Victoria Steele at DGT 3-29-22
By Larry Bodine
April 6, 2022
0:00 / 34:20
Larry Bodine00:00

Start out by saying welcome to today's meeting of Democrats of Greater Tucson. My name is Larry Bodine and I'm the President. I'll be your host today. Let me introduce Victoria Steele, who is a state Senator, a therapist and educator, and a candidate for justice of the peace in Pima County. She has served as an Arizona state Senator for most of the last decade creating laws.

New Speaker00:25

And now she says she wants to administer the law compassionately and justly to restore faith in justice court. Prior to her serving in the Legislature, she was a licensed substance misuse counselor, a domestic violence therapist, and a teacher of college graduate level counseling students. She's got lots of endorsements, including from Mayor Regina Romero, Ron Barber, former Congressman and Sharon Bronson and Adelita Grijalva.

on the Pima County Board of Supervisors. And she's running against a crazy man. The Republican incumbent is Adam Watters who recorded himself, shouting out, "I'm going to blow your head off,", wielding a gun just before shooting at an unarmed Stalking suspect. And with that Victoria, the floor is yours.

Victoria Steele01:17

That's quite the introduction. Larry. I'm not going to, I'm not going to spend any time talking about my opponent, Adam Watters, but Judge Watters has been in the media a lot the last year. So you can look him up, just Google him, Adam Watters, and you'll watch the videos. Watch the audios, listen to the audio.

You'll have all the information you need on him. It is clear. That this district needs a judge with good judgment and I am that person. I am the only Democrat in the race. And I was asked to run by a former judge, someone we all know and love Paula, about a former Senator Paula Aboud. She called me up last year.

It was last. It was more than a year ago. She called me up and she said, I need you to think about something. This might be really a good thing for you. I think this is a great place for you to be, and now's the time. And I actually put her off for most of the year. To be honest, I don't want to leave the Senate.

I still to this minute, do not want to leave the Senate. I love my work there. Even when it gets really super difficult, like it is right now. But one of the reasons that I, this move makes sense to me is because in my time in the legislature, I have been. Helping to write laws and pass laws and introduce legislation that is on, regarding child abuse, regarding domestic violence and sexual assault and evictions and healthcare and housing issues and mental health and substance abuse issues.

So all of these things are a perfect fit for me to move from the Senate because I was a counselor. I still have my master's in counseling. So I have taken care of, I have cared for and created programming for women in particular. For men too, as a counselor. And so right now I've got two bills that are in the Senate.

They passed unanimously through the Senate, they're now in the house. And when they went over to the house, they died. Nothing to do with me, just it's nasty ugly politics. So once those bills died, I tried to figure out how these two bills in particular, I actually had nine bills, which I believe is a record for a Democrat.

Having that many bills move through the Senate successfully. They got over to the house and they all hit a brick wall and slid down and died. I was able to recuperate one of them. And that is the bill for the El Tour de Tucson bicycle license plate, but you'll have to forgive me. My I'm not at my best right now.

I think you can, all you can all relate. But if the El Tour de Tucson bicycling License plate that will bring in hundreds of thousands, possibly millions for local charities for one of the biggest bicycling events in Arizona in the country. I actually think it is, but it's pretty big deal and it's a beautiful license plate.

That one is going through. It's easy to get license plates bills through the legislature, but why they killed my other bills. It breaks my heart, but there are two bills on domestic violence. One. Extend the emergency orders of protection from 72 hours to seven days. So that's a huge thing. The other extends the standard order of protection for one year.

To two years, which has also, these are life-saving bills. They will help protect the children involved in these dangerous situations. If you have seen the crime stats for Arizona or Tucson in particular Pima county, you will see that domestic violence is the most dangerous crime. It is the most deadly crime and it is probably the most frequent crime on the record.

And there are so many instances where children are the innocent victims of domestic violence situations. This gives the parent or just the person who is being. Harmed or in danger of being harmed protection to get away from his or her abuser and to help protect their children. If there are children involved, as I said, these are lifesaving critical bills.

And so here's what I did, I thought, "Okay, I've done this before. And how do Democrats get bills passed? You swallow your pride, you realize that it's much more important. It is much more important to simply get bills passed regardless of who gets credit for it. So I won't get credit for this, but I have given my bill to Representative Shawnna Bolick.

Her husband is a, I believe a Supreme Court justice in Arizona. And she now has my bill. She is a Republican. She has my bill this week. My bill will be amended onto hers. I was actually hoping I would be able to do that in person today or tomorrow. I may not be able to be there to see that happen. But it will happen.

Representative Bolick has agreed to do this and to allow me to amend my bills onto hers, she has an order of protection, domestic violence bill that is similar they're related. And this is a really good thing where we're working across- the- aisles bipartisanship which is very rare and becoming more but it's going to happen. I suspect, or I expect that it will pass this week and then we'll just move it to the governor's office. And I expect that he will be signing onto it because I do know that, even though the governor and I frequently do not see eye to eye on this. We have been able to reach agreement over the years.

So I think this will happen the rest of my bills on electric vehicles and all of that may not happen. So let me go back to why I am in the race for justice of the peace, all of these laws that I am passing these. Justice of the peace or these orders of protection laws when I am elected and I fully expect to be, but I still need your help.

This is not a done deal, but if, and when I am elected, then I will be in my courtroom assigning allowing people to have orders of protection. I will be making those orders. And so I will be looking at and deciding on judging on evictions and really important things like that. So I just want you to know that is happening.

Now, let me talk about the race for just a minute, because I because my dad broke his hip a month ago. I had to immediately move my mom and dad pretty much by myself for the first couple of weeks, I had to move them into assisted living. Which meant for the last month or so, I have not been able to do much campaigning.

And this is when this is time. This is when I should be out there knocking on doors and getting petition signatures and normally, I'm way out ahead of the curve. And I would've had those puppies done and had far more than what I ever needed to behave, and we would have them on, but here's what we're doing.

We are. Collecting signatures. Larry and I, Larry Bodine and I went out this week. We went out with this past weekend, but now my mom's in the hospital. So I'm really hampered here with what I can do. I'm behind. I need more, don't worry about how many. All I know is I need yours. If you have not signed my petition, I desperately need you to sign my petition.

I must get on the ballot. If I don't get on the ballot, then this is going to be a much harder road, but there are places that we can I have set up two places. Two great opportunities for you to sign my petition and some others while you're at it. You can go to the Pima county democratic headquarters.

And I don't offhand, I can't think of the address, but it's like Speedway and first or something like that. Larry can tell you that, but.

Speedway and Swan. So it's near that area and Larry can give you the exact address. You can go there and ask for my petitions. I believe they are there. If they are not, please call my campaign manager, Karen and Nathan Davis is a Democratic candidate for the house in LD18. And we were out collecting signatures over the weekend and he had

kindly agreed to collect petition signatures. So if you have not signed my petition, then you can go over to his business office in the lobby at sunset interiors. I'll repeat this, but it's at Sunset interiors. That's at 2870 East Skyline Drive, suite 190 and it's 85718. This is at the corner of Skyline and Campbell right across the street from La Encantada mall shopping mall there. It's on the south side is Southwest corner. Remember that beautiful copper dome? His building is Sunset Interiors is right beneath that copper dome. So if you pull in there, it's easy to find. He will have not only my petitions there for you to sign, but his as well, and all of the statewide initiatives for you to sign on those as well.

So you can make it a very productive trip. That way you can stop by and you can sign everything. Please know that my precinct, my justice of the peace precinct is different from the Senate district precinct. That map is at my website. I need you to go there and find out if you are on. My, if you live in my precinct, because you may have been in my precinct in LD9 but you're not necessarily, it is a big precinct, but the map is different.

It catches a little more Oro Valley and it goes a little further Southeast to it. Doesn't go quite as far west. So go to. My campaign website and that's and it's four spelled out F O R Again, that's If someone would put that in the chat room at when he asked him, I'll have that just to make sure that you're in the district.

I don't want you to come out to sign my petition if. Able to do that, but it wouldn't be a wasted trip. You can also sign the initiatives and layer. and Nathan Davis's petition as well. He's a wonderful candidate. I do want you to know that even though I am leaving the Senate after this session, I am so hopeful because we have got amazing people with a whole cast of wonderful. We are so blessed with the opportunities we have here because the people who are running for this seat are amazing. I think that six or seven that are wanting to be in LD18. So it'll be, for house the Senate, I believe there are two Democrats for LD18, and I believe there are four, maybe six.

Democrats running for Representative or running for the House of Representatives. So we've got a lot of really wonderful people. I think my brain is fried. I think I'll be here to answer your questions for few more minutes and then Get back with my mom. So what do you, what questions do you all have for me?

Larry Bodine14:48

All right. Just really quickly, Victoria I'm sharing my screen, displaying your website. It's at and Victoria, I comme nd your ability to compromise. There's a sign over my shoulder here that underscores what you're doing. And, my Dad always said, "There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it does not matter who gets the credit," and you really live up to that completely.

And let me get the questions started. Understand that the justice of the peace handles civil disputes less than $10,000, but you also will handle minor criminal events misdemeanors and so forth. Tell us a little bit about your judicial philosophy.

What will you bring to the bench?

Victoria Steele15:45

What I will bring to the bench is a host of knowledge in the issues that I will be dealing with. Because as a state Senator, I'm not only putting together my past history as a counselor, I did domestic violence counseling. I did sexual assault counseling. I did counseling for general mental health issues and substance abuse.

I worked, I helped create a counseling model for indigenous people in substance abuse treatment. When I come to the, when I came to the Senate, I was able to use all of that knowledge. Now in the Senate, I have added to that a great deal, more. I've a whole decade worth of information on the general economy, how things fit together, how our laws are put together.

So I've been putting together laws on just about everything that have to do with DUIs and eviction. And so I'm always voting on them. I'm always getting new presentations and this whole past 10 years has been an incredible learning. Opportunity about the very issues that I'm going to be working on as a Senator, whether it is issues of dog bites, man, whether it's issues of eviction.

Property rights business conflict. I also have a pretty strong history of negotiation and mediation, which will come to the fore quite nicely. So everything that I have done in my lifetime has allowed me to bring it all together, and this is the perfect next step for me not to mention that I'll be able to be here with my mom and dad instead of in Phoenix, worry sick about them.

So I'll be here and I'll be able to be here for you guys too. And I will continue to fight the fight. And I just want you to know I'm so glad that Paula about called me up and she said, We need you to do this. I just love her. She's amazing. So I thank her and everybody who's been so supportive.

Okay, Victoria, we have a question from labor leader, Paul Stapleton-Smith. Paul, go right ahead,

Paul Stapleton-Smith18:08

Victoria. Thank you so much. That all of our hearts are with you and your family right now. It is really yes. And very grateful for all of your work all the years. If I may, Victoria, thank you. You answered my first question about where I can turn in my petitions.

I have really good Democratic friends who are out gathering signatures now. The deadlines. So thank you. Yes ma'am. And if I may, you mentioned for JP the rental situation housing and homes for our people is an enormous problem. Now, the justice of the peace courts, could you please just underscore for folks who might not know that is really a central to the innovative programs of Pima county for keeping our families safe in their homes, et cetera.

Victoria Steele18:53

It was something that took me a long time to learn about, but you and I

share that knowledge. Yeah. And we share that passion and that compassion for people. And I wanted to, to encapsulate not only your question but also Larry's question about, what am I bringing to the table, basically?

What do I bring to this position? And that is, I bring. A lifetime, a career that is filled with compassion and striving for justice particularly for justice, for people of color. And I, I know for men, for women, for LGBTQ for indigenous people, for Latinex and or Latin X. For African-Americans for poor Caucasian people for Irish people.

You name it. I'm there. I understand. I try to see where you are. So I bring that to you. Did I just answer your question? Paul you'll have to forgive me. My mind is a little.

Paul Stapleton-Smith19:51

Yes. Thank you, Victoria. And again, Pima county has a model, very innovative program for tenant settlements, and the JP system is incredibly central to do that.

And that's what I'm so delighted that you're running because of that again, that really innovative and urgent.

Victoria Steele20:09

Yes. Ma'am. I want to tell you when the pandemic first started a couple of years ago and I was in the Senate and I get a call from somebody who his, I started hearing from constables who were saying, there are judges that are deliberately.

Evicting people in the middle of a pandemic families. There's no place for them to go. And this is the worst possible time to be evicting them, that their judgment is off. They're not showing any compassion. They're not showing kindness. And they're just going by. They're rulings appeared to me from what I was hearing to be cruel and heartless.

And that's when I first started becoming aware of how important the JP situation is, and it was just like, oh, that's not good. That is not good. And that situation is not. We are still dealing with this. We have huge housing issues, homeless people being evicted, families being evicted. I've heard from so many people who are sleeping in their cars with their children, and that is not okay.

And we really need, as a justice, I will have to go and follow the law to the. But there is always room for compassion. And so I want anybody that would come into my courtroom to know that they will have a fair chance to tell their story and that I will hear them. And that is critical. That's why I'm there.

And. I know that my race for justice of the peace will be way down at the bottom of the ballot. And every year that I get tons of calls from people saying I got my ballot, but I don't know these people every two years that, they, who are these judges? How do I pick, how do I know I have no idea who they are anything.

And I would be not really knowing what to tell them, because I didn't either, I didn't know a whole lot about that. This is even though it's down-ballot, it's just really a very important. Office. And so just because I won't be a state Senator anymore does not mean I will not be doing something that's incredibly important and we know how important it is now, because when you have a judge who doesn't have good judgment, then that's a problem.

And that is our situation now. So I want you to. Keep all of that in mind. And remember you have to live in my district, my precinct, I am in precinct 1, to vote for me, but you can still help. There are ways that you can help and you can find that out at my website and you can again get Paul, would you mind if I just said one more time where they can drop off or where they can.

You can either drop off your petitions at this site, or if you were one of those angels who have been collecting petition signatures for me, I love you. And so you can drop off your petitions and you can. Because we need to have these by Monday, so we need them now. So all week long, Nathan Davis candidate for LD18 house is collecting petitions and you can walk in and sign my petition there too.

At his business office, is it Sunset Interiors, 2870 East Skyline Drive. Somebody please put this in the chat room. It's suite 190 and it's at the corner of Skyline and Campbell it's right across the street from La Encantada mall. It's that beautiful shopping center that has the copper dome over the business. That's where he is. And he's there from 10 to 5 every day I believe, at least Monday through Friday. And that way you can walk in 10 to five today all week long, he'll be there collecting signatures and collecting any petitions that you might have been out there filling out.

Yeah, if you can do that would really help. And again, you can check out my website. Just to make sure that you're in my precinct, because you might not be, and it is Okay, Paul, thank you for letting me ramble on so long, but I really am..

Larry Bodine24:54

We've been putting in the chat all of the addresses and web addresses where people can go to sign your petition. We've got you back. I encourage members on this call to please raise your hand. As I'm going to do right now, you just pull the mouse down to the bottom. You'll see a smiley face that says reactions, click on raise hand, and I will spot you. I'll give you a chance to ask your question live.

And with that, we have a question from Michael Bryan go right ahead, Mike. Thanks,

Michael Bryan25:24

Larry. As a lawyer, myself I've known I've practiced in JP court. I've known a number of justices and I can assure people. The number one attribute for justice and peace is compassionate and common sense, not legal knowledge, but it will come up Victoria, that you don't have a law degree.

And you're running against a guy who does number one, I wanted to give some perspective on that and get your reaction and how you're going to respond to that. The first thing I would say is just to address that issue is there is.

A great deal of training available for new justices, as well as COJET training, which is essentially the, the ongoing training that any judge needs in order to remain current with the law and lots of legal support.

So you have a lot of staff that you can rely on as you're learning that issue, but I can assure you that, criminal justice and and procedure and Civil Procedure are very basic subjects that are learned your first year in law school. And those classes are not insurmountable for a lay person who doesn't have any legal training up until this point that although they have a lot of.

Common sense and a lot of legal exposure. That really helps a lot. But you're going to get this question, I think, Victoria, so I'd like to hear how you respond

Victoria Steele26:31

to it. All right. Thank you so much, Michael. And you were right. I do not have a law degree. I have however, been in the Legislature where I have been helping to write the statute that doesn't give me any expertise at all in the court. What I will tell you is that the majority of justices are not lawyers, the majority are lay people such as myself. So I think that well in the legislature, when I first ran, I thought don't, I need to be a lawyer. To be in the legislature.

And then I found out that I didn't. But what I will tell you that sets it apart from the justice court is that there is no training on how to be, there's no training on how to be a good state legislature. So I've had a decade. On the job training. I have been learning everything and I am a quick study.

I am a dedicated lifelong student. I will always be learning. I have a lot of friends who are judges and Dave Goss in Phoenix is very well known. He's coming down here in think in June, anyway they're giving us training so that even as candidates, we know what to do so that we don't do something that would put us in opposition or outside of the somebody's calling me and I can't, I don't know how to do this when I'm on a zoom call.

So forgive it. If you can forgive me, if you can hear the beeping in the background, I don't know what to do about that, but so I will be getting lots and lots of training and in order to become to actually move into the position once elected, I have to go through an extensive school put on by

judges. So it is pretty demanding. I'm already working with people who are judges and they are giving me quite an extensive preparation for the classes that will prepare me for the for the job. I have no doubt that I will be able to do this. Just put all your minds at ease. Degree that I've gotten.

I have received with honors. I am a hard worker and I'm not the smartest person that I know, but I am nobody's dummy. So I will work really hard and I will be there for you. And I do. I agree with what everybody has said so far is compassion is one of the most important tools in the toolbox.

And I've got that and I've got a willingness to admit that I surely don't know everything, but I'm a fast learner and a willing learner.

Michael Bryan29:24

Thank you, Victoria. That was a great answer. I would also point out that most people don't realize this, but there are huge dockets in these in these courts.

They're just they're best. And so administrative skills and time management is equally important to legal skills. And I think Victoria certainly has that in spades.

Larry Bodine29:43

All right. I invite everybody to raise their hand or put a question in the chat for the Victoria. Victoria I want to see you assure you also as a fellow attorney with Mike that if 21 year old

law school students can learn civil procedure and torts and all that sort of thing, and the basics of criminal law that you're definitely smart enough to be able to do that. Talk to you about the jurisdiction. It's pretty astonishing. You handle traffic violations, DUIs, landlord, tenant, workplace harassment, domestic violence cases.

Orders for protection from a practical standpoint, how do you deal with jurisdiction?

Victoria Steele30:25

That's so large. I am dealing with a multi-billion dollar state budget I'm dealing with. I just got nine bills for the state Senate. I'm taking care of my parents. My father just fell and broke his hip.

My mother just fell today and broke her hip. And I am flustered. Yes, I am. This is hard. It's very stressful. When I took this job on in the Senate, I knew when I first went into the legislature that I didn't know anything, and I had no idea what to do, how to do it, but I now live in two cities and I take care of both of my parents and I have an incredibly busy job, and I've been able to be on the board of the national organization for women beyond the national board for that.

And I've been able to. Multitask and time manage and sometimes just create new effective ways of doing things. And I just, I do this because I love to do it and I can't stand being bored. So I'm not bored.

Larry Bodine31:42

All right. That's fantastic, Victoria. You are a true champion of democracy and we appreciate that you're running and hope that you get all of your petitions.

I want to let you go early because you've got to deal with your mom in the hospital. But if for one last time, you could just summarize how we can support you, where we can sign your petitions and how to get ahold of you.

Victoria Steele32:04

Go ahead. Because I've been having to take care of my mom and dad and their broken hips.

I am behind on getting all my petitions and that's not normal for me. So this is quite different, but you can drop your petitions off if you've got some filled out. And if you want, because I've had a lot of people say, where can I go to sign your petition? Because I haven't been able to reach you at the parks.

I haven't been able to get out there when you're there all week long from 10 to five, Nathan Davis's business will have the petitions in his office or in his store lobby. He owns sunset interior and that's at 2870 East Skyline. It's suite 190, and that's at the corner of Skyline and Campbell right across the street from La Encantada shopping center.

And it's that big copper dome. It's a beautiful copper dome. His store is immediately under that Sunset Interiors. He will have my petitions there so you can sign them. All day all week from not from 10 in the morning to five at night. And I'm not going to ask them to stay later than five. So try to get there during those hours, if you can.

I really need your petition signature really. Because if I don't have enough, I don't get on the ballot and I am way behind. I hate to admit that, but I can't do everything. So I need your help. I want you to look on my website, to make sure check out that's there and make sure that you're in my precinct.

It's precinct one. It's the pink one on the map. All right, that's it. I'm going to let you go, Larry, if that's all right.

Larry Bodine33:57

That's just fine Victoria. We appreciate all the extra effort you want to come to our meeting. And of course, I'll be saying prayers for your mom and I'm sure you're talking to a whole crowd of democratic supporters, and you're going to find a lot more signatures by the end of the day.

And with that, I want to close this meeting and thank Victoria Steele again for coming. And we will see you next week.