Tempe City Council candidate Casey Clowes is bringing the mission of the Sunrise Movement to her campaign.
Sunrise is a political grassroots organization that describes itself as "a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process." There are more than 400 local Sunrise "hubs" around the country, and two in Arizona.
Clowes, who is running for city council for a second time, is a leading member of Sunrise's Tempe hub, which is the result of a merger of the Tempe and ASU hubs in 2021. The majority of Sunrise Tempe's upcoming events involve canvassing for Clowes' campaign. Members of Sunrise commit 40 volunteer hours for Clowes' campaign per week, organized into 20 two-hour shifts.
Clowes was raised in Tempe and has a degree in public service and public policy and a juris doctorate from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. She is a practicing attorney and a community organizer for Sunrise Tempe.
Her perspective from law and public service studies is the foundation for her beliefs and work up to this point. This is combined with Sunrise Movement's over-arching mission of climate justice and sustainability.
"Sustainability isn't a one-off thing and the climate crisis doesn't happen in a silo," Clowes said. "It involves a variety of departments. I think every department needs to look at themselves as a climate resiliency field."
Taylor Nelson, member of Sunrise Tempe, moved to Arizona from Iowa and joined the organization after she felt the effects of extreme heat.
"I loved the desert air and gorgeous views. Then, the summer heat came," Nelson said in an email. "My energy bills tripled, I was feeling dehydrated even with lots of water, and it was hard to be outside for long periods of time. The air conditioner broke in the middle of a heatwave and our apartment got up to 85 degrees."
Brian Mecinas, a junior majoring in sustainability, is a member of Sunrise Tempe. He has fears over how Tempe and other cities around the Valley are handling the climate crisis.
"Extreme heat and air quality issues disproportionately affect vulnerable Latino, Indigenous, and otherwise BIPOC communities, especially those that don't readily have the financial means that others do to afford to avoid it," Mecinas said in an email. "Cities in the Valley are just now beginning to truly address these issues and Tempe is leading the way."
Of the six issues Clowes wants to address most, sustainability and climate justice top the list.
"I really love Tempe. I love our community, and I believe that Tempe is facing significant challenges," Clowes said. "The climate crisis is already here and requires local commitment and action. And as we recover, we can't ignore the impacts of the pandemic on our local communities."
Sunrise members, like Mecinas, have been working with Clowes on her campaign, and have thrown support behind her. They said they have been phone banking, canvassing and knocking on doors throughout the campaign process.
"Rather than pursuing this office as a stepping stone or as a means to start a career, Casey simply wants to create change in order to ensure that Tempe is a place that people can thrive in for generations to come," Mecinas said in an email.
Nelson had the same sentiment around Clowes' qualifications and her ability if she is elected.
"She knows the issues because she knows Tempe; she has lived here her whole life. Casey betters the community as an attorney, high-stakes negotiator, climate advocate, and community organizer," Nelson said in an email. "She has the drive and know-how to lead Tempe as a city councilperson."
Clowes has shown herself as an active leader and organizer for Sunrise. Last fall, Clowes and other members of the club camped outside Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's office for three days last fall to demand she support the Build Back Better plan. Clowes said it was a "powerful experience" to stand with young people.
Mecinas said Sunrise will continue to support and work hard for Clowes, and while they would celebrate a victory, they will continue to uphold the organization's values even if she doesn't win.
"If Clowes is elected, we will hold her to the same level of accountability that we would any other elected official, though we'll strongly celebrate the win of a candidate that we know will truly fight for a safe, livable future for all people in Tempe," Mecinas said in an email.
Brian Mecinas is an opinion columnist at The State Press but did not take part in producing this story.
Shane Brennan is the Editor-in-Chief at The State Press. He was a sports and politics reporter, before becoming the editor of the politics desk. He has covered local and state politics for the Arizona Capitol Times and Cronkite News.