State Representative Charlene Fernandez is the Democratic Whip of the Arizona House of Representatives from the 4th Legislative District serving on the Committee on Appropriations. She was first elected to the state House in 2014 and represents Southwestern Arizona, specifically, the majority of Yuma County, western Pima County, southwestern Maricopa County and southwestern Pinal County.
Early Life and Education
Fernandez was born in Yuma, Arizona to the late Antonia "Tony" Ramos and Carmen Ramos. She attended Yuma High School where she graduated, and went on to attend Arizona Western College before transferring to Northern Arizona University earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Education.
Fernandez worked for Congressman Ed Pastor for twelve years, coordinating constituent services for the western portion of then Congressional District 2. While working for Congressman Pastor, Charlene spearheaded an effort that culminated in bringing a Veteran's Administration clinic to Yuma County for the first time in history; previously the Phoenix Veterans facility was the closest place for them to receive these services. Her experience led to her becoming a consultant for a software company that produced a Constituent Management System for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Charlene later served Governor Janet Napolitano as a liaison for the Arizona Department of Environment Quality in Yuma County. In this capacity she worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as its counterpart in the Republic of Mexico, to ensure that the air and water in Southwestern Arizona remained safe while ensuring that businesses faced minimal impact.
Fernandez was elected to the Yuma Union High School District Governing Board, serving as both President and Vice President.
In 2008, Fernandez was elected by the Arizona Democratic State Committee to be First Vice Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, she served in this capacity until 2009.
In 2012 Fernandez ran for the Arizona State House from the newly drawn 4th Legislative District. Fernandez ultimately lost in the August primary by 140 votes to Juan Carlos Escamilla. Escamilla went on to win the general election.
In May 2014 Fernandez announced her candidacy for the seat again, this time winning the August primary by a comfortable margin of 12.8%. The general election was unexpectedly competitive, Republican Richard Hopkins led Fernandez on election night as the heavily republican portion of the district reported early. The next four days saw the margins go up and down, by the 5th day, with the democratic strongholds in Pima and Yuma counties reporting, Fernandez was declared the victor by 188 votes.
In 2016, Fernandez successfully ran for re-election with newcomer Jesus Rubalcava, they were unopposed in the general election.
Arizona House Leadership
Fernandez was elected Democratic Whip on November 10, 2016.
In 2014, Fernandez was appointed to the coveted Committee on Appropriations, she also serves on the newly created Subcommittee on Public Safety, Infrastructure, and Resources.
- Committee on Appropriations
- Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety, Infrastructure, and Resources
Fernandez is known as a leader on education policy within the state, the Arizona Republic published a guest editorial by her in September 2015 entitled, "How I'd reform private school tax credits." In it Fernandez details the problems with Arizona education funding in general and private school tuition tax credits in particular.
In 2016 Fernandez was name Legislator of Year by the Arizona Parent Teacher Association.
Fernandez has also been an ardent foe to the private prison system in the state supported by Governor Doug Ducey. She has challenged the governor's staff from her seat on the Appropriations Committee to justify the need to provide more prison beds.
Fernandez is a highly active member of her community. She serves or has served on the Yuma Community Foundation, Board of the United Way of Yuma County, and Yuma Leadership.
Fernandez and her husband Sergio have three adult children, Brian, Carlye, and Lisa.