also worked with twelve other Republican state legislators to back Donald Trump’s failed attempt at overturning his loss in Arizona in efforts to change the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Barto has been a leading advocate for anti-abortion legislation, authoring the bill banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which was recently signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey (R). She has regularly stated her belief that pregnancies of every kind – even those from rape and incest – should be carried to full term, with any and all terminations prosecuted as “murder.”  

As chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, Barto has sponsored multiple bills that officials argued would reduce immunization rates in Arizona and endanger public health. One such bill, HB2470, would have added a non-medical “religious belief” exemption for childhood vaccines required in schools, while also removing the parent signature requirements. Another bill, HB2471, would require doctors to inform parents about potential risks of vaccines and how to file for injury claims related to them. A third bill, HB2472, would require doctors to offer a blood test prior to vaccination; the test would determine if a child already possesses the antibodies that would be developed from receiving a vaccine. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Barto was one of the supporters of hydroxychloroquine, promoting it as a cure and eventual alternative to the then-newly created vaccine. 

With so many candidates running for election into our state government, Arizona sits on the precipice of change. Since the 1950’s the state has been firmly held by Republicans, with few upsets throughout the decades. With many crises currently plaguing Arizona – such as the 22 year long drought and the water shortages resulting – these elections will prove important in the coming months.