Playwright-activist Marcelino Quiñonez picked to fill last empty seat in Arizona Legislature

·2 min read

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appointed Phoenix playwright and Democratic activist Marcelino Quiñonez to fill the last open seat in the Arizona Legislature.

Quiñonez will serve the remaining term of Rep. Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix, in Legislative District 27. Rodriguez resigned last month to concentrate on his run for state attorney general.

The appoint ends the vacancy problem in the Legislature in a year that so far has seen 12 lawmakers leave their seats (including one who died), to be replaced by 10 brand-new legislators. Two of the 12 resigned from the House to fill vacant seats in the Senate.

In a special meeting of the supervisors that lasted less than a minute, District 5 Supervisor Steve Gallardo nominated Quiñonez and the Board voted 4-0 to approve him. Supervisor Clint Hickman did not attend the meeting. Gallardo said it was a "tough choice" to pick one of the three candidates recommended by Democrats to replace Rodriguez.

"I am completely humbled and honored by this opportunity, and I look forward to being in service," said Quiñonez, 38, who ran unsuccessfully for the same position in 2014.

The son of Mexican immigrants, Quiñonez graduated from South Mountain High School and was a recipient of St. Vincent de Paul’s "One at a Time" college financial aid program. He went on to graduate with a bachelor's degree, then a master's degree from Arizona State University.

The former high school drama teacher and Roosevelt Elementary School District governing board member now works for ASU as director of educational outreach and partnerships, helping others go to college. He's also an appointed member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul board and lives in south Phoenix with his daughter, who is in seventh grade.

Marcelino Quiñonez and his daughter, Mia, pose at a school event in 2015.
Marcelino Quiñonez and his daughter, Mia, pose at a school event in 2015.

Quiñonez is probably best known for his politics-themed plays, including "Dear Senator," which he wrote and starred in with the late former Attorney General Grant Woods. He performed the role of Cuban-Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara in a 2016 play, "El Che."

"I'm an advocate — an activist for education, for equality, for opportunity, and for respect," he said. "I think I bring a particular skillset, that is, bringing out the best in everybody and working collaboratively."

The leader of Democrats in the House praised the pick.

"I've known Marcelino for nearly a decade, and I've seen up close the impact he has made in our community on a variety of levels," said House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, who represents the same district.

"His passion for public service and deep connection to our district will be a valuable addition to complete our caucus as we head into a challenging session, and I'm personally thrilled to welcome him as my new seatmate."

Reach the reporter at rstern@arizonarepublic.com or 480-276-3237. Follow him on Twitter @raystern.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix Democrat Marcelino Quiñonez appointed to Arizona Legislature

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