May 9, 2020
A Profile In Resilience: Felicia French

An Interview with Arizona State Senate candidate Felicia French

Arizona LD6 State Senate candidate Felicia French is no stranger to thriving despite long odds. An Army and National Guard veteran with over three decades of service, former MedEvac helicopter pilot, sustainability scientist, and much more, Felicia is running for Arizona State Senate because she is committed to leading for the communal good.

Felicia, who ran for Arizona State House in the same district in 2018, explained to Sister District that she has always had an acute interest in politics.

“Growing up, one of my favorite books was Barbara Tupman’s The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, which shows how one political leader making a decision, sometimes against the wishes of their closest advisors, alters the course of history,” she says. “I saw the importance of electing the right people in order to influence history.”

Like many of us, Felicia was shaken by the results of the 2016 Presidential election.

“As a woman and a minority, I just couldn’t believe it,” she admits.

Following the 2016 Presidential election, Felicia participated in Emerge Arizona (a program that recruits and trains women-identifying candidates for office), and found solace in meeting like-minded women who had chosen to lead in order to make a difference.

“I am so inspired by women and the work that they do to lift up their communities,” Felicia asserts.

“Having served in the military for 32 years, I saw first hand that women go through so much and continue to be resilient.” Felicia has seen women leaders step up all over the world, particularly in moments of crisis.

When Felicia participated in the Emerge program, she had no intention of actually running for office. But, after the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, VA – a white supremacist, neo-nazi rally that resulted in three deaths and 33 injuries – it became clear she could no longer sit on the sidelines.

She tells Sister District that, “after Charlottesville and hearing the President suggest that there are ‘very fine people on both sides,’ I was shocked. I had a visceral reaction to hearing that, and I decided to throw my hat in the ring.”

In 2018, Felicia filed to run for Arizona State House. She says that “It’s about thinking globally and acting locally.” Felicia believes that leadership is about “the power to do good.”

“When I started in the military as an enlisted private, I wanted to make rank because I saw that as an officer, I could do good for those around me. I could take care of my team and make a difference,” Felicia recalls, adding, “That’s the only reason anyone should run for office.”

Felicia has seen firsthand many of the issues that affect Arizona residents today.

One significant challenge is a lack of internet access – a glaring problem that has exacerbated the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 22% of Arizona residents do not have consistent internet access.

Felicia is concerned about how the lack of internet access affects students who must now be educated remotely, patients who need to utilize telehealth services, and small business owners and employees who need to work from home. The state of Arizona has organized drive-up wifi hotspots in certain communities, but she says the state needs to do much more to increase internet access for all Arizona residents.

Another safety threat that worries Felicia is the danger of wildfires. The largest ponderosa pine forest in the world is located within Arizona’s 6th Legislative District, and climate change is making an already arid climate even more prone to wildfires.

Felicia observes that, “I’m already seeing that things are drying out quickly, and the possibility of wildfires is very real.” She is pushing for a fire alarm system within the district and will work to institute firewising measures in her community.

Over the course of Felicia’s first race for State House, she experienced high points and low points.

Her favorite aspect of the campaign was getting to spend so much time with her daughter, Anna.

“When I was in the military for 32 years, I had to sacrifice a lot of time with my family, especially my daughter, and you can never recapture that time,” she says, “but working together on the campaign was just so much fun.”Felicia and her daughter were able to break up the hard work of running a campaign with lighthearted moments. They always took the time to debrief after every day on the campaign trail, a practice that turned out to be both cathartic and strategic.

Felicia also loved getting to know the volunteers and activists that worked on her campaign. “The interpersonal connection is absolutely my favorite part of the process,” she beams. Felicia’s volunteers and team members helped her stay focused and energized. She says they were “the sun rays on my solar panels.”

Felicia’s 2018 race for Arizona State House ended with Felicia coming within 577 votes (0.4 points) of victory, the closest of any Democrat in LD6 in recent history.

Coconino National Forest | Photo taken by Mike Elson. Credit-USFS

Felicia says that after working so hard on the campaign, “Losing was tough. We were pretty despondent.” To reflect on the race and find ways to move forward, Felicia embarked on a 60-day hike across the state of Arizona. Trekking the 800 miles from the Mexico border to the Utah border was difficult, and even physically painful, because she suffered an injury on the way.

But, like many of the women she admires, Felicia is resilient. She made it across the diverse terrain of her state and decided that the reasons she ran the first time had not changed. She decided to run for office again, and this time, she would make it over the finish line.

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