Because budget deficits are one of the Arizona’s top priorities, an ASU graduate plans to run for the Arizona State House of Representatives to make sure Latino issues are not overlooked.
Martin Quezada, a 32-year-old graduate from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, plans to run as a Democratic candidate representing District 13 in the 2010 election.
Growing up in the predominately Latino district that covers parts of Maryvale, Glendale, Tolleson and Avondale, Quezada said he thinks more Latino leaders are needed to represent Latino issues.
“We need more Latinos to step to the plate not just in politics but also in business,” Quezada said. “I think our views are not being represented, and we need more Latinos to give voice to the Latino community.”
Some Latino issues he hopes to address include higher education and immigration.
“Latino issues are Arizona issues,” Quezada said. “Improving the Latino community will improve the state of Arizona.”
District 13 has two open seats. In January, Steve Gallardo resigned his seat and former vice mayor of Tolleson Anna Tovar was appointed to fill it. Current District 13 Rep. Martha Garcia has served her full term, leaving an open seat.
In the 2010 elections, Anna Tovar will also have to run for re-election and will compete with Quezada for a seat in the district. Quezada said one of his top priorities, if elected, will be working with Arizona’s budget deficit.
“There are a lot of different ways we can adjust the budget so that we protect our investment in public education,” Quezada said. “There are terrible budget cuts that have been implemented in our schools that I don’t think are necessary.”
While at ASU, Quezada said his law professors reached out to him and helped him build a foundation in politics. He said some of them motivated him to work at the Arizona Legislature, where he was as a staff member for five years in the Arizona Senate and the House of Representatives.
“Working at the Legislature helped me build a legal background and really motivated me to go ahead and [run for office],” he said.
The City of Phoenix and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce added Quezada to the list of 40 Hispanic Leaders Under 40 in September. Those on the list include Latino businesspeople, activists and education leaders.
If elected, Quezada said he will use his leadership role to reach out to young people to motivate them to become leaders.
He said at times politicians become too busy and don’t reach out to youth, but he doesn’t want to fall among that group.
“[People involved in politics] are making a huge mistake of not helping groom the next generation,” Quezada said. “There are a lot of young people out there who really need someone to reach out to them and encourage them to pursue higher education.”
Shelli D. Soto, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, said she is not surprised Quezada is “taking a strong role in his community” by running for office.
She said Quezada is a role model for the Latino youth to take on public positions.
“Any of our graduates who take on this more public position when they graduate are in the position to be strong role models, and the fact that Martin is Latino and comes from this community may speak more loudly to the younger population of Latino students in Arizona,” Soto said.
The law school is working to recruit and retain more Latino students into its law programs, said Paul Schiff Berman, dean of the school.
The school’s effort to increase the number of Latino students was ranked seventh among the 2009 Top 10 Law Schools for Hispanics by a Hispanic business magazine.
With the growing Latino population in the U.S., Berman said more Latino lawyers will be necessary.
“Given the demographic trends in the country, it is important that we have a well-educated group of lawyers with Hispanic backgrounds because many of the most important legal and policy issues facing this country in the next three or four decades are going to be related to the fact that we have an increasingly dominant Hispanic population,” he said.
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