Meet the Gen Z candidate taking on one of Arizona’s most MAGA Republicans

haley creighton

Photo by Ash Abelar /Creighton for State Senate

By Alyssa Bickle

May 28, 2024

Haley Creighton, a young, progressive, queer candidate, who uses they/she pronouns, couldn’t be more different from her current state senator.

Sen. Wendy Rogers is a far-right politician, an Oathkeeper, an election denier, and a QAnon promoter. She represents a large portion of rural Arizona; her district covers the southern half of Flagstaff, passes through Apache Junction, and stretches all the way down to Florence.

Creighton doesn’t feel their district is well-represented by Rogers—and she wants to bring progressive change and a younger perspective to the state Senate.

She’s not alone, either; Rogers is also facing a challenge from within her own party. David Cook, a current state legislator who represented the region for nearly a decade, is running against Rogers in the Republican primary.

Offering something different

Arizona’s 7th Legislative District is solidly red, and many people don’t believe Creighton has a chance of winning. But the opportunity to connect with young voters, work on another campaign and learn more about the community is something they couldn’t pass up.

There isn’t much light between Cook and Rogers. Both denied the 2020 election results and supported election fraud claims, though Cook has since admitted that there has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Arizona’s elections. Both support a border wall and are pro-Second Amendment.

Cook said he decided to run against Rogers after she shared pornographic images of Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, on the internet. However, Cook reached his term limit in the Arizona House of Representatives this year, and the only way to remain a state legislator would be to swap chambers and run for state senate.

No matter who wins the primary, Creighton believes the way her district would be represented by either Republican candidate would be the same. Young people have lived through so much, she told The Copper Courier, the current leadership does not align with what young people want – and they aren’t trying to even listen.

“I really want to signify that…progressive values and young people have a place in our legislature,” Creighton said. “We deserve to have our voices listened to, we deserve to have our issues cared about.”

The legislative district Creighton is running in is changing demographically, along with the rest of the state, said Stephen Nuno-Perez, one of Creighton’s former professors and assistant professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at NAU.

“Literally a sock puppet would be better than anyone who’s running the district right now,” Nuno-Perez said. “This district can really use someone like Haley.”

“The young people in the district need better choices on the policies that impact them,” Nuno-Perez said.

Creighton has heard from students that they are frustrated with the message they have been given so far, and want a government that cares about them and their education.

haley creighton

Creighton (right) talking with voters at the Coconino Democrats Roosevelt-Kennedy Gala. Photo by Julian Bernhardt, campaign manager / Creighton for State Senate

Compelled to act

Former President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 was Creighton’s turning point in her political interest, opening her eyes to the lack of respect America had for women, people of color, queer people, people with disabilities, immigrants, and other marginalized groups.

Creighton believes what sets them apart from other candidates, including fellow Democratic candidate and former president of the ACLU of Arizona, 91-year-old Roberto Reveles, is her ability to connect with voters about the issues she is running on – through her own personal experiences.

Creighton recognizes Reveles’ experience and understands that they are fighting for very similar things, but believes the next generation deserves a chance.

“It’s time for him to step aside…we need some youth and some spirit and need Haley on the ballot,” said Kyle Nitschke, organizing director for the Arizona Students’ Association.

Abortion access, affordable education, LGBTQ rights, sensible gun safety policy, and environmental justice are all issues that have the real potential to affect Creighton day by day.

Many of these issues still affect Reveles, he told The Copper Courier, particularly as a father of three daughters.

“I have direct concern about protecting and ensuring that my daughters have access to exercising reproductive rights,” said Reveles.

Reveles said the main difference between the two is his experience and a record of advocacy. He has always been a proponent of younger people’s involvement in the public policy arena and hopes that his public involvement is something they want to emulate.

But he doesn’t see youth as a qualification of its own, and doesn’t believe he should have to “take a second seat to anybody.” Reveles pointed to his extensive history of public service as a badge of honor, not a disqualifier.

“When I was living in Virginia during the period of desegregation of the schools, I not only supported integration, but I got involved in tutoring African American students that were affected by the segregation experience they had undergone,” said Reveles. “So I’ve got a record of public involvement, not just talking about it, but actually acting on it.”

Reveles added that he is reluctant to criticize Creighton, mainly because he hasn’t heard her speak in the public arena.

“I am confident that my experience in the public policy arena is a track record that voters can look at,” said Reveles. “Whereas there is no real track record on which to make a recent judgment on Haley Creighton’s candidacy.”

haley creighton

Creighton (center) with congressional candidate and former Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez (right) and his wife and Haskell Indian Nations University Board of Regents Member, Phefelia (left), at the Coconino Democrats Roosevelt-Kennedy Gala. Photo by Julian Bernhardt / Creighton for State Senate

Listening to voters

These are the same issues that Creighton connects with young voters over, and she has met very few NAU students through her campaign and grassroots organizing who feel that someone like Rogers represents them and their beliefs.

Creighton has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. She has also received the Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate distinction, given to candidates who will support stronger gun laws.

Meanwhile, Rogers has a pro-life track record, believes that life begins at conception, and voted against repealing Arizona’s 1864 abortion law.

Rogers, in contrast, has introduced a bill to allow concealed carry weapons on college campuses every year she has been in office – something Creighton takes issue with after living through school shooting after school shooting.

“I definitely want to bring a clear perspective and a clear voice to the legislature,” Creighton said.

Creighton has traveled up and down District 7, knocking on doors and talking to voters, traveling hours from Flagstaff to Apache Junction, Florence, and everywhere in between.

“I never want those rural communities to feel forgotten, just because Flagstaff is a much bigger city, that doesn’t mean that their [other communities] issues don’t matter as well, because they absolutely do,” Creighton said.

Speaking from experience

Creighton has the perfect experience to run this race, said Nitschke.

Nitschke ran in the same district in 2022, but lost by over 30,000 votes. He attributes his loss more to gerrymandering than campaigning; when the district borders were redrawn in 2021, a last-minute change moved Rogers from Democratic-leaning District 6 to District 7, creating a much more Republican-friendly district in the process.

The student vote is a huge part of the district, which splits Flagstaff right in half along district lines — and that is who Creighton has been able to heavily engage along their campaign, Nitschke said.

And running as a clean elections candidate presents its own challenges: Creighton forgoes all special interest and high-dollar contributions to her campaign.

Running as a clean election candidate means the candidate will forgo special interest and high-dollar contributions and instead receive funding from the Citizens Clean Elections Fund, as long as they meet certain requirements.

The rural community that the district encompasses is part of Creighton’s challenge. Many voters in less populated parts of the state have been disillusioned with the Democratic Party, she said, leading them to vote for someone like Rogers.

Advocating for students

Outside of running for Senate, Creighton’s day job is as northern regional director at the Arizona Students’ Association, an organization she was heavily involved with as a student at Northern Arizona University.

Creighton’s time at the Arizona Students’ Association is part of what gave them the confidence to dive headfirst into political organizing.

During her time with the organization, Creighton has brought queer issues forward as one of its many focuses, all while helping to grow the organization substantially.

“I think having a young person on the ballot and showing them that we do have a place in politics,” said Creighton. “And our issues do matter and people will listen to us is what’s really going to get young people out to vote.”

haley creighton

Creighton speaking at the Coconino Democrats meeting in March 2024. Photo by Kyle Nitschke / Creighton for State Senate

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to clarify that the Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate distinction is not an endorsement.

Author

  • Alyssa Bickle

    Alyssa Bickle is a multimedia reporter for The Copper Courier. She graduated from ASU's Walter Cronkite School in May 2024 with degrees in journalism and political science and a minor in urban and metropolitan studies. She has reported for Cronkite News and The State Press.

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