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Former ACLU of Arizona prez Roberto Reveles to challenge Wendy Rogers

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Former ACLU of Arizona prez Roberto Reveles to challenge Wendy Rogers

Feb 19, 2024 | 4:52 pm ET
By James E. Garcia
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Former ACLU of Arizona prez Roberto Reveles to challenge Wendy Rogers
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Photo by James E. Garcia | Arizona Mirror

Democrat Roberto Reveles says there is “no expiration date” on his experience or commitment to serve the people of Arizona Legislative District 7.

Point taken. Reveles, who is 91, recently announced he is running to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers, 69, the ultra far-right conservative state lawmaker who gushes over America’s white nationalist fringe and hasn’t met an election conspiracy theory she doesn’t like.

A longtime Democratic activist and civil rights leader, Reveles is a former president of the ACLU of Arizona. He was the founding president of Somos America, an immigrants rights coalition that organized a massive march in Phoenix by protestors in support of immigration reform in 2006. 

Born to Mexican immigrants in Miami, Ariz., Reveles served in the Air Force during the Korean War, and as a staffer for five members of Congress before taking a job in the mining industry. He worked as an executive from 1980 to 1992 for the Homestake Mining Company in San Francisco before retiring to Arizona.

The Pinal County Board of Supervisors, made up of five conservative Republicans, presented him with its first Civic Engagement Award to Reveles in 2022, notwithstanding his decades-long record in progressive politics.

Reveles recently spoke to me last week about his candidacy.

GARCIA: When did you decide to run?

REVELES: I actually decided after a number of months of trying to recruit candidates for this seat and being turned down by folks who had other commitments. I thought, ‘Okay, I can’t find anybody else, and I’m certainly not new to advocacy. So, [four] weeks ago, I filed my intention with the Arizona Secretary of State to be a candidate for the State Senate in District 7 and started gathering nominating petition signatures.”

GARCIA: Why are you running?

REVELES: Because I was born and raised in a rural district in Arizona, in Gila County, and I saw the values that were very prominent in our community: the values of protecting the natural beauties of Arizona; the values of protecting the benefits of natural resources; and, in Gila County, mining was a valuable resource for the public education system and public services that come from tax-based drivers like mining.

GARCIA: If elected, what issues will you champion?

REVELES: Clearly, Arizona needs to adequately fund our public education system. For years, it’s concerned me that we’ve been at the bottom of the list of per pupil spending, and [that is] now complicated by some of those limited resources being diverted to private and religious schools. In addition, my concern is to protect the environmental treasures across rural Arizona and responding to the needs for accessible and affordable health care for the large demographic of senior citizens throughout our state. Those are the drivers for me.

GARCIA: Do you support the repeal of the voucher program?

REVELES: I most certainly do support the repeal of the extreme form in which the voucher program has expanded beyond expectations to the point of being a very real threat to the financial standing of our public schools. To me, this is an opportunity for rational, visionary legislation to recognize that Arizona’s economy depends on a well-trained and well-educated workforce. That workforce has to come from the public school system, and we will not fulfill our needs if we continue to deny adequate, sustainable financial resources for teachers’ pay and restore adequate funding for resources for our public school system.

GARCIA: What differentiates you from the incumbent?

REVELES: One of the first things is my respect for diversity, for people who have different opinions, politically, civically. My concern is how Wendy Rogers, the incumbent, has been censured by her own fellow members of the Legislature, and her extreme views in which she advocates openly for physical violence against her political adversaries. So, it does not surprise me that we are now seeing these horrible examples of violence by younger residents in some very established communities in the Valley. Her modeling of promoting violence is having some very significant impacts among young residents in the southeastern portion of our Valley.

GARCIA: You’re talking about the attacks allegedly perpetrated by teenagers and young adults in Gilbert and Chandler?

REVELES: Yes.

GARCIA: Do you believe political rhetoric promoting violence, like that coming from former President Trump, is instigating violence around the country?

REVELES: It is. I’ve seen the results up close in Pinal County and our neighboring Cochise County, where election officials have been subjected to threats of violence, and throughout Arizona, including [against] some very high-profile Republican members of the Arizona Legislature. So, to me, the promotion of violence is the most sickening aspect of the incumbent Wendy Rogers.

GARCIA: Where do you and Wendy Rogers differ on the subject of immigration?

REVELES: We’re at opposite ends of that issue. I subscribe to the idea that all humanitarian values should be supported, and that there is no issue too complicated to take on and resolve. Historically, in Arizona, we’ve seen year after year that the broken-down immigration system is used to rile up the base of the extremist elements in the formerly Grand Old Party. It’s distasteful to me to know that there are (Republican) neighbors of mine who are struggling with how to dislodge themselves from this immoral stance that is being promoted by State Senator Wendy Rogers and her ilk.

It’s horrible to think that Arizona has played a unique role of being the laboratory for the most extreme anti-immigrant policies, leading to the recall of the architect of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, State Senate President Russell Pearce, who advocated that he wanted make life so miserable for those who were thinking of migrating to Arizona that they will decide not to, and to make life for so miserable for those already residing in Arizona that they will self-deport. Well, they made it so miserable that it led to blowback from decent Arizonans who united in a bipartisan fashion and recalled a sitting state senate president, Mr. Pearce, for the first time in history.

GARCIA: Are you worried that something like SB 1070 could rear its ugly head again in Arizona?

REVELES: Yes, it’s a very real concern. There are efforts ongoing right now at the State Legislature to enact a bill comparable to what the state of Texas just did (Senate Bill 4) and comparable to SB 1070, which was almost entirely overturned by the federal courts.

GARCIA: Arizona bills itself as business friendly. And businesses need employees who are well trained and well educated. Yet somehow we’re failing to provide our workforce with a quality education. What would you do in the Legislature to address that?

REVELES: I think that the business community is composed of well-meaning, thoughtful leaders, and they’re playing a very necessary role in urging state legislative leaders to ensure the viability of Arizona’s future by more adequately funding our public school system from K-12 and high education. So, I’m an optimist. I think that eventually well-meaning community leaders in Arizona will prevail over the pessimists who are denying the Arizona public school system adequate funding.

GARCIA: How viable is your candidacy, given District 7’s conservative bent? Is the district ready to elect a Democrat?

REVELES: I think the viability lies in the rationality of people who will begin to focus, as we near election time, decision time, and they’ll see that their own self-interest is critical to their voting, not on the basis of a political label but on the basis of an experienced advocate who has stepped in to help find solutions to issues that are divisive and nonproductive in moving Arizona forward.

GARCIA: What do make of the debate over Joe Biden and Donald Trump running for president, given that you’re 91, and those who say they’re too old to run?

REVELES: James, there is no expiration date on my sense of commitment and loyalty to the values that have been the lynchpin for America’s success in the world. I’ve traveled overseas and I’ve seen how our private sector and public sector have become a guiding light throughout the world. I’m convinced that my passion for advocating against ageism is as strong as advocating and fighting against racism, bigotry and intolerance.

This interview first aired Feb. 17 on Vanguardia America on 1190 AM radio in Phoenix.