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State House Candidate and 'AZ Powergirl' Cara Nicole Trujillo Brings Politics to Phoenix Comicon 2016

Faster than a spinning lobbyist, more powerful than a strike-all amendment — it's AZ Powergirl, celebrity cosplay model, swooping in to save the Arizona Legislature!

Or so voters of Tempe's Legislative District 26 can imagine, now that Cara Nicole Trujillo is officially in the race for the Arizona House of Representatives.

On the heels of a successful signature drive and filing two weeks ago with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, Trujillo's name will appear on the November ballot as a Green Party candidate in the district, which also captures slivers of Scottsdale, Mesa, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. This week, Trujillo will make her regular appearance at Phoenix Comicon. But unlike years past, this time she'll be armed with campaign buttons and soliciting donations for her first-ever bid for public office.

Trujillo will hold her "first campaign rally and fundraiser" at 3 p.m. on Thursday at Phoenix Comicon's Booth AA400/AA402 inside the Phoenix Convention Center, her spokesman, Scott Kelly, announced Tuesday. "Campaign T-shirts as well as posters and pictures with the candidate will be available to the public."

She'll be in a costume, she tells New Times, but hasn't decided yet what she'll wear.

"I am serious about this," Trujillo says of her candidacy. "I felt it was a good time to run. I'm glad people are deciding they want to get more involved, and I want to give people the opportunity to choose something more outside the red-and-blue party system."

She will do that while dressed in her bust-forward red, white, and blue AZ Powergirl outfit, patterned off the DC Comics character Power Girl. Also appearing as Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and assorted other characters, Trujillo is a staple of Phoenix Comicon and events elsewhere across the nation.

As New Times writer Benjamin Leatherman detailed in a 2013 article, Comicon-goers in recent years would've been hard-pressed to miss the statuesque blonde — but her secret identity is similarly high powered: When not posing for pictures with geeky fans, she works as an artist and "one of the creative forces" at 183 Degree Studio, the indie comic-book publishing house she runs with her husband, Alfred Trujillo.

The Mesa resident also volunteers with Arizona Family Rights, a nonprofit activist group that helps people with divorce and custody issues. Trujillo says she has spoken at legislative hearings over the past few years, lobbying for laws that would give divorced parents equal time with their kids. (Both she and her husband were previously married.) Trujillo's experience also includes talking with the "everyday Joe" in her cross-country travels, she says.

AZ Powergirl presents herself as an outsider who may vote with Democrats or Republicans but won't feel beholden to either party. Environmental issues are important to the Green Party candidate — she's a big believer in reusing gray water, for example. She describes herself as "very pro-limited government." Her father is a gunsmith, she says, and she's pro-gun rights for the most part.

She wants to help local businesses, decentralize government power throughout the state, reform asset-forfeiture laws, and improve education. She's not running as a Clean Elections candidate, because she thinks doling out public money to candidates is a "scam." She has knocked on hundreds of doors in recent months and "talked to people personally."

Trujillo is an interesting addition to a legislative race that already has made headlines. Representative Juan Mendez is running for the state senate with the unusual strategy of campaigning as a group with two house candidates. When he outlined that gambit in the Arizona Capitol Times, reporter Hank Stephenson drew fire for repeatedly noting that one of the house candidates, Athena Salman, is Mendez's girlfriend. If successful, Mendez would fill the slot vacated by Andrew Sherwood, a popular Democrat who's moving out of Arizona owing to his wife's new job.

Competitors on the Republican side for an LD-26 house seat include Steven Adkins, a Marine Corps veteran who filed paperwork with the state on Friday.

Trujillo, clearly, will need all of her superpowers to get elected. But she'll use her dress-up power sparingly, she says.

"This is my job," she says. "People will try to use it against me. If I dress up in a suit, people would say I'm a fraud."

Adds Trujillo: "When I go to the Capitol to talk about bills, I'm respectful — I wear appropriate clothing."

UPDATE: A reader asked if the other LD-26 candidates could be mentioned in this article. The answer's yes. At this time, the other Democratic candidates are: incumbent State Representative Celeste Plumlee; House candidate Michael Martinez; and Senate candidate David Lucier. Republicans will be updated here, too.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.