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Power to the Polls

The LGBT Candidate Running Against a Man Who Denounced Gay Marriage

"We all want the same thing. We all want our families to have the opportunities to have what they might consider their American Dream," says Joan Greene.

Linda Yang

Linda Yang

In honor of the Women’s March and their “Power to the Polls” initiative, we're highlighting progressive women and nonbinary candidates on the 2018 ballot. You can read more of their stories here.

This January, I reached out to Joan Greene, a small business owner and candidate for Arizona’s 5th Congressional District, to hear more about her campaign and why she, among some 600 other women nationwide, decided to run for office for the first time this year. Before speaking, Greene emailed me a link to a Broadly article titled, “An Incredibly Upsetting List of of All the New Republican Congress Members.” The first Republican lawmaker listed in the story is named Andy Biggs, whose track record includes saying that gay marriage "is an affront to the millions of Americans who believe marriage is between a man and a woman," voting in favor of penalizing sanctuary cities for immigrants and enacting harsh abortion restrictions in the state. “That should answer why I am running against Andy Biggs,” wrote Greene.

A Democrat, Greene advocates for single-payer health care and debt-free tuition for community colleges, universities, and vocational schools, and is endorsed by Run with Pride as an LGBT candidate with progressive values. Most importantly, Greene says she has a desire to make the American Dream available to everyone. Currently, Greene is gearing up her campaign against incumbent Representative Andy Biggs, elected in November 2016.

On the phone, Greene was as lively and warm as she was over email. She says she rescues dogs who require urgent medical care and runs a business raising money and awareness for nonprofits in addition to founding and running a successful marketing company. “What’s most important is that people know Arizona is moving forward and we will bring the country back to the people,” said Greene. “My greatest goal is to close the gap between those who have and those who have not. We are now the voice for the voiceless and we’re giving back to the people.”

Broadly spoke to Greene to learn more about her campaign, the support she’s found along the way, and what comes next.

BROADLY: Why did you decide to run?

JOAN GREENE: Originally, I was asked by some people in Arizona if I would do this. I have to be honest, I had never heard of my opponent before. When I dug into him—his name is Andy Biggs—I was appalled at what he’s done to hurt Arizona. He’s tried everything. He tried to stop funding for our children, which provides health insurance to 30,000 Arizona kids from low income families. He wanted the complete elimination of our Arizona Medicaid program, which at the time covered 1.8 million people, again many of them children. These are just two examples, we can go on to his discrimination, his racism, it’s exhausting.

Once I did the research on Biggs, I thought, no way, this guy has been here for far too long unopposed. Now he must go. We have to build our community back. He hasn’t done anything positive for it and is ripping it apart.

Do you think Arizona is also looking for new leadership?

Definitely. I’ve talked to thousands of people so far and what everybody from every party—not just the Democrats— are saying is “this is not what we signed up for.” They are ready to get behind someone who understands that an elected official works for the people not the other way around.

Have you found support from the community?

It’s pretty amazing; I’ve been doing this for seven months and I’ve had people not only from the Democratic Party but strangers who don’t even live in the district who are volunteering to become ambassadors for the campaign and community. We’ve also found nationwide attention from people all over the country. It’s exciting because people are saying we don’t have to deal with the status quo—we can change this.

We are not a red state. Everyone has been led to believe that we are a red state but we are actually a purple state. The new candidates coming into the party are fresh, and their ideas are good. I’m excited because we have new candidates who are here asking, “How do we serve the people?”

"We all want the same thing. We all want our families to have the opportunities to have what they might consider their American Dream."

Your platform involves single-payer health care and debt-free higher education. Who have these stances resonated with?

They resonate with everyone. For single-payer, it’s not just health care. When you have health care security, you have more money in your pocket. You don’t have to worry about whether I pay a premium or go hungry. You don’t have to worry about the jobs that you are taking because your health care is taken care of—you’re not stuck in a job. You can move freely and contribute more to the economy. On the flipside, for employers, they will save money that can be put into their businesses.

This year’s Women’s March is advancing “Power to the Polls” in an effort to get new candidates into office. Were you involved with the Women’s March last year?

We all shook our fists for the bad timing but unfortunately, I had my first class at Emerge America, a program that trains women to run for office, during the Women’s March last year. We had to say to ourselves, what we are doing is allowing some to represent us on the street while we are doing our part to represent them 365 days of the year.

That’s kind of beautiful. What has your experience with Emerge America been like?

Emerge is an interesting thing because you’re in a room with excited women. Quite a few women in my session who are not only running for Congress but they’re running for city council, they’re running for school board. Some are helping candidates by being campaign managers, they’re moving everything forward. The excitement is incredible. That’s just our class, then we have senators and representative who have already gone through the Emerge Arizona class.

Emerge has provided me with a group of 30 people who are my new friends. Then we go on to see what we can do for other people. I don’t think about just whether I get elected; it’s my job to help everybody else succeed.

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Do you feel hopeful because of last year’s victorious off-year election and the upcoming Women’s March?

No, I don’t feel hope. For me, hope is, “oh my, I hope we can do that.” I think that we will succeed. We are confident. We know that this is going to happen. Don’t look at my district and think that it’s red and it’s always going to be that way. We’re saying, “yeah no, no more.” We are changing this and people are responding.

What comes next for your campaign?

I’ve built my foundation. It’s strong and I’ve been doing that for seven months. We’ve talked to thousands of people, we’ve knocked on doors. We’ve talked to Democrats, Republicans—I know that sounds weird but we make sure to talk to Republicans because what we’ve found is what we already know: We all want the same thing. We all want our families to have the opportunities to have what they might consider their American Dream. Even Republicans are now saying that this racism that’s going on crosses the line and we will vote that out. We’re done.

We had our campaign kickoff last Saturday. This weekend we are doing our official ambassador kickoff for our volunteers. Now, we are going out to meet more people, make sure we have enough signatures to get on the ballot and that will take us into a primary.