One of the darkest days in Tucson history helped inspire Dr. Randall Friese to run as a Democratic candidate for the State House in District 9. Friese was one of the trauma surgeons who operated on victims of the Jan. 8 shootings.
“It all stems back to of course Jan. 8, 2011 when I took care of shooting victims, including Gabrielle Giffords,” explained Friese. “After that I started paying more attention to what was going on in Phoenix.”
Friese, 50, did not rush into the decision to run. First he subscribed to the Capitol Times and started paying attention to the weekly news out of the legislature. He soon knew that he wanted to get more involved.
“I always felt what I did as a trauma surgeon was community service and I saw this as a way to expand upon that community service,” Friese explained
He was urged by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly to get more involved in politics so he began doing his research and learning more about the process.
“It was a gradual decision,” explained Friese. “It was a gradual process It was not an overnight thing, it was not an impulse decision.”
He wanted to learn to be a candidate as he had never really worked on a campaign, so he got involved with fellowships with Leadership with Change and once educated on the process, he realized he wanted to do it and once he determined he could do it, he made the decision to run.
In essence he is a true outsider to the politics, but thinks that is key. His goal would be to work with other new representatives, on both sides of the aisle, to make change.
“One of the things I do well work well in groups to come to a consensus to solve problems,” Friese said, noting that he often has to do that as a surgeon, working with a variety of doctors to come to a consensus on care.
He believes that by finding common values with the other members of the house, that a level of respect can be built and that is the first step in trying to create compromise and hear other ideas, instead of just voting the way party leadership dictates.
“Let’s find out what we have in common and start from there,” Friese said. “It will take some time, one must build trust first before you can negotiate and find middle ground. I think that we need to have more of a one on one conversation than just referring to leadership all the time.”
Two of Friese’s main objectives if elected go hand in hand. Friese believes strongly that improving public education and strengthening the economy are two sides of the same coin.
As a product of public education and now a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona, he feels it is vital that Arizona improves it’s education system.
“I just feel that Arizona has done a poor job maintaining an excellent system of public education for our citizens,” Friese said. “Not just K-12, but community colleges and out public universities.
Friese believes that as the education system improves, so will the types of businesses that want to come to Arizona. He feels a more educated potential workforce, as well as good schools for those moving to Arizona, are important in job creation and attracting industry.
“I think public education is an infrastructure that we need to grow and that it can equalize opportunities,” Friese said.
Friese is very interested in good educational opportunities for everyone. The product of a one-parent home, Friese attended public school and went to college and medical school on need and merit bases financial aid and later joined the Navy to help pay off student loans. Now he teaches at a public institution and sees the difficulties in providing a solid education to everyone.
He points out that the state constitution demands that Arizona provide general and uniform education, but that “I think we are failing there.”
Education aside, he sees the improvement in infrastructure as being a key tool in targeting businesses to the state. he not only wants to improve things like roads and utilities, but thinks that by investing in technology and making Arizona a place of technological innovation can be very attractive to industry and economic growth. Like education, he knows it is not a quick fix, but will take time and an investment of time and money to make better.
“I believe that it is an investment that can pay off later,” Friese said.
Social issues are also important to Friese, not just personally, but as a part of economic growth. He feels the recent bad press the state has received is hurting their perception nationwide.
“I think Arizona has an unfortunate reputation, particularly on marriage equality issues, immigration issues and responsible gun ownership issues,” Friese said,
As an outsider who took his time studying the way politics works in the state, Friese has no illusions that things will change overnight, but believes that patience and hard work can make a change, both in District 9 and across the state.