Written by Mallory Kvek
Lynsey Robinson is running for State Senate for Legislative District 12. As an Arizona State Senator, she will be part of the upper portion of Arizona’s state Legislature, which is made up of one representative from each of Arizona’s thirty legislative districts. The Senate can write, introduce, and vote on legislation, as well as propose laws and amendments to the state constitution, among other responsibilities.
Lynsey supports and promotes Fairness, Justice, and The Common Good. She was the 2018 Democratic front-runner nominee, and her performance in the General election exceeded expectations, surpassing previous party results in her district. Lynsey is also the former Second Vice Chair of the Maricopa County Democratic Party.
Lynsey was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and immigrated to New York at the age of 8. She believes that immigrants are a part of the fabric of America. Growing up an immigrant in the United States, she has first-hand experience with the struggle’s immigrants and children of poverty face, giving her the tools and know how to make the most of yourself. She uses that knowledge to help others reach their God given potential, not letting poverty and lack of resources stop them. Lynsey believes in strong family values and that we need to put Arizona families first. Lynsey is married to DeVaughn and have three beautiful children, Michael, Andrew, and Lauren. They attend Central Christian Church in Gilbert, Arizona.
Lynsey has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Philosophy from University of New York at Albany, a Master’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a Juris Doctorate from Arizona Summit Law School. During her time at Arizona Summit Law School, she attended one of the largest immigration fairs in Phoenix to help DREAMers complete and file deferred action petitions. She completed an externship with Catholic Charities to assist immigrants in her community and later volunteered in order to further serve her community. After law school, Lynsey worked for Southern Arizona Legal Aid (SALA) where she helped underserved members of the community with various legal matters. Many of the individuals she represented experienced heartbreaking situations that convinced her there was more she could do to help the community at large.
As we continue to navigate through this pandemic, several issues in our government’s leadership have become clear. Lynsey believes we need to address these right away and be prepared to meet the emerging challenges this pandemic is creating. “Our public schools more than ever must have the support that it needs to meet those challenges. Whether our students remain online, return to brick and mortar or some combination; we must be nimble, and fully fund our schools as a priority for the future of our children. If Arizona families are to succeed, our public schools must receive appropriate funding to deal with the demands of our growing demographics and dynamics.”
I had the honor to speak with Lynsey Robinson on September 5, 2020 about the issues Arizonans face, what drives her as a leader, and what she sees for the future of Arizona.
How can we flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic in Arizona?
In order to flatten the curve we need real leadership. The Governor’s failure to hold a special session for the legislature to address the pandemic has been wholly inadequate.
He has also refused to set a statewide mandate for wearing masks despite the experts recommendations. In Maricopa County, the Board of Supervisors has passed one, but the measure was vetoed in Pinal County. To combat this pandemic, we need to be consistent throughout the state with mask mandates.
While schools are starting to reopen, teachers are working around the clock under more pressure than ever before. Class sizes need to be reduced by 50% to accommodate for social distancing, which means we need more teachers, as well as adequate funding for PPE for both students and teachers.
To keep the numbers down, we need to be testing frequently and consistently, going above and beyond the CDC guidelines by testing anyone that has come into contact with someone who has tested positive, symptoms or no symptoms. We also need a mandate for those who have tested positive to remain at home and quarantine.
We also need to support small businesses who are doing everything they can to follow guidelines. If they’re doing everything they can, we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to ensure they stay open and can successfully run their business by giving them tax incentives for safety expenses, such as placing plexiglass in their stores and other safety measures.
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?
We need to have a statewide mask mandate and supply in person teachers with the necessary PPE to run their classrooms safely. We need to ensure there is enough funding for our public schools to reduce class size by 50% to accommodate social distancing, and support those who are online learning.
We are at a place now where we can really see the long-term impact and effect of not having care for our kids for households where both parents work, which is the majority of households in Arizona. Part of the solution has to come from the workforce. The workforce needs to become more supportive and flexible given what’s going on with the pandemic, by allowing more families to work at home. That’s one step we can take, it won’t solve it, but it’s a step. The other will have to come from families who are able to make the sacrifice to work different shifts and/or turn to family for support. Another step we could take would be to organize the online platform so the students are able to do most of the work without having a high level of assistance, decreasing the level of parent interaction. Some districts offer both in school and online, having both options is beneficial so long as our numbers are continuing to decrease. This is why leadership is so necessary because it will take all of us working together to support all of our families.
What areas of our healthcare system would you work to improve to better support Arizonans if elected?
With so many unemployed, a lot of people have lost their health insurance. Cobra is $500 a month while unemployment is only $240 a week. It is not realistic for families to make ends meet on unemployment while paying for health coverage. Rep. Kelli Butler introduced a bill that would allow those without medical coverage to buy into the state’s medicaid program and I think it would make a world of difference for those families without health care right now. Some small businesses are not able to qualify to get healthcare through the marketplace for their employees and this would provide a great solution for them as well. We also need to be hypervigilant with consumer protections when it comes to Arizonans purchasing health insurance through the marketplace. Some have fallen victim to purchasing discount cards, which are marketed as health insurance plans, only to discover they have no coverage when they need to purchase their prescriptions and/or receive important medical services. Though my opponent voted against medical coverage for preexisting conditions, I will fight to protect the rights of all Arizonans to get quality affordable care, particularly for those with preexisting conditions. Overall, we need to make sure that no person goes without medical coverage.
We must keep an eye on prescription drug prices as it relates to access, affordability, and investing in all aspects from mental health to medical prescriptions, so no one who needs medication goes without. People shouldn’t be rationing their medications. We need to be investing in mental health services in schools and in general. We need to work to destigmatize mental health and the way it’s viewed so people who need it have access to mental health services and the care they need.
During this pandemic, children are not likely to be able to verbalize what they’re experiencing internally. This is why we really need experts in schools to be able to talk to them and avoid potential trauma as a result of their lives being turned upside down, due to the pandemic. Counselors are an important aspect, more now than ever.
I’d like to see more mental health services in prisons, as well. This will help non-violent offenders reacclimate back into society, find work, and give back. Everyone has worth and value, we need to invest in rehabilitating them. With our current prison system, we’re throwing band-aids on the problem and investing too much money keeping people IN the system. What we need is to invest in mental health services to keep them OUT of the system.
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?
Women deserve equality. The problem is for 8 years now, if not more, Senator Eddie Farnsworth has blocked the Equal Rights Amendment from even being discussed on the House and Senate floor, as he’s jumped back and forth between the two. It’s just a shame. The Legislative body isn’t even able to have a discussion about what they believe the majority desires and what is best for the people. It’s an abuse of power, to block our Legislative body from even being able to have a discussion about it.
Women earn less than men do for the same job, it’s just unacceptable. Single moms are the ones who are most impacted by the inequality in the system. They’re doing double duty. Furthermore, it sends the wrong message to young women about their value and worth in society. We know that we live in a world where our value, unfortunately, is based on our income. I don’t subscribe to it, but that is the reality. What does that say that we’re earning less than men in our state? It sends a message that is harmful to little girls, to their self worth. We hurt ourselves and we hurt the economy. We know that women invest back into the economy and find themselves in a position when they have less than their male counterparts. A system that places women in the position where they’re not equals is a system that hurts everyone, particularly our families.
How do you view social justice inequality in Arizona, and what is your plan to mend our broken system?
Social justice has many layers and is currently inadequate in our state. We know that minorities are incarcerated at a higher rate than their white counterparts. The laws that we have in place make is so they have a higher level of engagement with police than white people do. For example, laws that allow the police to stop an individual who is jaywalking increases the frequency of engagement. That’s one of the ways that we’re creating a system where we’re increasing the probability that more minorities will be incarcerated. We need to look at those laws and other laws that contribute to the problem.
Even further, we can’t look at social justice without looking at our education system. It all begins here. Ultimately, what we’re doing in our classrooms is preparing individuals into adulthood, with what they can anticipate and expect as an adult. In our school system, we suspend more minorities at a higher rate than their white counterparts, that contributes to the problem as well. Having a system where students who graduate from high school that aren’t college bound or able to become productive members of the workforce contributes as well. We need high schools to have trade school programs that they partner with that give graduates the ability to graduate with either earned credits towards a trade program and industry or a degree. That will reduce poverty and the odds of that student ending up in the justice system. When people can’t be productive members of society, that lends itself to crime. It all works together.
Ultimately, we need to look at how we punish crimes that are non-violent, especially crimes that include drugs. Those that are addicted to substances need to be looked at as a mental health issue, not incarceration. We need to look at this the way we did the opioid epidemic, with the same lens and the same level of empathy. Treating it as a mental health issue and getting them the help they need will allow them to be contributing members of society.
If elected, what would be your #1 priority?
Growing up in poverty and lacking access to higher education, and really a lack of access to public education in elementary years, is something that is an intricate part of my story, and who I am has contributed to how I see and view things. Education is my number one priority. I see it as the solution to poverty, reducing the prison population, equality, and equity. It is a great equalizer, one that will help solve the majority of the issues we face. Education can fix it, in the long term. We’re not going to get results within a year or two, which means we have to continue to invest in the programs that help those in poverty, from childcare to low income housing. However, in the long term we will have a generation that will be prepared and well to the task to take the baton when it is time for them to access the workforce. The way you end poverty is by educating a child and helping them reach their max potential. The more people we can help reach their max potential, the more equality we will have. Making sure we have a well educated population will mean more jobs and the economy will thrive, so everyone is going to be in a position where they’ll get a hand up and can build a future for their family and our State.
What motivates you to run for office?
Mostly looking at the inequalities that are in our state is what motivates me. The fight for education was missing my voice in the sense that when we talk about education, we talk about making sure that parents have school choice, making sure that parents who want to be able to put their kids in charter schools have the option to do that. What was missing in that conversation was people like me who live in this district, who are thriving not because their parents were professionals who were part of the middle class, who worked well and passed on their legacy. People like me who grew up in poverty but somehow managed to be able to leverage, if you will, their intellect because of quality public schools and pull themselves out of poverty and reached self-sufficiency. How do those children manage to be able to do that? How do they get to a place where they can overcome the hurtles of life, despite a lack of resources? Do we understand how these individuals are able to get there? Do we have the data to show that children in poverty when provided quality education succeed, despite what is happening in their home life? That was missing from the conversation. That’s why I have been public when it comes to talking about my own challenges as a child growing up not just in poverty, but also facing abuse. It is because I know first hand that a quality public education can save any child.
I felt compelled to run to become a part of the conversation because I know education is the answer. When provided with the resources kids can become as successful as their God given potential will allow. If they end up in the justice system, or have to work 2-3 jobs to keep food on the table absent a mental health issue, it is because our schools lacking in resources and funding have failed them. Take any child, give them resources early on, and it will produce a success story if you’re willing to invest in them. How do we maximize that and multiply that, not for the few who are able to figure it out themselves, but for all children. We want everyone to become part of the majority and not the minority. The answer to that is investing in our schools.
When I was an attorney legal aid, I worked with those who were working with lower income. These people were not able to truly access our justice system, based on their financial means. A lot of the laws that were intended to benefit them, don’t. You have people writing the laws that have never been on that side of the road. They mean well, but they don’t know what it’s like to grow up in poverty. They are writing from a place of intellect, not experience. You need both. You need insight to the other side to truly understand what is missing. I felt that the depth of the experience is critical to actually having the laws do what we would like for them to do. We’re not going to get the results we want until we actually have people who have lived the problems and solved them to give us the insight we need to help those who are still there.
Who has influenced you the most in your life, and why?
Women in poverty. I’ve never seen a group of people more resourceful than a mother in poverty. The level of sacrifice, selflessness, and the ability to take a hit and get back up. The level of hope that they have for their children, I think that has been the biggest motivator of all. I feel that as hard as they are fighting for the future of their child, the system has to fight just as hard to give that child a future. The level of ingenuity and the ability to fight because they have the hope for what they believe can be, I draw from that. I think that is the kind of hope and that is the kind of depth and fight that we should all have fighting for the children in our state.
What would you like to be known for in the history books?
I would like to be known for believing and fighting for the future of every child, no matter their circumstances. If you’re coming from a middle class family, your parents have passed on a legacy for you so that you can surpass whatever it is that they have accomplished, I will fight for you to become even more prosperous. If you’re the parent that’s barely able to make ends meet at the end of the day, you want a future for your child where they will be in a place where they will be self-sufficient and provide for their own family; I will fight for them to not only meet but exceed those expectations. Every parent wants to see their child surpass them, regardless of where they are on the social economic scale. I see the potential in the hope of the parent of every child, I believe they all have God given potential, whether we can see it or not.
It’s our job as leaders in the state to help each child become the best person they can be by empowering them and maximizing their potential. They need us to nurture them, like any seed, to be able to grow to become what they are meant to be. The goal is for every child to be nurtured and loved, and to trust the state to provide that nurturing.
What is your vision for Arizona and Legislative District 12?
What a good teacher does is help foster the love of learning in every child. They help children become lifelong learners. Adults still have dreams and hopes they want to fulfill. We want to be able to provide for them the opportunities to do that. While we’re investing in the young, we want to make sure the adult population feel they’re living in a district that is providing them with opportunities that they need to maximize their potential and fulfill their dreams. Whether it’s a dream of opening a business, going to college, changing careers or the dream of home ownership, we need to pass laws that will support fostering those dreams. We need to think long term about sustainability while keeping in mind future hopes and dreams that people still have and making sure opportunities remain available for them to fulfill those dreams.
We want people to have properly placed trust in their government, knowing that their dreams are at the forefront of the policies debated. Every family wants to be able to provide for their family and leave a legacy for them. As a Christian, I believe in what The Bible says, “the wise leave an inheritance for their children, and their children’s children.”
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?
I’m going to borrow from what Obama has said, young people and the level of commitment in engagement with which they have had with the political system is a dream realized. It’s a dream their parents had for them, and the generations before them had for them when they set up the system the way they did. They have actualized the dream, as they continue to fight for what they believe is right and to know that not only does their voice matter, their voice has an impact and has influence. They have the ability to change the world. That’s what it’s ultimately all about. Don’t be dismayed if the way things currently are is not what they hoped it would be, but rather know that the power to change it is in their hands. They need to seize upon that and stay in the fight and the struggle to push to make this world a better place.