Marlene Galán-Woods, widow of former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, on Wednesday launched a campaign for the congressional seat now held by veteran Rep. David Schweikert.
The former TV journalist joins four other candidates in the Democratic primary race. They hope to be the party's nominee to take on Schweikert, R-Ariz., in the 2024 general election.
Woods, 59, is running for Congress because of what she describes as an assault on various freedoms by the Republican Party. She said she feels a responsibility to continue her late husband's work and leaving future generations with a strong and free country.
"I am running for office because after the death of my husband, I was left with a profound sense of love and responsibility for our state and for our country," Woods told The Arizona Republic in an interview. "And the fact is that our freedoms are under attack by a group of right-wing extremists. ... I can't look the other way."
Voting rights and women's reproductive rights are being threatened, she said. Woods also wants to preserve the "freedom to be free of gun violence."
"I'm not trying to take anybody's guns away," she said. "Most of us agree that we need common sense gun laws: you're not able to go into a Walmart and buy a grenade. You shouldn't be able to go and buy a weapon that was made for war that is leaving hundreds of children slaughtered in school and at the mall."
The erosion of those liberties, Woods said, is the biggest issue facing the 1st Congressional District, which includes Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Cave Creek, Fountain Hills and sections of Phoenix.
Woods joins an already crowded Democratic field that includes nonprofit executive Kurt Kroemer; Andrei Cherny, former CEO of Aspiration, an environmentally friendly financial services company; State Rep. Amish Shah and Phoenix orthodontist Andrew Horne.
More people could get into the race, including Delina DiSanto, who ran against Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., in 2020 and now lives in the 1st Congressional District.
Woods said that Democratic primary voters should choose her over the candidates because of her electability.
"My friends in this primary, we all probably agree on 99.9% of the issues. So that's not really the question here," she said. "The question is who can lead the best? Who has the best chance of beating David Schweikert? And that's me."
Woods said she believes she is the most electable candidate because she has held the powerful accountable in her job as a journalist; she is not a career politician; and being in Congress is her highest ambition.
"I don't want to be a U.S. senator. I don't want to be a governor. So I'm not going to be looking over my shoulder at everything I say," she said. "I'm always going to be truthful with the people of Arizona. I'm always going to put them before politics and I'm always going to put our country before party."
Once she is in Congress, Woods said, she wants to motivate others to serve.
She wants to "inspire people of all ages to ... see what's happening in our state, see what's happening in our country, and give a damn. Then, figure out what they can do in their own communities, in their own neighborhoods, in their own lives to make a difference."
"Because it's going to take all of us to preserve this beautiful thing we call democracy," Woods said.
Freedom is not something Woods takes lightly. Her parents came to the U.S. in the 1960s, fleeing the communist dictatorship in Cuba. She is a first-generation American. Woods' first language was Spanish, and she learned to speak English in kindergarten.
A former Republican, Woods switched parties after the election of former President Donald Trump. She said that she no longer recognizes the Republican Party.
"My values are the values of this district. My positions haven't changed. I've always been pro-choice," she said.
The U.S. House of Representatives, which is composed of 435 voting members, is a body that operates on seniority, and Schweikert is a senior member of the influential Ways and Means Committee.
When asked why the district's constituents should relinquish that power for a first-year member of Congress, Woods said, "Because (Schweikert) shouldn't have any influence. He shouldn't be anywhere near ... Congress."
She cites Schweikert's 11 ethics and campaign finance violations, as well as his voting against the certification of Pennsylvania's 2020 electoral votes after the presidential election.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Marlene Woods launches bid in Arizona's 1st Congressional District