Kelly Fryer

Self-identified progressive Kelly Fryer announced her candidacy for governor earlier this year. Kelly joined the Democrats of Verrado at Verrado Middle School for a meet and greet. (West Valley View photo by Jordan Christopher)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kelly Fryer spoke about fierce love, a dysfunctional state and how to come together to solve Arizona’s problems in front of the Democrats of Verrado club on June 19 at Verrado Middle School.

“When it comes to dysfunction there is nothing, nothing that is more powerful to create change than love,” Fryer said. “And love is what I think is missing, in our communities, in our state and in our nation. I think it is exactly what we need in order to create the kind of transformation that we want to see.”

But the kind of love she’s talking about isn’t the kind that might come to mind.

“When I talk about love, I’m not talking about the kind of Valentine’s Day love that comes in a box of chocolates,” Fryer said. “I’m not talking about, you know, squishy, pink, fuzzy love. I’m talking about fierce love. I’m talking about the kind of love that fights for what is right. That fights to protect those who are in danger. I’m talking about the kind of love that I have for my kids.”

During her talk, Fryer tackled issues on how to win the race, as well as the environment and solving other problems Arizona faces. Fryer, who moved to Arizona in 2010, is one of three Democratic candidates aiming to become Arizona’s governor.

Fryer started off the night with a story of her time in Illinois becoming a woman pastor in 1989. At just 25 years old, she was thrust into a rural and conservative area of Illinois where local church members, all men, were adamant about not having a woman lead. After several hours of discussion, she managed to persuade them to become their first women pastor. The key lesson she learned? She can beat the odds, she said.

“I’m pretty good at beating the odds,” Fryer said. “I think we need a governor who knows how to beat the odds. Because we are up against them in Arizona. They have messed this place up. There’s a network of problems, layer upon layer in our state, that handicaps our ability to create real change. We aren’t going to be able to tweak our way out of this.”

Fryer is the former educator, minister and CEO of YWCA of Southern Arizona, an organization that empowers women and fights for social justice. When she joined YWCA, it was nearly ready to close, she said. Four years later, YWCA experienced 400 percent growth and new business acquisitions. It’s experiences like these that Fryer believes makes her the strongest candidate. 

“One of the things that I’m really good at is walking into a situation that is dysfunctional and helping people come together to really create kind of a shared vision,” Fryer said. “To identify the values that they share and work together to make good things happen in their community and grow.”

In terms of Fryer’s platform, her campaign is running many state issues, such as economic growth, public school education and the environment.

Education was briefly discussed with regard to funding teachers and the public school system. She also plans on drafting and funding a 15-county economic development plan if elected.

In terms of the environment, she hopes to create an environmental “justice league” with the smartest scientist in our state, she said. The environmental justice league committee would create a comprehensive environmental sustainability plan for Arizona within nine months, she added.

“This isn’t a political problem,” Fryer said. “This is a moral issue. And we need to have a moral conversation. We need to have a deep conversation as a state. This isn’t about politics. Who are we? Do we care about this planet? Do we care about our children?”

Ideas were also thrown around to create funding for the plan such as philanthropists, private companies or even starting a public bank of Arizona, she said. Arizona could be the solar capital of the world, she added.

Border safety and immigration were also brought up during Q and A. Fryer talked about sending the National Guard troops home, ending contracts with private prison companies that run detention centers and making Arizona’s criminal justice system a model for human rights.

“The role of the state is to protect and defend the individual rights of people,” Fryer said. “The role of the state is to protect the human rights of people in our territory. Not to protect a border. The second thing is, what really creates safety for people? Food. Housing. Good jobs. That’s where the focus of the governor of Arizona needs to be.”

At the end of the day, she said she wants to give a microphone to those who feel voiceless in all 15 counties in Arizona.

“I think we can create real change in Arizona,” Fryer said. “I think we can make this state work for all of us. I’m in the race because I think we need to be paying attention to everybody in all 15 counties around the state.”