As the COVID-19 pandemic plagues many parts of the world, the United States has been hit particularly hard, making health insurance a necessity. Arizona is home to more than 800,000 residents with no health insurance. In a state with a vulnerable senior population and a district with 125,000 senior citizens, Dr. Hiral Tipirneni is mounting a compelling case for ousting incumbent Republican David Schweikert this year in AZ 06.
Tipirneni emigrated to the United States from India at the age of 3, when her parents came looking for “the American dream.” Although life was difficult at first, through hard work the family not only survived but prospered. Now Tipirneni brings a stellar professional and personal resume to the Scottsdale-area race. She worked as an emergency room doctor before joining a company that evaluates and directs funding for cutting-edge cancer research. She is also a Board member of Valleywise Health Foundation, a non-profit that raises funds for programs that serve all patients regardless of their ability to pay.
Tipirneni is one of several doctors running for Congress as a Democrat. Before Arizona’s primary she noted:
Quite honestly, I feel like there’s never been a moment where it’s been more critical for us to have physicians and scientists at the table… Unfortunately, we’ve had an abject failure of leadership both at the federal and at the state level. What concerns me the most is that right now, there is not a comprehensive strategy or plan in place that clearly leads us out of this crisis.”
Health concerns feature prominently in the minds of Arizonans. While in 2019 their top concern was immigration, now it is health care, the economy and education. Tipirneni favors big changes to health care, notably expanding Medicare so the hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who lack health insurance could buy into the system. In her view, the American healthcare system “remains broken,” and she was sharply critical when her opponent supported the Trump administration’s lawsuit to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which could deprive 363,000 Arizonans of their health care.
Closely tied to Arizonans’ health concerns are economic worries. Arizona led the nation in housing loss from evictions and foreclosures even before the pandemic, causing many experts to warn of a looming “tsunami of evictions” once moratoriums expire later this year. Job loss has also risen—the unemployment rate doubled in the first month of the pandemic and first-time claims jumped by over 250 percent this summer. So Tipirneni’s economic plan focuses on policies centered on workers and jobs, like retraining workers, developing new industries, providing more affordable childcare, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, and reforming taxes to help the middle class.
Because of the pandemic, education is also closely linked with health care and the economy. Arizona already ranks dead last in terms of per-pupil spending on instruction, and this problem has only been made worse by COVID. Tipirneni is a strong supporter of the public school system. She will oppose efforts to defund and weaken it, while working to narrow existing disparities and inequities.
A decade of Republican state leadership opposed to environmental regulation also has hurt Arizonans’ health and the economy. Tipirneni will work to protect both using practical measures like “reasonable regulation” on pollutants, carbon credits, and investment in alternative energy sources. Her commitment to strong, science-based action to fight climate change reflects the values of the vast majority of Arizonans who want their federal and state governments to take more action. Tiperneni’s opponent, by contrast, is on record denying the reality of climate change and actually bragged in 2010 that he only bought his hybrid vehicle to save money on gas, not because he wanted to “save the planet.”
Once reliably Republican, Arizona is now a battleground state. Registered Republicans still hold a narrow lead over Democrats (35% vs. 32%), with another third who are Independent or Libertarian. Based on primary data, AZ 06 skews more Republican than the state, but the most recent polling shows Tipirneni with a 3-point lead.
Several factors have been at play in this race. Tipirneni has been able to build on a strong showing in her 2018 run for the nearby AZ 08 seat to create a solid base for this campaign. Further, white suburbanites make up the vast proportion of Maricopa County voters and they are trending away from Trump, as are Independents over the age of sixty-five. And although Tipirneni favors campaign finance reform, including overturning Citizens United, she boasts an enormous advantage in both fundraising and current cash on hand—as of mid-July, she had $1,267,814 in available funds compared to only $230,063 for Schweikert. (He had to spend over a million dollars defending himself from charges of serious ethical and campaign finance violations!)
Tipirneni’s campaign has drawn endorsements from across Arizona and throughout the country, from former President Barack Obama to Elizabeth Warren to state elected officials and local unions. For a complete list of endorsements, and to learn more about her, visit her campaign website. If you want Arizonians to have a representative looking out for their interests, you are sure to like what you see!
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