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Arizona March For Our Lives Holds Gubernatorial Debate, Ducey Declines Invitation

Jacob Martinez
Kaely Monahan/KJZZ
file | staff
Jacob Martinez.

The Arizona chapter of March for Our Lives — the organization formed by students in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting to demand gun control — is holding a town hall debate Tuesday night for gubernatorial candidates to discuss gun violence and school safety.

Democratic candidates Kelly Fryer, David Garcia and state Sen. Steve Farley all will be there, along with Republican candidate Ken Bennett. But Gov. Doug Ducey declined to attend.

We reached out to the Ducey campaign for a comment about this and he says he has met with students, teachers, administrators parents, law enforcement, mental health professionals and more about making our schools safe.

The statement reads, in part, "Just as he did during the legislative session, Gov. Ducey is traveling Arizona talking about his Safe Schools Plan ... to make our schools more secure that includes more school resource officers, mental health counselors and cops on campus, all while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. It's time to get it passed."

With The Show to talk about Tuesday’s debate and the absent voice from the Governor’s Office was Jacob Martinez, a March for Our Lives organizer and student at Dobson High School.

LAUREN GILGER: Good morning Jacob.

JACOB MARTINEZ: Morning. Thank you for having me on.

GILGER: So I want to just start with your reaction to this. Were you surprised?

MARTINEZ: Well, to hear that Governor Ducey will not be attending and then the statement that he apparently released today, just goes hand in hand and the same thing that he did to teachers back when the Red for Ed protests were going on. Instead of inviting the most influential voices on this issue to the table and others that really have an impact in this field, he invited yes people, people who would go with whatever he said and agree with him instead of openly engaging in dialogue and trying to bring a broad perspective of views to the table. It's sad.

GILGER: I know that you used to be the head of the Young Republicans here in Arizona. You were very involved in the Republican Party. When I first met you, you talked about wanting to run for office in that realm. Are you still associated with that? I know you left as a result of this kind of thing.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. Well, until the Republican Party really adapts and gets to, you know, acknowledging issues that are actually issues, acknowledges gun violence in our community, that it's a real issue and that we need to do something about it, it's not really a party that I can align myself with. It's going to lead to a lot more people like me, young people that are sick of this blind ideology and partisan politics, to step away and say I'm not going to align myself with that.

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Jacob, typically when big issues get solved or at least advance, it is because people who have differing views come together. When it comes to this sort of situation, do you think this indicates to you that Gov. Ducey isn't as serious about the topic as you'd like him to be, or is there something else going on there? Do you think he actually is speaking with people and just happens to not, for whatever reason, want to talk with March For Our Lives

MARTINEZ: I think it's clear that he isn't interested in dialogue on this issue. Instead of meeting with people that have been trying to get a meeting — I've been reaching out since March of this year to try and get a meeting with him to discuss this issue, and I've been ignored every single step of the way. It's clear that even though, you know, he's prodded around and says, "School safety is my number one issue," that it truly isn't. Gov. Ducey — it's truly cowardly that he won't engage in civil dialogue with us.

GILGER: So the governor did come out with the Safe Schools plan, like you said in the statement. What do you think of that? Is that not enough from your point of view?

MARTINEZ: The school safety plan was endorsed by the NRA and not really, you know, put together with anyone on either side of the aisle or individuals that have made this an issue that they're at the forefront of. So we were strongly against the school safety bill because it's B.S. and we put out a bill similar to that, minus anything that was just trying to appease the NRA and any other special interest groups that may have his ear.

GOLDSTEIN: What are your expectations for tonight? You're going to have the three Democratic candidates for governor there, and some would say because they're running for office, they may attempt to even pander to the group and give answers, obviously there's going to be some agreement, but also, how are you going to parse through whether people are actually saying what they truly believe and what they would act on, as opposed to maybe trying to make the group feel good about things?

MARTINEZ: Well, we strongly believe that anyone that's going to be running for office, they can say one thing campaigning and one other thing in office. That's true. But when you have such a large number of individuals, especially young people, that are really going to have a huge impact on this election and the ones in the coming years, there are going to be held accountable. Our generation is ready to hold our elected officials accountable, and if they don't act the way they're supposed to, we will vote them out.

GILGER: Jacob, last thing I have for you — so you've left the Republican Party essentially because of this. What do you think this issue and the establishment Republican Party reaction to it says about the future? I mean, do you think that there are lots of students who are like you, who are not going to want to be associated with that unless they take some sort of action?

MARTINEZ: Absolutely. I think the Republican Party is truly outdated in their views and that due to the large amount of special interest groups and people that have their ear, they're refusing to advance. 97% of Americans, including NRA members, support universal background checks. But that's something that even our Republican elected officials refuse to act on because they can't, because they are so on a leash with these handlers, basically.

GILGER: Alright. That is Jacob Martinez, a leader with March For Our Lives Arizona, and they're holding a debate tonight on gun violence. Jacob, thanks for coming in.

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.