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Meet the three candidates who could represent Tempe in the Arizona Legislature

After Rep. Athena Salman's resignation in December left the seat vacant, three people who are up for the job share their plans with The State Press


Photo illustration of the Arizona State Capitol building on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, and the ASU charter on Tempe campus on Monday, Nov. 1, 2022.

The Arizona Democratic Party selected three candidates on Tuesday to replace Rep. Athena Salman's vacant seat in the Arizona Legislature. The Maricopa Board of Supervisors will soon decide which of the three will represent the state's eighth legislative district, which includes Tempe.

The three hopefuls — Jacob Raiford, Deborah Nardozzi and Jevin Hodge — shared their plans for Tempe if selected to fill Rep. Salman's vacant seat. Their priorities include affordable housing, reproductive healthcare, community engagement and gun control.

Jacob Raiford is the vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the vice chair of District 8's Democratic party. He has worked to improve Tempe police's relationship with city residents through the Public Safety Advisory Task Force, focusing on how Tempe PD handles first responder dispatches.

READ MORE: Tempe task force to address issues within its police department

As a House representative, Raiford plans to continue Rep. Salman's advocacy for abortion rights, as well as tackling Tempe's housing crisis. He emphasized fostering community engagement around political issues, drawing on his experience as an activist and community organizer.

"When it comes to our generations, whether you're a millennial, whether you're Gen Z, there is this sort of disconnection, and it's the result of these issues that we've inherited," Raiford said. "This is our time, we are inheriting America, and without involving ASU, it's not going to be a full representation of the communities that we govern down at the Capitol."

Raiford said he plans to work with the Democratic caucus to make Tempe housing more affordable, and is confident in getting support from Gov. Katie Hobbs, his party and the community.

"It's just really all, at this point, a matter of doing that legislative work to make sure that this policy comes to fruition, we're able to impact lives in a positive way and address this housing crisis," he said.

Deborah Nardozzi was the Democratic chair of  District 24, which used to be in the same area as District 8 before redistricting. She similarly plans to support affordable housing efforts in Tempe, such as making more housing units available and creating more dollar-for-dollar housing credits, which would incentivize investors to subsidize affordable rental housing.

Nardozzi said she will also prioritize access to reproductive healthcare by working on stronger legal protections for abortion care providers in and out of Arizona.

"I would love to create a bill, if possible, just by working with some of my peers, to prevent anyone to bring suit against a nurse or a physician who prescribes abortion pills to patients that are currently in another state where that is banned," Nardozzi said.

She said she plans to impose stricter gun control measures by banning AK-47 guns and extended magazines, as well as requiring gun owners to register assault weapons with the state police. Nardozzi also wants to ban the creation of "ghost guns", firearms assembled by individuals rather than companies, which are then impossible to track.

Nardozzi said she also wants to remove the requirement for people to put their gender on driver's licenses in order to protect transgender individuals.

Jevin Hodge is a business executive, nonprofit chairperson and former candidate against incumbent U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Arizona, in 2022. 

The nonprofit that Hodge leads, the Booker T. Washington Child Development Center, currently serves low-income families by offering a free Head Start education program to young children, according to an emailed statement from Hodge.

"When I'm in the Legislature, Arizona families can trust that I'll fight for them to increase education funding, protect the right to reproductive freedom, and expand access to affordable housing," Hodge said in an emailed statement. "Arizona families need a problem solver who can walk into the Legislature and deliver real results."

Hodge said that growing up as the son of a single parent made him experience "first-hand the issues that everyday Arizonans face." He said that his work as a business executive included helping businesses and nonprofits tackle homelessness, COVID vaccine availability and education access.

Rep. Salman's replacement, once chosen, will have a short time window to submit new bills to the state Legislature before Feb. 5, 2024.

Edited by Sadie Buggle, Shane Brennan and Grace Copperthite.

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