2016 Candidate Endorsements: Arizona

Matthew Cerra

Running for: Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (District 1)

Matthew Cerra ran for election to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors District 1 in Arizona. Cerra identifies as secular and says that “religion should not enter into governance. Someone who is religious should not make restrictive laws based on their religion, only a case for helping people.” He is running to protect and expand the social and educational services that helped him escape poverty and a violent home life to find a supportive adopted family and educational opportunities to build a successful life and career. Cerra was unopposed in the Democratic primary on August 30, but was unsuccessful in unseating the Republican incumbent in the general election.

Talia Fuentes

Running for: U.S. Congress (District 5)

Talia Fuentes ran for election to the U.S. House of Representatives in Arizona’s 5th Congressional District. Raised in a religious home with varying faiths, she is now secular. “Religion does not play a role in my life, but I am a spiritual person who sees the world through the lens of science,” Fuentes said. She has a degree in applied biology and plans to attend veterinary school. Inspired by leaders like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Nelson Mandela, she is running for Congress to “shake up the political establishment.” Fuentes won her contested Democratic primary on August 30, but was not successful against her Republican opponent in the general election.

Juan Mendez

Current State House member (District 26)
Running for: Arizona State Senate (District 26)

Juan Mendez, a member of the Arizona State House, won election to Arizona’s State Senate in the 26th Legislative District. Mendez identifies as an atheist and made national headlines in his effort to deliver secular, rather than religious, invocations at the opening of House sessions. He has a passion for politics and social justice, which is reflected in his commitment to build strong communities by strengthening public schools, public universities and other public services to “restart the American dream of upward mobility for everyone, regardless of privilege.” Mendez won his contested Democratic primary on August 30. This was an open seat with the current Democratic incumbent not seeking re-election.

Cara Prior

Running for: Arizona State House (District 16)

Cara Prior ran for election to Arizona’s State House in the 16th Legislative District. Prior identifies as an atheist-humanist and wants to “be a voice for the non-theists who I feel have been marginalized and not taken seriously for far too long.” In responding to a survey from a conservative group that “promotes and defends the foundation values of life, marriage and family, and religious freedom,” Prior wrote, “I am running for office to help fight the biblical based requirements that women should be silent and subservient…It is time to elect people who refuse to bow down to ideologues, religious lobbyists or organizations that promote hate over humanity.” Prior ran along with one other Democratic candidate in the top-two primary on August 30, but was not successful in unseating one of the Republican incumbents in the general election.

Scott Prior

Running for: Arizona State Senate (District 16)

Scott Prior ran for election to Arizona’s State Senate in the 16th Legislative District. Prior identifies as a secular humanist. He wants to “remove religious ideology from the legislative process” to preserve our secular government based on the separation of religion and government. Prior seeks to “bring a voice of reason and common sense to the state capitol,” because “it is time we stop fighting each other over petty ideological concepts and focus on what will help us all.” Prior was unopposed in the Democratic primary on August 30, but was not successful in unseating the Republican incumbent in the general election.

Athena Salman

Running for: Arizona State House (District 26)

Athena Salman won election to Arizona’s State House in the 26th Legislative District. Salman identifies as an atheist and is a native Arizonan, community leader, and education advocate. Her policy priorities focus on increasing the quality and access of education, helping local businesses thrive to improve the economy, and strengthening the community with improved infrastructure and clean, renewable energy. Salman won the Democratic primary on August 30. She ran on a slate with Isela Blanc for the two house seats in this district, and with Juan Mendez, who ran for State Senate. Mendez was also endorsed by the Freethought Equality Fund.

Beth Weisser

Running for: Arizona State House (District 5)

Beth Weisser ran for election to Arizona’s State House in the 5th Legislative District. She identifies as a freethinker and humanist who is working “for a world where we can all be open and authentic about our identities and we can celebrate the variety of our beliefs,” and to make sure “religion is not abused as a way to discriminate against people and that our government remains secular.” She attended the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a delegate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Weisser was unopposed in the Democratic primary on August 30, but was unsuccessful in defeating her Republican opponents in the general election.  Update: Beth won a seat on the school board of the Kingman Unified School District – defeating the incumbent board’s vice president.

Mikel Weisser

Running for: U.S. Congress (District 4)

Mikel Weisser ran for election to the U.S. House of Representatives in Arizona’s 4th Congressional District. “Atheists and other nonreligious people often have to hide who they are to be invited to participate in politics, and that’s simply wrong,” said Weisser. “I am a nonreligious person who sees religion as one way people organize their values. My values are organized by my understanding of the naturalistic connections we all have to each other and the universe.” Weisser attended the 2016 Democratic Convention in Philadelphia as a delegate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. This is his third bid for Congress to promote progressive Democratic values in an extremely conservative district. Weisser was unopposed in Democratic primary on August 30, but was unsuccessful in unseating the Republican incumbent in the general election.

Ryan Winkle

Running for: Mesa City Council (District 3)

Ryan Winkle won election to the Mesa City Council District 3 in Arizona. Winkle identifies as a humanist and is a member of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix. He is a community economic development consultant working with underserved communities all over the Mesa – Phoenix Metro Area in the areas of housing options, workforce development, neighborhood revitalization, public outreach and transit oriented development. Winkle currently serves as the President of the East Valley Filipino American Business Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Maricopa Integrated Health Services Governing Council, and has been a creator and supporter of multiple community organizations such as RAILmesa and Mesa Urban Garden. Winkle won the contested nonpartisan election on August 30.