It's too early to tell how history will tell the story of the 2018 midterms, but there have already emerged a number of themes that are coming up time and again in the contemporaneous reporting on how those races are shaping up. The breadth and depth of the Democratic opposition; the rise of women - especially women of color - as an electoral force not only at the ballot box but on the ballot; candidates with extraordinarily compelling personal stories proving that it's possible to speak to "the average American" without being profane and uninformed; and the Democratic party's embrace of their role as a diverse, vibrant party that has a forward-thinking plan for the nation.
All of these threads are woven together in the story of the 8th district of Arizona, where a special Democratic primary will be held on February 27th to choose a candidate to compete for the seat abandoned by Rep. Trent Franks (who, speaking of recurring themes, retired after allegations of sexual impropriety). While both of the leading contenders - emergency room doctor Hiral Tipirneni and transgender activist Brianna Westbrook - are worthy candidates that would provide far better representation for their district, it is Dr. Tipirneni that we believe is the best choice for Democrats.
An immigrant from India who arrived in America with her parents when she was three, Dr. Tipirneni was raised in suburban Cleveland where her father found work as a structural engineer and her mother worked as a social worker. A product of public schools, she earned her medical degree at Northeast Ohio Medical University and moved with her husband to Phoenix to practice medicine. There, she worked in emergency medicine and, after losing her mother and nephew to cancer, is now on the cutting edge of research into fighting the disease. Now, after dedicating her life to serving her community, she is seeking to continue that work on behalf of District 8 in Washington, DC.
Health care is obviously at the center of her campaign, and she supports Medicaid expansion and has an expansive list of proposals on her website to help protect and improve the ACA. Specific to our interests. Tipirneni has not made gun control a focus of her campaign, but has expressed strong opposition to Concealed Carry Reciprocity (a bill Franks sponsored in the House last year). She supports making mental health an important part of our discussion about guns, and released the following statement after the Texas church shooting:
Though we can hold heartbroken families close and pray that their lost loved ones rest in peace, “thoughts and prayers” are not enough. The solutions may not be simple, but we must do more. We can support the Second Amendment and also support commonsense gun safety reform.
The weapon used in this violent act was originally developed and used by the military. This is not the weapon of choice for hunters or most people seeking to protect their families and homes. Reporting indicates that the gunman had a documented history of domestic violence. He received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force. He didn’t have a license for the weapon.
Common sense and even the law indicate he should never have been able to access a weapon. Yet he did. The systems in place are either not working or not working well enough.
Enforcing existing gun laws by making sure firearms are obtained through legal channels after thorough background checks, ensuring those guns are properly registered and their owners receive proper training do not seem to be adequate in avoiding these types of tragedies.
It is long overdue to critically analyze the issue of gun violence in our country. Why NOT close gun-show loopholes? What is the justification for civilian use of military-grade weapons and high-capacity magazines? What can be done regarding private sales? How can we better address issues of mental health and gun safety reform?
Thirteen Republicans are vying for their party's nomination, and while it's too soon to tell how strong their eventual candidate will be, they will likely be characterized as a favorite in the traditionally Republican district. But we take comfort in the fact that Democrats have multiple candidates running in a district they have not competed for since 2012, and as we've seen, special elections are notoriously unpredictable. Tipirneni is exactly the sort of candidate that can make this race competitive, especially in today's political environment, and exactly the sort of Congresswoman we need. We are proud to support her campaign, and urge Arizonans to send her to Washington on their behalf.