The American Prospect: The New Public Option

The New Public Option

By Justin Miller, The American Prospect

On paper, Juan Mendez wouldn’t have jumped out as a prime candidate for public office in Arizona. He was a young Latino guy, a first-generation American who’d grown up in poverty. He’d never been elected to public office before, he didn’t have any money, and he wasn’t well connected within the state’s Democratic Party.

But given Arizona’s public campaign-finance system, the typical connections to party apparatuses and donor circles were not needed for an unknown candidate who wanted to run using public funds. Having long been active in local progressive politics, Mendez, at just 26, decided in 2012 to run for an open state representative seat that included his hometown of Tempe. “We needed to make sure we brought certain views of people who have historically been kept out of the conversation,” Mendez says.

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