by Rachel McPherson

For many people, their first encounter with politics comes in a high school civics course. But for the Goldwater Institute’s Jenna Bentley, her interest in politics started at a much younger age.

“Some of my earliest memories are from attending fundraising events for our local Massachusetts State Senate and House representatives,” she says. “I remember helping my mom put up political signs for [George] H.W. Bush when he ran for president and also Mitt Romney when he ran for governor. Politics was just something that was always present in our household.”

Exercising civic duty and being an informed voter came to shape Jenna’s career. It was through her work in Arizona politics that she became familiar with the Goldwater Institute. She had been familiar with Goldwater’s work at the state legislature, but now she is able to help shape and shepherd legislation as the Institute’s Director of Government Affairs.

“We work a lot down at the Arizona legislature, but we also do a lot of national work,” she says of Goldwater’s legislative efforts. “What’s neat is that you can see these bills take effect in Arizona…and see the positive results in this state so that when we start rolling these issues out in other states. We can look to them as a blueprint for how these bills will work.”

Jenna cites Goldwater’s Right to Try Act as the latest example of that. The legislation allows terminally ill patients to pursue treatments not yet fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but still remain in clinical trials. Colorado and Arizona were the first two states to pass Right to Try before President Trump signed it into federal law in May. Today, 41 states have Right to Try legislation on the books.

Jenna’s work with state legislatures has helped more people gain control over their own lives—in particular, she points to Goldwater’s work on the Right to Earn a Living and education savings accounts as ways in which Goldwater efforts are helping people live freer lives. “Arizona has some of the most restrictive occupational licensing laws in the country. That’s an issue of concern not only to people on the right, but also people on the left,” says Jenna. As for education, “Arizona has been a leader when it comes to school choice. We want to make sure we keep those options available to all children in Arizona.”

You can watch the full interview with Jenna above.

Rachel McPherson is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.