Meet the Candidates: Arizona's Daniel Hernandez

Daniel Hernandez

The Victory Fund is working to elect dozens of LGBT candidates to higher office and we're featuring the stories of several of these men and women as the election nears.

Daniel Hernandez is best known as the man who helped save Gabrielle Giffords’s life. She was a U.S. House member from Arizona and Hernandez an intern on her staff when Jared Loughner opened fire at a 2011 event in Tucson where Giffords was meeting constituents. Six people were killed and more than a dozen wounded. Giffords was shot in the head; Hernandez applied pressure to her wound to minimize bleeding, and he helped her remain conscious until an ambulance came.

Hernandez, who has modestly claimed he’s not a hero but just “happened to be in the right place at the right time,” has gone on to elected office. He has served five years on the board of the Sunnyside Unified School District, which includes Tucson and several neighboring communities. Having survived a recall attempt that targeted him for being gay, he has been president of the board for the past two years. During his tenure the board has hired a new superintendent, opened a K-8 fine arts magnet school, and developed a comprehensive sex education lesson plan. He has also served on the city of Tucson’s Commission on LGBT issues.

Now he’s running for the Arizona House of Representatives from District 2, in the southern part of the state. If elected, he would be the only currently serving openly LGBT state legislator (there have been some in the past, like Kyrsten Sinema, a bisexual woman who has gone on to serve in Congress). He is a Democrat, and his priority issues include gun violence prevention, LGBT equality, workers’ and veterans’ rights, comprehensive immigration reform, and educational equity.

Arizona elects two representatives and one senator from each state legislative district, so Hernandez has two opponents, both incumbents: Democrat Rosanna Gabaldón and moderate Republican Chris Ackerley. They have been endorsed by the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Weekly, but Hernandez is doing well in fundraising. And he’s one of Victory Fund’s spotlight candidates.

“I’m fearful that our state is continuing on a dangerous path,” Hernandez says on his campaign website. “From cutting access to healthcare for our underprivileged children to slashing education funding, instead of progressing, we are backsliding at the expense of our future. Our legislators’ priorities are at odds with reality. We are not making the long-term investments that will ensure Arizona will prosper this generation or the next. We’ve had years of extremists in the capitol who care more about ideology than common sense-solutions. We need to elect people who will fight for our values and work to put people first, not petty politics.”

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