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Phoenix-area teacher more motivated than ever in run for statehouse

(Facebook Photo/Jennifer Samuels for LD15)

PHOENIX – Phoenix-area teacher Jennifer Samuels was inspired to run for office after participating in the Red for Ed movement earlier this year.

And after the Invest in Education funding initiative was barred from the ballot last week, she’s more motivated than ever.

“Now I feel even more pressure as a teacher to win this race, because we still need funding, we still need to find solutions so we can actually improve schools here in Arizona,” Samuels, an English teacher and Democratic candidate for the state House, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

Invest in Ed, which sought to raise taxes on high-income earners to fund education, had enough signatures to get on the ballot, but the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the initiative wouldn’t appear before voters because the wording was potentially confusing.

Samuels said that despite gains procured by the Red for Ed protests, more needs to be done to get the state’s education system where it needs to be.

“Our class sizes are just as high today as they were last year,” said Samuels, who teaches at Desert Shadows Middle School in Scottsdale. “And our student-to-counselor ratio is just as high – with at least three times as much as the recommended average by the American School Counselor Association.”

Samuels isn’t the only educator in the running for seat in the state Legislature. She joins House candidates Joe Bisaccia, Marcella Quiroz and Eric Kurland and Senate candidate Christine Porter Marsh in the general election. All are Democrats.

Samuels didn’t find out until Saturday that she’d won a tight three-way primary in the District 15 House race.

She edged out Julie Gunnigle, who also advanced to the general election, by fewer than 100 votes and beat third-place Tonya MacBeth by fewer than 800 votes.

Nearly 23,000 votes were cast in the district’s Democratic primary.

Samuels and Gunnigle face a tough battle in the traditionally Republican district, which spans across the northern part of the Valley. The GOP candidates are House Majority Leader John Allen, who is seeking his fourth term, and state Sen. Nancy Barto.

More than 36,000 votes were cast in the Republican primary.

The district’s seats go the two top vote-getters in the Nov. 6 general election.

Despite the differential between parties in primary voting, Samuels said the numbers are there for her to win a House seat.

“It is possible, absolutely,” she said. “We’re getting more and more confident as we draw closer to November.”

KTAR New 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

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