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UA student running for Board of Supervisors seat

Jake+Martin+at+his+Survivor+Shield+Foundation+office+in+Tucson+on+Feb.+2%2C+2024.+Martin+founded+Survivor+Shield+when+he+was+18+and+serves+as+its+CEO.
Jake Martin at his Survivor Shield Foundation office in Tucson on Feb. 2, 2024. Martin founded Survivor Shield when he was 18 and serves as its CEO.

Jake Martin, a full-time University of Arizona student and CEO of a nonprofit he founded as a teen, is running for the District 1 seat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, taking on incumbent Rex Scott.

In December 2023, Martin, 20, filed his candidacy for the Aug. 6 Democratic primary.

“The role of local government is to provide and serve for the people in the county,” Martin said. “You look outside and we’re not doing it.”

Martin has lived in Tucson since he was in the seventh grade and has long been interested in politics. He recalls aspiring to run for office when he was as young as 8 years old, and solidified his interest while he was on the debate team at Catalina Foothills High School.

During his freshman year of college, the human development and family science major grew bored of his job at an insurance company and decided to save up his money for a bigger project, something that could benefit the community. With a few hundred dollars, he began Survivor Shield Foundation when he was 18.

“It was kind of a matter of figuring out what public service didn’t exist yet,” Martin said, explaining that Survivor Shield was one of the first organizations in Arizona “to provide emergency relief financial aid to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.”

In its two and a half years of existence, Survivor Shield has grown exponentially and now has an eight-member executive board, staff and interns. Martin, who estimates he spends more than 45 hours per week in his role as CEO, said the organization served 84 survivors in 2023 and with a bigger budget for 2024, it’s hoping to help about 500 this year.

“He is very forward-thinking, very passionate for somebody so young,” said Rebecca Black, who directs the Pathways support group program at Survivor Shield. “It’s an impressive attitude and impressive amount of motivation that he has.”

Survivor Shield is run out of a 112-square-foot office east of Reid Park. The space is big enough for a desk, a few white boards, some storage and a tall bookshelf, on top of which sits a framed photo of Martin and incumbent District 1 Supervisor Rex Scott. The photo is from the early days of Survivor Shield when Martin met with local politicians seeking support and advice for the foundation.

Now, Martin will be contesting Scott, 60, in the Democratic primary.

Scott ran his first political race when he was Martin’s age, contesting a city council seat in his hometown of Athens, Ohio. He lost but ran again successfully four years later.

“It’s just fascinating to me to now be on the other side of that equation,” Scott said. “I love the irony of it.”

Martin’s platform, detailed on his campaign website, centers around improving access to healthcare and social services. He said he believes the county hasn’t done enough to make these services accessible, especially to those with few resources.

“Seeing the failure of the government to provide for people who need it was really what made me want to run,” Martin said.

Martin said he believes the county’s focus should be directed more towards essential services and dealing with crises like drug use and homelessness that Martin has seen firsthand in his work.

Scott said the county thoroughly funds and supports social services, and highlighted the recently passed Prosperity Initiative, a set of policies that address root causes of poverty.

Martin is doing most of the campaign work on his own, with some help from friends and family. He campaigns at parks and around neighborhoods, introducing himself and the work he’s done at Survivor Shield.

“I took $300 and turned it into a $72,000-a-year nonprofit in two and a half years,” he said. “Anybody with the experience that I have serving our community is absolutely experienced enough to be on the board.”

“We need to be doing things differently if we want to see change,” Martin said. “And of course, I’m a very different candidate.”


Arizona Sonoran News is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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