State Senator David Schapira, a Tempe Democrat who serves as Senate Minority Leader, discusses his candidacy for Arizona’s newly-drawn Congressional District 9.
Ted Simons: State Senate minority leader David Schapira recently announced that he will run for the seat in Arizona's newly formed 9th district. Here to talk about his congressional bid is Senator David Schapira. Good to see you again thanks for joining us. Why are you running for Congress?
David Schapira: I running for Congress for the same reason I got into politics in the first place. I was a high school teacher, became very frustrated with the education system in Arizona, realized the buck stopped at the elected officials, the state legislature and the United States Congress. So I got involved in politics, ran for office for the first time when I was 26 years old to try to make changes in the education system. That fervor has been renewed for me. I have two young daughters. They're going to be entering the education system in just a few years now and there's a lot of important legislation coming up on the federal level with the reauthorization of no child left behind coming up. And I want to be there to work on it, I want a teacher's voice in Washington.
Ted Simons: I was going to ask about education because some say it's more important to be on the local level when it comes to education and education reform and you can make more of a difference locally then you can back in Washington.
David Schapira: And unfortunately too many teachers are taking that advice and staying involved at the state level, then we have a bunch of politicians in Washington who don't understand education who are involved in crafting legislation like no child left behind. We need teachers in Washington who understand what's going on in our classrooms today. Who can work on the revisions to no child left behind and make it legislation that can actually help students improve learning, not just be something that's good for politicians.
Ted Simons: What can you offer that other Democrats running for this particular congressional seat can't?
David Schapira: I think I can certainly offer some expertise in that area of education. I think I understand and I have seen it in practice the link between education and our nation's economy. What is interesting is we have competed state to state for jobs for decades now. In fact even centuries. What the next century is going to look like as far as competition is international competition for jobs. As we have been losing jobs to China and India because they offer cheaper labor force, in the future we'll be losing jobs because they have a more educated work force unless we do something about it now. On the national level I will bring a focus at the Congress on education issues.
Ted Simons: Alright. You're not resigning your seat at the legislature to run for this particular office. Why? Because someone suggested you would need all of your energies to run for the office and those energies you're using to run for the office are being lost at the legislature.
David Schapira: People who know me know I like to multi-task I have been at the legislature going on six years. That time I have worked at ASU, have taught in the political science department there and have had other jobs, started a small business, and started a family, got married, had kids. I like to multi-task. That's not the reason. I'm staying in the legislature. The reason I'm staying in the legislature is because I made a commitment to my constituents two years ago when I ran for Arizona State Senate that I would serve a two-year term. They elected me to serve a two-year term not a one year term. My colleagues in the Arizona State Senate, the fellow Democrats, elected me to be their leader, the democratic leader for a two-year term not a one year term. I believe in fulfilling my commitments, and doing the job I was elected to do.
Ted Simons: You wrote and said in your announcement for candidacy you want to create jobs and uphold values. How can Congress -- this is a big question here because there's a very philosophical divide, how can Congress create jobs?
David Schapira: Well, it's interesting. The tea party folks on the far right like to say, oh, government can't create jobs. In fact government has never created jobs. I think cap in Arizona is an example of what we have done to create jobs. Government which frankly creates infrastructure. If infrastructure doesn't exist business can't exist in that place either. There's something we can do now in the state and in Washington to help bring jobs to the country and to Arizona. That is diversify our economy. For example states like Arizona have relied for 100 years on growth as our primary economic driver. We have got to have more innovative industries that are not just about getting bigger but getting better. I want to focus on that in Washington, helping us as a country get better.
Ted Simons: Ok, uphold values, that's your quote. What does that mean?
David Schapira: Well, it's interesting I think especially right now people are very concerned about ethics in politics. For a long time people have been more and more disenfranchised with what's going on politically. I sat on a five-member panel essentially a quasi-judicial panel that dealt with Scott Bumgard over the past few months. Too many people believe that's what all politicians are like. I want to maintain my priorities in Washington while also maintaining my ethical values.
Ted Simons: How closely will you associate yourselves with President Obama?
David Schapira: You know, I was one of the very early supporters of President Obama when he first got in the presidential race. There were four Arizona politicians who came out and endorsed him right off the bat. I was one. I got to meet with the president just yesterday when he was here in Arizona. I see him as an ally, someone to work alongside but not to work for. My boss, the people who I work for, is the constituents of my district. I hope to work alongside not just President Obama and other Democrats in Congress but also the Republicans. I have had a history of working across the aisle to get done what's best for our constituents, I'll continue that trend in Congress.
Ted Simons: Ok, couple of President Obama ideas here. The stimulus. Would you have voted for it?
David Schapira: Well, there's multiple things that came through in the package and there were things that I really like. A lot of the investment and infrastructure, a lot of what helped keep teachers and firefighters and law enforcement employed. Those are the kind of things I support and frankly I think kept us out of a much deeper recession if not depression there were components I supported, and there were components I think maybe weren't as necessary.
Ted Simons: The health care reform act, the idea of health care reform in general, the president's plan. Would you have supported it?
David Schapira: Health care reform is desperately needed in this country even still after it passed in the Congress. If I had been in Congress at the time, I would have supported it but I don't think it did enough. What we really need in health care reform is cost control. When people see their health care bills skyrocketing that's a problem. I would have supported single payer option, I would have supported a public option. And unfortunately those things were not in the bill but those are things I'll fight for in the next Congress.
Ted Simons: So would you have supported the bill as it was?
David Schapira: Ya, as it was I would've supported it. I don't think it went far enough.
Ted Simons: Alright, immigration.
David Schapira: Immigration reform is a very pressing issue for our state and our country. Unfortunately we haven't seen substantive reform since the '80s. I will support comprehensive immigration reform and in fact I was disappointed when the president mentioned it and they immediately panned to John Mccain, our United States Senator. Literally it seems he was the only one in the entire section that didn't stand up or clap. This is someone who in previous sessions had actually sponsored comprehensive immigration reform. It's desperately needed. Our Senators and members of Congress from this state should know it's an extremely important priority.
Ted Simons: Last question Republicans are already saying most Democrats running for Congress are going back to rubber stamp the administration's ideas left, right and center.
David Schapira: I support the president and the initiatives he's pushing but I represent constituents. Harry Mitchell, when he was my congressman, was fond of saying representative is both my title and my job description. I felt that way at the state legislature and I'll be that kind of representative in Congress.
Ted Simons: Alright thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
David Schapira: Thanks for having me.
Sen. David Schapira:D-Tempe, Senate Minority Leader;