Former legislature candidate shares vision of better representation

Gun Rights

Macy Schmidt | Special to Independent Newsmedia

Brianna Westbrook wants to be a politician her constituents can recognize: one who understands working-class America, and who will “Listen first, talk second.”

Westbrook grew up in central Phoenix in severe poverty, surrounded by addiction and domestic violence.

Her first foray in politics was in 2013, when she testified in front of the Phoenix city council to extend civil protections for LGBTQ people.

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“It felt right to use my voice. I knew that I was doing good” she said. Westbrook first considered a career in politics after participating in Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign for the democratic presidential nominee, which he lost to Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump’s presidential election that year inspired Westbrook to run for local office.

In 2018, Westbrook ran for the Arizona House of Representatives in the 5th District, a historically conservative district. She lost in the primary but ran again in 2020, and again in 2022.

As a transgender woman who ran on a platform touting a living wage, universal health care, and free college for all, Westbrook said she knew she would face challenges in her political career.

“I never imagined somebody like myself could even operate in politics,” she said. “There’s no manual to run for office.”

Westbrook takes her previous failures as a challenge. She’s been told no at every turn since the beginning of her career, and she wants to show people that you don’t need to come from a
wealthy or well-connected background to be a successful politician.

Many Americans feel somewhat disillusioned with today’s political landscape, in part because of the “old boys club” dynamic, as Westbrook describes it. Westbrook wants to change that.

Publicly funded elections, she said, would tip the scale in favor of the working-class candidates. Corporate donors such as the National Rifle Association tend to favor Republican candidates
like Republican Blake Masters, who’s running for senate this year against incumbent Mark Kelly.

As of now, the NRA exclusively endorses Republican candidates in Arizona, according to its website.

In 2018, Westbrook posted a Youtube video to her official channel that showed her tearing up a candidate endorsement application she received from the NRA. She said she stands firmly by her morals, and she’s not afraid of alienating potential voters with bold statements.

“I’m not scared about losing the swing voter. I’m scared about not getting the vote of the person who has disconnected themselves from the political process” she said.

Westbrook said she wants to inspire more people to use their voices for change, recalling a time when her campaign did just that.
Hale Maurice took a period of leave from their education in Maine, where they had been actively participating in community organizing, to come back to Arizona where they had fewer
connections to their community.

Maurice first met Westbrook through Westbrook’s involvement in Bernie Sanders’ run for presidential democratic nominee in 2020.

Maurice said they were excited to find out that because of redistricting that year, Westbrook would be running for office in Maurice’s district. Maurice said they spent that summer knocking on doors and making phone calls for Westbrook’s campaign.

“I have literally never before felt like there’s a candidate in my district that was running to represent me,” they said. “It just gave me hope, honestly.”

Arizona voter and student Naomi Jordan also said she feels unrepresented in local politics.

“It’s really about serving the community,” she said.

Jordan said she wants politicians to engage with the communities they serve so they can better understand the needs of constituents.

Westbrook said her working class status makes her more in tune with the average Arizona voter.

She said even though it’s difficult to make a name for yourself, she knows she’s doing good work for her community.

“Inspiring others is the most rewarding thing in the world,” she said. “If we can collectively give people hope, I think that’s good for mankind.”

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