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Q&A: Andrew Sherwood on state House

Democrat Andrew Sherwood discusses his legislative campaign.​

Andrew Sherwood
Andrew Sherwood

Name: Andrew Sherwood

Party: Democrat

Running for: State House, District 26

Previous experience: Ran for Senate District 18 in 2010

State Press: Why are you running for office?

Andrew Sherwood: I'm running for office, like I think most candidates are, because I feel compelled to do something about the community and what's going on around me. Specifically, what matters to me is job creation, especially for the youth. I was in one of the generations that grew up being told that if you go to college you'll automatically make a lot more money. And growing up I heard things like if you get a college degree you'll make $20,000 more, $30,000 more, $40,000 per year. The reality is, that's not what shook out for my generation and that bothers me. Right now, I'm 31 years old and a lot of my friends and colleagues are big players in the workplace right now. But a lot of people in my generation have to scramble because the game is afloat. We're past the days where you were able to enter a company at the janitorial level and know if you stay there for twenty years and keep working up you'll have this progression called a career. What we're seeing for the youth is that that's not the case. You have to pivot. You have to get into a job and build your resume up for a few years and then you have to pivot to another job. What I would like to do is help the community so that's not so difficult to do. I don't think we're going to go back to a time when you could just start at the bottom of a company and know for sure that this company will be here in 20 years. What we're left with now is you've got to be pivoting and building your resume all the time. What I want to do is make that easier for everybody to keep people entering the work force.

SP: What do you think the legislature can do to keep tuition low?

AS: One thing the legislature does not do well in Arizona is education. I don't know if you know this, but we spend less for pupil than any other state in the country. It says in our constitution that education is supposed to be as close to free as possible. One of the things that we should do is talk with Michael Crow or whoever is representing ASU and talk about how to build tuition. There's different components of that. There's the amount of money the legislature is going to give ASU and then there's also how you help students keep the cost burdens down. We're talking about books, we're talking about housing rentals, we're talking about having jobs too. So I think there's a lot of different aspects to this. What I'd like to do is surround ASU with more jobs and better jobs. I want to make sure ASU gets the funding it deserves to make sure that we can keep threading ASU back into the community. One of the questions that you get asked a lot on the campaign trail is if you have an idea, how can you actually sell it and make it happen? What I ascribe to that is that it's not just about having a good idea; it's about knowing how to thread this needle. A lot of good ideas have died in politics. They didn't get off the ground because someone didn't do it correctly.

What we need to keep doing here in Tempe and the surrounding area for ASU students is keep publishing our success. We need to keep reminding the community of our value, both what we're doing here as students and what we're doing as an institution. I think what that will do is drive activity into the school – which we definitely do, everyone knows ASU and ASU promotes itself very well – but I think there's always a lot of room that will grow.

SP: Another issue we've seen come up often in the past few years is whether or not to allow guns on campus. What's your stance on that?

AS: I get asked that all the time. I'm opposed to guns on campus. It's not something that I feel should be a core part of the election cycle, first of all. I feel like Arizona gets lost in the weeds. Constantly what you see in Arizona is people are thinking about these five things over here, but what would actually make their lives better is things over here. I'll give you an example. In 2010, I door knocked 7,500 doors. I used to ask every person when I knocked on their door, "What matters to you; what are you thinking about?" And they would say maybe health care, maybe they'll talk about a Supreme Court decision like abortion, maybe they'll talk about something they heard about the President or the White House, any number of things that are oftentimes federal. But when I left their house and I'd say, "What would make your life better?" it was always the same two things: More money in my pocket and better education for my kids. So while you're thinking about these things over here, these are good political devices to motivate voter bases, it's these two things over here, jobs and education, that matter most. I feel like guns on campus is one of these things over here. It's being used as a tool to push the electorate around, to persuade them to do or not to do something.

I'm against guns on campus, but I think there are bigger issues to be talking about then guns on campus. I see no purpose for this. I can't think of a situation where I think that there should have been a student somewhere that had a gun on them, and I can think of plenty of situations – remember, I was an ASU student too – where it was probably a very good thing there wasn't a bunch of people in the room who were armed. Part of the college creative process is you get the blood flowing and kids are opinionated and that's fantastic. I don't see how having guns on campus would be a virtue, not ever.

SP: You've mentioned abortion as something that people might be focusing on when they should be focusing on other things. What is your stance on some of those reproductive issues we've seen brought up recently?

AS: I watched the last session try quite a few things to, in my opinion, really attack women. As far as stuff like this, we're getting lost in the weeds here. This has all already been decided federally. What I have to remind people is that while you may agree or disagree with a candidate on something like the supreme court decision, what you should focus on is the bigger picture. We talk in politics a lot about single issue voters, who wants to know what is your one position on this one thing because that will make up their minds one way or the other. This sort of stuff bothers me because I that it takes the focus off of what's really important.

But I support women's rights. I've been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, and I feel like this is something we want to work with and not against, and certainly not work backwards into the past. I think Arizona and the United States as a whole is moving in the right direction, and I'm for it.

SP: You said the two most important things are better education and getting more money into people's pockets. How would you work to make that happen?

AS: Now that's the right question. It's big. There's a couple different components that we need to work with for Arizona. The first thing is, I would really like to see the Chambers of Commerce make themselves more visible to the community. I do a lot of door knocking and I meet a lot of people who have ideas and they're oftentimes not even aware that the Chambers of Commerce exist. It's not like they're hiding. They're fantastic, and they're definitely available. I want to make them more available and more visible still.

I also want to help connect them to the legislature. In the last session before Russell Pearce was recalled, sixty CEOs in Arizona signed a letter asking them to stop the immigration bills because they thought it was bad for business. That's a really good example of the business community stepping up and making their voice heard in the legislature. These are actual job creators, so they made their voice heard and it was effective. I'd like to see that happen more often, so I think that's one of the things we should be doing here.

When it comes to education, I think that we need to really help public schools. Public schools are where I'm at. Private schools are okay, charter schools are okay, but I don't see the need to expand on these other systems when I like the public education system as it is and I'd like to make it better still. I'd like to pay teachers more so we can retain some of the really good teachers and I'd like to give them a little bit more money in the classroom so they can do more with it. I have friends who are teachers in Arizona. One of them is 41 years old and she can't make ends meet so she's possibly leaving Arizona. To me it's a problem that we have a great teacher here who wants to stay and who's accepted that you're never going to get rich being a teacher here in arizona at her grade level, but she can't even stay above water. That's definitely a problem and that's definitely something we have to address here.

Third, we're talking about jobs and education here, and it's important to get some confidence back in the legislature. I would love to take a poll and see what the approval rating of the Arizona State Legislature is. I suspect it's probably pretty low right now. There's not a lot of confidence in the government, either state or federal. What I'd like to do is start instilling some confidence back into our state legislature. A great way to do this is with solar energy. Amongst Arizonans, 90 percent polled have agreed that they feel that solar energy is something Arizona should get behind. In fact, they all say Arizona should be the solar capital of the world. That's something I'd like to see everyone down at the Capitol get behind and really make something historical happen in Arizona. It would give people a sense of identity and it would be innovative. We're not going to get out of a recession by chopping the failed pieces and pushing them to one side or another. We're not going to get out of the recession just by creating more leverage or chokeholds. We need innovation, and this would be a really good start that can remind people that we can do things when we work together. We just don't do it often enough.

SP: What do you think some of your greatest challenges are, both in the rest of the campaign and if you end up taking office?

AS: I think that in Arizona, one of the things that I find is that a lot of people feel that their vote doesn't matter. What happens here in Arizona a lot is that districts are what they call bulletproof. Arizona's chopped up into 30 legislative districts and so predominantly districts are one party majority/minority. I think that's a problem, because what you see are a lot of voters who feel they don't need to vote because it's not going to matter anyways. I don't want to hear people say to me that I don't want to vote because it doesn't matter and I really don't want to hear people say when they're really passionate that they wouldn't run because they don't think they're going to win. I don't like to hear that stuff.

Getting back to the innovation, that's what it's going to take. People need to put faith back into their politics, which I was just talking about a minute ago. What I think really helped kickstart that is the recall of Russell Pearce. You had a lot of people watching the West Mesa district, district 18, wondering what was going to happen because Russell Pearce hadn't lost an election yet. It was very useful to demonstrate that to Arizona voters, because the only other things going on were the Tucson mayoral race, the Phoenix mayor's race and then the Independent Redistricting Commission. So in a state that throws every seat in the legislature up for grabs every two years, this was a unique chance for a lot of people to watch what was going to happen here and what was going on. The odds were against the recall and it was successful, and I think that it proved a couple of things. One, that every vote matters, and two, that you can work with people and show them good evidence and they will change their minds. There's more Republicans in Legislative District 18 than there were Democrats, and so a lot of people that were working on it weren't sure whether the Republicans would keep Russell Pearce just because he's a Republican. The answer was no, they didn't. They abandoned the status quo because they were provided with information. There was a very large percentage of political swing that left Russell Pearce that year and you can attribute it to information. This, to me, was an important way of showing people that your vote always matters and that you can always work with the electorate and if you have a product that was new and innovative, everyone will go for it.

I think that would be an obstacle. I want people to get engaged, especially the youth. I want young voters. I want people getting involved at an early age and learning how to pay attention to the stuff. I hope that young voters will vote for some politicians with guts. I'm the only candidate in this LD26 race who worked with the Russell Pearce recall, and I hope that's something that kids here, and adults too, can get behind. Russell Pearce cut education by $400 million and I think we need to abandon that style of thinking and put some people in who are actually going to look to the future. So, I hope they'll consider that on election day.

Reach the reporter at or follow @JMShumway on Twitter.

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