Helen Hunter

Written by Mallory Kvek

Reverend Doctor Helen Hunter is running for Arizona House of Representatives for Legislative District 16. LD16 covers a portion of East Mesa, Apache Junction, North San Tan Valley, West Peralta, and Gold Canyon.

As a House Representative, Helen will draft, introduce, and vote on legislation in Arizona. She will also enact bills that are referred to voters for approval, and can place Arizona constitutional amendments on the ballot for voters. The House is the lower chamber of Arizona Legislature and is made up of 60 representatives, two from each of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts. The House has other responsibilities, including approving the State’s budget, and holds the sole power for impeachment of elected state officials, although defers to the Senate for any trial or conviction.

Helen was born in Columbus, Ohio and moved to Arizona in 2006. She is married and is a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.

Helen is a true community partner. She is an organizer, social justice advocate, pastor, chaplain, and businesswoman. She has worked for under-served populations for over 30 years, specializing in housing, healthcare, and social justice. In collaboration with Arizonans Concerned About Smoking (ACAS) and the United States Public Health Service (USPHS), Helen has assisted, supported, and rewarded implementation of non-smoking policies among many HBCU’s.

As a pastor, Helen helps provide transitional, permanent, and affordable housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families.

Leading efforts to ensure equal rights for all, Helen was instrumental in creating meaningful, accountable community policing and currently serves of Mesa’s Use of Force Committee. As a leader of the East Valley NAACP for over 6 years, her work with East Valley Police Chiefs was recognized with the Golden Rule Award in 2019 by the Arizona Interfaith Movement.

Helen truly believes we can and must commit to solve societal problems TOGETHER. Working, serving, giving, and living TOGETHER. And lastly, adhering to the Golden Rule: treating others as we want to be treated, with dignity, integrity, honesty, and respect.

I had the honor to speak with Helen about her life, view on issues facing Arizonans today, and her vision for Arizona in the future. Her passion for community service, diversity, and social justice paired with her compassion as a leader is contagious and inspiring. I look forward to seeing what she will contribute to LD16 and Arizona as our next House Representative for LD16.

How can we flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic in Arizona?
Minimally, we must continue with social distancing, frequent handwashing, wearing a face mask, and strict adherence to the CDC guidelines.

In the absence of strategic federal management and programming to mitigate and minimize COVID-19, I would propose legislation that would ensure CDC guidelines are implemented across the board and oversee the production, procurement, and distribution of COVID-19 medical and treatment needs, i.e., PPE, respirators, etc. The legislation would require taking action at the state level similar to and consistent with the actions the President should have taken under the DPA (Defense Protection Act). It would provide for strict adherence to contact tracing and increased, routine COVID-19 testing.

I would also propose action at the state level to compel the federal government to take strategic and comprehensive action to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

How has the pandemic affected the education system, and what is your plan to overcome that as well as support working families now faced with homeschooling their children?
The pandemic has put an enormous and debilitating burden on the education system. I would propose the establishment of an agency to identify, manage, and distribute additional and/or reallocated funds from the state budget for education.

This entity would determine and define the operational, medical, and management strategies for return to school and ongoing schooling throughout the year. These strategies should include physical revamping for social distancing, attendance and classroom configuration, contact tracing, and daily or routine testing in compliance with CDC and HIPPA requirements.

The agency would also need to consider internet access for all students and provisions to support student instruction for working parents.

What areas of our healthcare system would you work to improve to better support Arizonans if elected?
I would work to improve Mental and Spiritual Health services for alcoholism and drug addictions, assistance for war-impacted Veterans, and minimizing Minority Health disparities.

In the past, Arizona has voted against adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. How do you plan to advance the protection of women’s rights?
In light of the recent death of Supreme Court Justice RBG and the possibility of a Roe v Wade reversal, protecting women’s rights will require monumental efforts.

The threat to women’s rights may be further exacerbated by potential change(s) in the configuration of the U.S. Supreme Court. As a state legislator, I would summon women’s rights organizations (representing both sides of the issue), medical professionals, clergy, attorneys, and other stakeholders who are willing to engage in informed and effective strategic planning and, in a bipartisan manner, work to achieve consensus on a state plan.

How do you view social justice inequality in Arizona, and what is your plan to mend our broken system?
The social justice system is definitely in need of reform and significant revision.  I have mediated a myriad of socially unjust practices in Arizona: child custody litigation, HOA infringements, discrimination in public and proprietary schools, discriminatory and/or criminal retail business practices, and employment discrimination, including biased promotion/merit practices, harassment, intimidation, terminations, and more.

The most glaring inequities are evident in the criminal justice system– racial profiling, sentencing, bond inequities, and re-entry support. There are a number of laws, policies, and legal process changes that must be revisited and revised. 

Another egregious area of social injustice is the treatment of the homeless population and the lack of affordable housing.

My plan would address:

Correcting biases in our legal system that contribute to a disproportionate amount of prison and jail sentences and disenfranchisement of Black, Hispanic and low- income people, including how the courts handle cases and how the less affluent have less access to good legal representation.

Eliminating bias and inequities in prosecutorial indictments and bonding, assignment of legal representation for minority offenders, and in probation, parole, and sentencing practices.

Changing the Arizona sentencing laws for the possession of and use of powdered cocaine and crack cocaine.

Decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Advocating at the State level for changes in policy regarding treatment of the homeless population and the availability of affordable housing; i.e., increased scattered site housing and comprehensive, aggressive strategies to eliminate homelessness.

I would continue my work with local and state policing entities to improve community policing. I would reject defunding the police and instead, advocate for additional or reallocated funds to enable police departments to reroute police response to behavioral and social service responders.

How has your professional background helped shape you into the leader you are?
Actually I think the reverse is true in my case. My early leadership experiences shaped my professional background.  From serving as president of the school PTA, to working with delinquent female teenagers, to serving on the board of a community settlement house, I developed great compassion for the underserved, underprivileged, and neglected. I was becoming a community advocate, a Good Samaritan of sorts. So, I completed an education degree and enrolled in a masters program in public administration. However, I soon began to feel a calling to pastoral ministry. I switched from PA to a Master of Divinity program, followed by a doctoral program in theology, humanities, and pastoral leadership.  

My theological studies, pastoral duties, and spiritual journey informed and solidified my love for humanity and concern for the human condition. During my advanced studies, I also spearheaded a five-year grassroots community project that transitioned low- and moderate income families from rental status to home ownership. 

After relocating to Arizona, I completed chaplaincy training and certification, planted a church, established a home health agency, and formed a second ministry. The current ministry is an expansion of our homeless ministry, commissioned to provide transitional housing which leads to affordable permanent residence or home ownership. I have now become a self-actualized Good Samaritan and the quintessential caregiver. The natural progression is to run for office!

If elected, what is your #1 priority to address?
My #1 priority is the development and implementation of legislation and policy to control the spread and destructive impact of COVID-19 and provide affordable health care for Arizonans.

Who has influenced you the most in your life, and why?
My parents. They instilled in me a spiritual foundation, a strong work ethic, resilience to adversity, compassion for others, a strong sense of self-worth, and a sensitivity to racial and gender biases that I have encountered during my entire lifetime.

What would you like to be known for in the history books?
Compassion and advocacy to improve the human condition.

What is your vision for Arizona and for Legislative District 16?
My vision for LD16 is representation in a government of ALL the people, by ALL the people, and for ALL the people. I envision a restored and strengthened AZ democracy; a stronger, fairer economy; affordable, quality health care; a reformed and equitable criminal justice system; effective controls for climate change and environmental justice; clean, free, and fair elections; a just immigration system; and, access to quality education for all Arizonans.

Given the state of the country, what would you tell teenagers and young adults who are coming to age during President Trump’s 4 years in office?
It is imperative that you become involved in the government and politics of your country and state. You must stand for what is right, just, and fair.  You must advocate and do everything in your power to ensure that leaders and officials adhere to the constitution as it was written and intended – Liberty and Justice for all. You must register, vote, and support candidates who uphold and represent your values and sense of justice. Supporting your candidates includes volunteering for phone banks, lit drops, and door to door canvassing, talking to your friends and neighbors in person and via all available social media platforms. You must be persuasive, consistent, and committed, not argumentative, combative, and offensive. And, you must support with your dollars, your time, and your skills.

We are living in unprecedented times.  The constitution is being undermined and rule of law is being compromise right before our eyes.  It’s up to you to make a difference. It’s up to you stand up for yourselves and for the generations to come.  You are the designated agents of change. The ball is in your court!

If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Helen Hunter, donate to her campaign or volunteer, please visit her homepage or Facebook.

Sources:
AZLD16 Dems Facebook, Arizona Clean Elections