Democrat Lynsey Robinson last week made the case for why voters should elect her to the state Senate seat in Legislative District 12, describing her debate no-show opponent as having “a depraved heart.”
Robinson faces an uphill battle against Republican Warren Petersen in the Nov. 3 General Election in the conservative enclave that includes a large portion of Gilbert and Queen Creek. Robinson unsuccessfully challenged Petersen in 2018 for the state House seat that he currently occupies.
Petersen is seeking the Senate seat vacated by retiring Eddie Farnsworth. Petersen also did not attend the commission’s in-person debate two years ago when he ran for the House.
“I have the first-hand knowledge about the issues that are most important to the survival and prosperity of our state,” Robinson said in a virtual debate hosted by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission last Wednesday.
“As a former Dreamer, teacher and survivor of childhood domestic violence, childhood molestation and adult survivor of a physically abusive first marriage, I have direct insight on the issues that matter most and that are the most poignant to the most vulnerable members of our community – women and children.”
Robinson, a former teacher who grew up in poverty and is now a practicing attorney for Legal Aid, said her life experience catapults her ahead of Petersen.
“Every woman in the state has earned the right to take a seat at the table but the district has yet to be represented by them in the Legislature despite women outnumbering men in the district,” she said. “That means what matters to us never gets prioritized.”
She said her top issues are education, healthcare and infrastructure.
“We have to make sure we fully fund our schools,” she said. “There is no excuse for this. Arizona is at the bottom in terms of per pupil funding. We’ve been at the bottom for a long time.”
She said healthcare was not her top priority until COVID-19 hit and she saw people lose their jobs and their health insurance as a result.
She said one thing that can be done is what Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, proposed in a bill that would have allowed uninsured people to buy into the state’s Medicaid system or Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.
She also talked about the value of building infrastructure, which brings jobs.
She responded to a handful of questions submitted by voters. Questions included criminal-justice reform, the November election and climate change.
The moderator asked Robinson if she felt the state was doing enough for mental health treatment.
“I don’t believe we are,” Robinson responded. “I think we can do more for mental health, make sure everyone has access to affordable mental healthcare.”
Robinson also was asked if she felt Arizona or its leadership was doing enough to make climate change part of the legislative agenda. She said she was unaware of any recent bills addressing climate change.
But what the state can do is look at its most abundant resource – the sun – and exploit it, she said.
Solar energy would help people with their energy costs and protect the environment, she added. She said the state could encourage hybrid and electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions and look to mass transit to reduce ozone pollution.
But unless people accept climate change is real, there won’t be movement on this front, she said.
Robinson also responded to a question asking how she would make sure science is central to government decision-making.
“I believe in science, I believe in listening to the experts,” she said. “We can stop making public health a political issue and work to protect and preserve the lives of people by listening to the experts.”
Robinson took a few digs at Petersen, who’s served in the Legislature since 2012.
“I’m going to talk about my opponent,” she said. “I’m his 100-percent polar opposite.”
For example, earlier this year when state Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Phoenix, attempted to increase the state’s weekly unemployment benefits Majority Leader “Petersen pulled a procedural move to block her amendment from being heard,” said Robinson.
She claimed Petersen pays lip service to his constituents and called into question if he really wanted to help small businesses survive.
She said at a time when the state was seeing an explosion of COVID-19 cases, Petersen retweeted a tweet by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who encouraged people to hold barbecues, have football games and go back to school.
“Again, I’m someone who believes in science and in July we were at the height of the pandemic in our state,” she said. “What should have been happening is that we should be asking people to follow the science and to mask up and he refused to support that with his argument about the freedom to be free.
“Yes, we want businesses to thrive but how can they thrive when people are dying?”
She also said Petersen voted against COVID-19 relief for families and small businesses.
The state Legislature in March passed a $50 million relief package that provided funds to businesses, nonprofits, healthcare providers and food banks. Petersen was the sole dissenter.
Robinson also said Petersen was only one out of 90 lawmakers at the state Legislature to vote against medical coverage for pre-existing conditions.
“To vote against medical coverage for pre-existing condition, why?” she said noting, it affected the elderly. “To me this is someone with a depraved heart."