Even though less than 40 percent of the registered members of a political party in Cochise County are Democrats, there is lots of interest in who will win the nomination for the District 2 congressional seat in the Aug. 30 primary.
Republicans, who hold almost 60 percent of the county’s registered party members, won’t be casting ballots in the contest but are anxious to find out whether Victoria Steele or Dr. Matt Heinz will be the candidate to challenge incumbent GOP congresswoman Martha McSally.
Both Heinz and Steele boast experience serving in the State Legislature and both live in Tucson. That’s about where the commonality ends, with Steele’s campaign calling for social justice and environmental activism and Heinz focusing on improving federal health care programs and serving a diversity of needs for the entire district.
Voters who request a Democratic Party ballot along with registered members of the party will decide which candidate will face U.S. Rep. McSally in the Nov. 8 general election. Republicans will have one federal office primary of their own in the Aug. 30 election, choosing between Dr. Kelli Ward, a former State Senator, and incumbent John McCain for that party’s U.S. Senate nomination. The winner of the contest will face Democrat and former District 1 congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who is unopposed in the primary, in the general election.
Interviews of Steele and Dr. Heinz provided insights on their campaign and why they believe they are the best candidates to represent the Democratic Party in the race for congress.
Sitting at the Bisbee Breakfast Club in Tucson, a nearby patron asks Victoria Steele if she’s a candidate for office.
“Yes, I’m running for Congress,” she replies quietly, with a smile.
“Are you a Republican?” asks the elderly gentleman.
When the answer comes back negative, the man voices his concerns about Hillary Clinton and his opinions on what’s wrong with the Democrats.
“I’ve heard lots of those concerns and I understand,” Steele says. “I know that people are feeling lots of fear about things and they don’t believe a lot of what politicians are saying today.”
She then points to her upbringing in a poor family, living in a small Pennsylvania town with a bad economy, and her life as a single mother, struggling to make ends meet. She’s anxious to make a difference and wants to help others who face the challenges of a system that limits the success of some people through privilege, while it provides few opportunities for those less fortunate.
“You should become a Republican,” the elderly man states. “I would vote for you if you were a Republican.”
Steele doesn’t hide her compassion for others and she’s proud of her record in the Arizona Legislature where she was elected twice as a State Representative representing the Tucson area. She has served as the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Committee, and as a member of the Health, Energy and Environment committees.
As a single working mom, Steele managed to make sure her son got an education while she worked two jobs and eventually earned a Master’s degree in counseling. Today, she has a private practice specializing in helping people heal from trauma, domestic violence and substance abuse.
“We need to change the system” she said in the interview. “Today, the deck is stacked against people who work hard and play by the rules. We need to create a system that offers more opportunity for those people by growing and diversifying our economy.”
She points to biomedicine and solar power as two areas that would benefit the congressional district.
“Arizona should be the leader in solar power,” she states.
Her primary issues include protecting Social Security and Medicare; making college affordable and reducing student debt; providing incentives to address climate change; improving care for veterans; protecting a woman’s right to control her own body; and passing legislation to assure paid family and medical leave.
More about Victoria Steele is available at www.victoriasteeleforcongress.com
Dr. Matt Heinz
Politics and medicine are a powerful mix for Heinz, who served in the State Legislature from 2009 to 2013 as a State Representative for District 29 and later at the federal level as a senior official in the Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Today, he works as a physician at Tucson Medical Center, but his interests have never been far from the political arena.
Dr. Heinz entered the race for Congress in 2013, initially challenging incumbent Democrat Ron Barber, before withdrawing from the contest. Barber was later defeated by McSally, losing the district by just 164 votes in the most-contested race in congressional history.
He sees his occupation and political aspirations as mutually beneficial for both patients and constituents.
“The great thing about medicine is that no matter who you are when you walk into the hospital, we have taken an oath to serve your needs,” Heinz said. “It’s the same in politics, you have to serve all of the needs of your districts and the people you represent.”
Heinz is considered the favorite in the primary contest, raising more than $325,000 in his campaign compared to just under $50,000 by Steele, and drawing the endorsement of former House Speaker, California Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
He credits that success to a proven record of success getting legislation adopted in the Republican-majority State Legislature and his commitment to serving people.
One example he proudly points to is changing state law to “cut through the red tape” and help financially-qualified women receive medical treatment for breast and cervical cancer. That effort has subsequently helped more than 400 women receive the care they need.
“That’s the way the system is suppose to work and we’ve lost sight of that,” he said.
Beyond medicine, he wants to help the economy in Southeast Arizona, pointing to biofuels, solar and other sustainable energy sources as opportunities.
“What we’ve seen is that the rising tide of a better economy has helped people who have yachts, but it has made things worse for people in boats,” Heinz said.
He said the closing of the hospital in Douglas was devastating for several reasons, hurting local employment and reducing health care options for local residents. Finding ways to restore opportunities to bolster local economies will be a priority for Heinz if he’s elected to Congress, he said.
Heinz said the Affordable Care Act has been a good first step, but the federal health insurance program needs to be improved. He pointed to contributions from Republicans he knows, many of whom are doctors, who have confidence that he can made a difference improving the system if he’s serving in Congress.
“Just like it doesn’t matter who you are when you come to the hospital, it doesn’t matter who’s on your team when you have to solve a problem,” Heinz said. “It’s the same in politics, we have to get back to working together and being committed to solving problems,” he said.