NAU graduate Kyle Nitschke announced his “clean election campaign” for the Arizona Senate in early March. Nitschke will be running as a Democratic candidate for Arizona’s 7th legislative district, which was recently redistricted.
Nitschke’s campaign has a large focus on investment within education. As the child of an Arizona educator, Nitschke said he’s seen the impact a lack of funding can have on schools.
“I grew up in Arizona public schools, and my mom actually taught in the same elementary school that I went to school at,” Nitschke said. “I’m sure it was around, probably 2007 or 2009, somewhere around the recession, but they were literally running out of paper at the end of the semester. Weeks before the semester ended.”
A driving force for Nitschke’s campaign is focused on dealing with education funding that has been characterized as lackluster — leading to protests in protests in recent years. According to a recent study by Schloraoo.com, Arizona ranks as one of the worst states in the country when it comes to education as a whole — something Nitschke thinks could be changed.
Furthermore, Nitschke said the funding allocated to education in Arizona is small when compared to how much money is given to the Arizona Department of Corrections. In 2019, The state spent over $300 million more on police enforcement than it did on education, to which Nitschke said it is time to reevaluate funding.
“We know that we’re one of the lowest states in the nation for teacher pay, so that’s obviously something to address, but that’s something to address by more funding,” Nitschke said. “We know our schools are in disrepair, and they need major maintenance upgrades. It’s just all about funding and how we invest.”
This, Nitschke said, is why he believes a large contributor to this problem is the current leadership in Arizona — state leaders who are more interested in tax breaks, cuts for the wealthy and corporations.
An important aspect of Nitschke’s campaign is that he is running a clean elections campaign. Candidates who run clean election campaigns receive their funding entirely from the public, subsequently Nitschke will not accept donations from special interest groups or corporations. Every donation that is received will come from local individuals and be no more than $180.
Nitschke’s campaign treasurer Sharon Edgar said this method of campaigning creates a unique angle.
“Once we reach the maximum [donations], which is a bit over $4,000, I have to return those checks,” Edgar said. “Those donations, I have to make sure that we have a record of who gave them and make sure that they’re in the district. They can’t be coming from, you know, New York.”
Edgar said Nitschke has been working hard to ensure his campaign is getting the necessary funding. To qualify for funding from the Clean Elections Committee, Nitchske was required to raise 200 five-dollar donations. With contributions typically rolling in throughout the entire campaign, Edgar said it becomes incredibly important for the money to be accounted for in a campaign such as Nitschke’s.
In comparison to other campaigns, a clean election campaign shows involvement from the community. Edgar said the differences between Nitschke and Senator Wendy Rogers’ campaign strategies are night and day.
While Nitschke has rallied behind the support of locals, Rogers has rallied support across the country and raised a record-breaking $2.5 million in her bid for reelection. Rogers accomplished this by using talking points about the 2020 presidential election, namely how it was stolen and that former President Donald Trump was the rightful winner. Rogers said her campaign has received donations from over 40,000 individuals.
The funding difference between the two is drastic, Edgar said. With less than $15 thousand for his campaign, Nitschke and his campaign understand that they will have to work hard to get elected. Edgar, however, thinks it’s possible.
“I applaud Kyle so much for what he’s doing,” Edgar said. “He’s working on issues that really matter, and it’s just inspiring to see. I really do hope and think that he can do it.”
A previous version of this article credited the photo to the Arizona Students Organization. The correct organization the photo should be credited to is the Arizona Students Association. The photo caption has been corrected and we apologize for any confusion.