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Dear Governor Ducey,

Last night, I attended a campaign party for your would-be opponent, David Garcia. The woman who hosted, Sara Klause, taught my daughter Zoe English at Puente while her good friend and counterpart, Jessica Kitterman, taught Spanish. Sara has been committed to bilingual education for her entire career and is particularly excited about Garcia’s candidacy. He’s committed to public education. He thinks that we really can’t just pay lip service to supporting our schools without actually putting money behind it. He’s also dedicated to bringing new revenue into the community, not by bribing companies to come here with waived property taxes, but by valuing what already exists here. It’s a great place, Garcia argues, to live and to work. We shouldn’t have to sell our kids’ education to get companies to come here. In fact, he thinks perhaps gutting school systems by diverting cash from public schools to for-profit charters and providing families who send their kids to private schools with public dollars in the form of vouchers works directly against getting companies to come here.

Garcia’s background is very different from yours, Governor Ducey. Garcia grew up in Mesa. He joined the Army at 17. After that, he became the first person in his family to go to a university. I wonder if it’s people who weren’t raised knowing they would automatically go to college who value education most. Garcia notes that his family didn’t have health insurance until he was in third grade. Third grade was the first time he saw a dentist. Those of us, you and me, Ducey bear, who have had the luck to have had health insurance since the day we were born, that knew our parents would send us to college, well, what we take for granted. I was thinking the other day, oh, I want to be governor. And then I thought, I want to be a CEO. And then I thought, wait, maybe a marine biologist would be fun. Or one of those doctors who treats animals whose paws got burned in the Trevor Fire in California. They grafted tilapia skin to their paw-skin. I’ve always had the privilege of having ridiculous ideas for careers. What I like about Garcia is that he didn’t come from that privilege but still imagines big career plans—to be a soldier, to be a student, to be a professor, to be a politician and then does them. He’s the kind of person we could point to and say, that’s what education gets you—1,000 jobs, just for you.

That would worry me if I were you. You say, the best education is for they who can afford it. His very being says, the best education is for every single Arizonan.

I don’t mean to be a big megaphone for his campaign—you know I only write letters to you and I hate to hurt your feelings—but I did want to mention a couple of things I learned from him last night. I was a big loudmouth and asked a bunch of questions. Number one, I said “water” and pointed to the bare ground outside Sara Klause’s house, the blue not white San Francisco Peaks, the door open to let the warm air in. In February, he acknowledged we were in a tough situation. He is already working with a company to make the largest solar capturing field in the U.S. in Arizona. Next, I asked him about property taxes. He knew everything there was to know about property taxes and how, even without raising property taxes, we can leverage already-existing assessment rules to increase revenue. The fact that people pay less in property taxes on a second home is why Flagstaff and other mountain towns have much less revenue for their infrastructure than they need. And finally, I asked how to help get out the vote, and he had some brilliant information. He said a person who doesn’t vote needs seven points of contact to get them to vote. All you have to do is interact slightly with people and say “Hey, dude, you should vote.” I asked if it was appropriate if I asked people in the drive-thru line or at Starbuck if they plan to vote. He said, yes indeed. I know I’ve contacted you a few more than seven times so I hope you definitely plan to vote.

Nicole Walker is an associate professor at Northern Arizona University, and is the author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone and not necessarily those of her employer. For more letters, visit www.nikwalk.blogspot.com

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