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Native Sun News: Native Republican in race for Arizona governor

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor.. All content © Native Sun News.

John Molina

Native American doctor makes run for Arizona governor
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

PHOENIX — John Molina, a Native American who grew up in the tiny village of Guadalupe, has thrown his hat in to the Arizona gubernatorial race.

A man who has spent his life providing healthcare to the under privileged and developing policies to improve healthcare in Indian Country through his work in the Indian Health Service, Molina, will be the first Native American to ever run for Governor in the State of Arizona.

Born in 1952 at the Maricopa County Hospital in Phoenix, the son of a father who was an enrolled member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and a mother from the San Carlos Apache, Molina, would earn an early appreciation for hard work by seeing his parents work as farm laborers and eventually through his own experiences as a child when he began working at a grocery store at the age of 10.

He would end up enlisting in the United States Navy for 7 years and after which he would pursue his education in the ministry. After studying in the ministry for several years he earned a degree in psychology from Arizona State University. However this was not enough as Molina became unsatisfied with the lack of healthcare many were receiving in Arizona. In response he would then seek out a medical degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson where he graduated in 1990.

He has spent decades working in the healthcare field and now hopes to take his life experiences use them to improve the State of Arizona.

“What inspired me to run for Governor is this long journey of mine as a native of Arizona I think there is a way of life that I feel can be improved for our people of Arizona. As I sit and watch the dynamics of our state I just thought that there was a better way of doing things in this state. Whether it is healthcare or immigration or education that is really important to me because I come from a poor community,” said Molina.

As a Native American running for Governor he is a first. He is also a Native American who is a Republican, a rare find in Indian Country. The GOP has not always been considered pro-Native, however with work done by Republican congressmen on the Violence against Women Act and specifically their willingness to cross party lines to force their inclusion some have managed to land in the good graces of tribes across the country. Molina feels that his position as a traditional Republican is not as far out of line with what tribes need from a legislator and can possibly be a positive.

“I am a Republican basically because I believe in the core Republican principles of limited government, lower taxes, private enterprise and self-determination,” he said.

One of the major issues of contention in Arizona and one of the hot topics in the upcoming midterm elections is the way that states and the federal government are going to handle immigration reform. With a shared border with Mexico, Arizona is a state that is forced to deal with the constant influx of both legal and illegal immigrants. Some political pundits have blamed the GOP’s response to America’s immigration policies as the primary reason for their failings at the ballot box. Molina feels that a balanced approach that would help those who have utilized the proper avenues to earn citizenship should be prioritized while balancing those concerns with securing the border.

“First of all I think it will take a state and federal collaboration to address immigration reform. I do not believe in full amnesty but I think there is a way to make it easier for people who are here and those who are born here to find a way to citizenship,” said Molina. “I also believe that there is a need to secure the borders. Not so much through building fences but through policy and technology to find ways secure the borders. To secure the borders is not enough it has to be done in coordination with strong immigration reform,” he added.

Unlike other Republicans Molina is a fan of the hotly contested Affordable Care Act. Many states including South Dakota have chosen not to expand Medicaid or implement the Affordable Care Act, essentially denying healthcare to 40,000 people. Molina feels that the ACA can help to bring healthcare coverage to many who have never had it before.

“I support the Affordable Care Act. When I go to forums out of the 7 Republicans there, only 2 of us in attendance support it. The reason I support the Affordable Care Act is that although it is not a Constitutional right it is a human right,” he said “As a Republican I did not agree with the mandate but the Supreme Court ruled that the Bill was ok and that settled it. I also believe for Arizona that the ACA is a very strong economic engine for us.”

Molina sees the ACA stimulating the Arizona economy by eventually bringing an influx of dollars and jobs to Arizona as more people gain access to coverage. He also feels that the ACA will reduce the costs of healthcare in Arizona due to its focus on preventative care.

What has been left out of the mainstream news cycle about President Obama’s signature piece of legislation is that it can provide much needed financial relief for the already strained budgets of Indian Health Service facilities. For every Native person who is covered by a third party insurer IHS can bill the insurer instead of drawing from its own funds which essentially frees up much needed funds for improvement to facilitates and the hiring of healthcare providers.

“Having run a small clinic and hospital is that the greatest financial burden is serving patients that are uninsured. In a perfect world when everyone has coverage the money that comes in from billing third party insurers provides a small profit margin for a hospital to be able to expand its services,” said Molina.

Molina did stress however that although expanded Medicaid or the billing of third party insurers should not be mistaken as a way for the Federal government to abandon its responsibility to provide healthcare to tribes.

According to Molina’s campaign manager and wife, Stephanie Big Crow, Molina must gather 6,000 signatures to be placed in the Republican Primary. Currently the campaign has 1,500 signatures but expects to have the 6,000 needed by the deadline in May.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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