They’re calling it the race that will decide the fate of the U.S. Senate.
GOP incumbent Dean Heller will face Democrat Jacky Rosen during the 2018 Midterm elections.
Heller has been targeted by Democrats as one of the most vulnerable GOP candidates up for re-election this year in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Money has poured in for both campaigns, and polls say the two are in a dead heat.
As part of ongoing election coverage, Rep. Rosen joins State of Nevada to discuss voter mobilization efforts and why she thinks she's the best candidate for the job.
You're a first-term congresswoman who decided to go all in with a bid for the Senate - two years after being elected to Congress. Why?
“I believe it's our responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it. And right now, we have to do more to help working families succeed…. fighting for better paying jobs, safer communities, better schools, affordable health care. My life experience plus my few years here we've been doing such incredible work. I couldn't be prouder. I have the life experience and a record to run on. I have been rated the fifth most bipartisan freshmen in the Congress. I'm one of 13 Democrats out of both bodies to receive the 2018 U.S. Chamber of Commerce spirit of enterprise because of my bipartisan work. I'm a founding member of our Problem Solvers Caucus, which is another bipartisan caucus trying to get clean legislation move forward and break that gridlock.”
Rosen said on the nearly two dozen bills she has introduced most of them have been bipartisan, including a STEM education and a G.I Bill that President Donald Trump signed.
Speaking of the president in his most recent visit to Las Vegas, President Trump tried to appeal to Latino voters here. Meanwhile, campaigns nationwide are trying to mobilize Latino voters. Do you think these mobilization efforts are being successful?
“I think the mobilization efforts are being successful and I can tell you that this administration and their reckless and heartless policies on immigration have mobilized the Latino community.
As well as healthcare, I believe that the president or Senator Heller actually himself said Latinos don't care about health care and that couldn't be further from the truth. It is the one thing across this country - young, old, Democrat, Republican wherever you hail from - we all have one body and we all care about our health. And I say this over and over again, ‘if you don't have your health you don't have anything.’ Access to affordable quality health care, being able to afford your prescription drugs, and what has everyone in a panic frankly is the weakening or removal of the protections for pre-existing conditions.”
Rosen said her office fields calls all the time from parents who said if pre-exiting condition protections are weakened or removed their children will not be able to get the lifesaving treatment or medication they need.
She said her opponent Senator Heller is on the wrong side of health care and on the wrong side of immigration policy.
What are you doing or saying to get the Latino vote in Nevada?
“What we're talking about is we want to protect DREAMers, who came here through no fault of their own. We need to be able to take them off as a bargaining chip. The Republicans, especially this session, are using them as a bargaining chip… We have a lot of TPS [temporary protected status] workers in Nevada. We need to be sure that we protect them. We brought them here we invited them into our country. Some of them over 15 years ago because of turmoil or natural disaster in their own country. They've built lives and families so we need to protect them first.”
Beyond those issues, Rosen said Latino families are concerned about education, health care, clean air and the environment. She said everyone cares about their family and what is going to make their family successful.
During his visit, President Trump's personally insulted you while campaigning for your opponent. Is this sort of name calling the new norm in Washington right now?
“I think that the president is unique in his in the way that he likes to talk about people whether they're friend or foe. I don't agree with it. I think that when we hold elected office - especially the presidency - that there is a dignity and decency to that. We should be able to talk about policies without resorting to that.”
She said she is going to focus on Sen. Heller’s actions. She said Heller and President Trump say one thing but go back to Washington and do something different.
Nevada is very diverse. Las Vegas is an urban city. Reno is growing and we have rural Nevada which in some places is about as far away from humanity as you can get. Is there one unifying theme among everyone in Nevada?
“I ask everybody this one question: ‘What keeps you up at night?’ When I'm in the room, people don't talk to me about politics they talk to me about their families. They talk to me about, ‘my mother lost her life to cancer,’ ‘my mother-in-law had Alzheimer's dementia at the end of her life.’ So, they talked to me about not voucherizing Medicare for our most vulnerable elderly [in] hospice or memory care [who cannot] shop for the best price for their health care. They talked to me about education for their children. They talked to me about their own health care premiums and drug costs and in a lot of places we were talking about the environment clean air clean water. What we're doing to protect Nevada's natural beauty.”
She said number one issue people talk to her about is health care and second is education.
The Affordable Care Act is being slowly dismantled by Congress. Gone is the penalty for not buying insurance but some have still said insurance is just too expensive. You have been critical of Senator Heller’s votes on health care. But what should be done?
“I can tell you what [The Republicans] have been wanting to do and what they've been doing is sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. Their most recent assault - of course - weakening the protections for pre-existing conditions. Lives are on the line…All of this is at stake. We can't afford to let anybody fall through the cracks. I think the first thing that we have to do is stabilize the Affordable Care Act. We can stabilize our health care markets by funding those cost-sharing reductions that will level out premiums. The next thing people talk to me about is the price or access to their prescription drugs. I just submitted a bill about a month ago that would cap prescription drug prices $250 an individual or $500 a family per month to try to get a handle on drug costs.”
Rosen also supports more Medicare-supported residencies at UNLV’s new medical school. She said more residents who stay as doctors in Southern Nevada will improve the economy and access to health care.
Our federal debt is also growing at an enormous rate. Some economists say it's growing faster because of tax cuts that were approved by Congress. But Republicans say the economic growth will increase tax revenues and the debt will start to go down. What do you think?
“I can tell you with the first part of [the Republicans] tax reform plan which was a massive giveaway to giant corporations and the ultra-wealthy, they didn't really have a plan to pay for that. Their bill as nearly $2 trillion to the national debt. What we have to do is think about how we make that bill simpler and fairer and corporations pay their fair share. They're signaling right now that they want deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security to balance that. I think that's the wrong way to go. I know that in this plan there's actually a provision that if you’re a corporation you can write off a private jet. I don't know about you, but I don't know so many individuals who have private airplanes.”
Rosen thinks there are ways to make the tax structure simpler and fairer for families without cutting Social Security and Medicare.
Student loan debt is at an all-time high. Economists say this debt hurts the country because those graduates then don't have money to pay for cars and homes and other things. Do you have any proposals that would ease the student loan debt?
“What we have to do is allow students to refinance their loans. It is unfair that we allow giant corporations and the ultra-wealthy to go ahead and restructure and students who are becoming our teachers, our nurses or physical therapists they can't refinance so that they can pay their loans in a little bit better way. We need to give more nontraditional students from low and middle-income families the flexibility to achieve an education because we need everyone to be able to take on the jobs and challenges of the future and create the communities that we all want to live in.”
Where do you stand on gun control?
In Nevada, we have a long history and tradition of gun ownership and in hunting and we really need to preserve and protect that. And I believe that everyone I speak to understands we can preserve and protect the Second Amendment, not take anyone guns away and make progress on passing common-sense gun safety measures. I'm on some legislation that will support banning the sale - going forward - of military-style assault weapons, prohibit the sale of high-capacity magazines, ban the sale of bump stocks - those were used in October 1 - fund the new research into gun violence, and of course, expand our commercial background checks.”
Rosen says the reason the issue needs to be addressed is because this holiday season so many families will have an empty seat at the table because a loved one was the victim of gun violence.
She said we have to protect kids who are going to school or church or a concert or the shopping mall or a movie.
You talked earlier about the fact that you feel you are a very bipartisan candidate. So how do you make this specific issue one that reaches across the aisle?
“In many communities across this country and we know from statistics that either suicide or domestic violence are some of the top reasons that people are victims of gun violence. If we fund the research into doing that in some in our communities across this country, we could put resources into preventing suicide, into preventing or helping victims of domestic violence. We can prevent more shootings in that way that have nothing to do perhaps with guns. It's a shame really that politicians choose just to listen to special interest groups or the gun lobby instead of listening to what the vast majority of Nevadans and Americans really want, which is for us to find some kind of way to move forward and protect them in the public sphere.”
Another issue in Nevada right now is the growing recreational marijuana program. There's been talk of legalizing it at the federal level. Would you support that?
“You know I am on a bill to remove it from Schedule 1 and reform the way that we do think and regulate marijuana. I can tell you I don't think the current system makes sense and the Nevada voters have voted overwhelmingly to approve that. I visited dispensaries from around southern Nevada and I can tell you they're creating thousands of jobs and they're bringing millions of dollars of tax revenue into our state. This is going to support our education system.”
Rosen said those business owners need to be able to access the banking industry and they need to be able to operate without fear of persecution from the federal government.
She said as other states start to legalize marijuana the federal government needs to catch up.
Should it come down to the Justice Department bringing the hammer down on states that have legalized recreational marijuana, will you defend the Nevada marijuana economy in Congress?
“This is a state's rights issue. The voters of Nevada voted overwhelmingly to do that. And if I have the president’s ear, I'm going to fight for that. Unlike my opponent, when he gives the president's ear he isn’t willing to talk about what's important to Nevada. I will fight for that. I will fight for safe banking and safe regulation.”
Why should you be Nevada's next senator?
“Nevadans deserve a senator who will be an independent voice and put them first not party leaders or big donors in Washington. I'm not a career politician and Senator Heller is. And he has let Nevada families down. He has broken promise after promise. I believe he deserves to lose his seat. Don't tell me show me. He says one thing in Nevada. He comes back to Washington and votes in a different way. My life experiences really have shaped my values and they shape the type of senator I'm going to be. I'm the granddaughter of immigrants I'm first in my family to graduate from college. I put myself through college as a waitress even as a member of the Culinary Union here in Nevada. I had a career in technology, have raised my family, took care of my parents and in-laws as they aged, served my community and am busy working on Armed Services, Space Science and Technology.”
Rosen said she is going to hold Sen. Heller accountable for his vote on health care and the tax reform package. She also said she is going to hold him accountable for being a “rubber stamp” for the Trump Administration.
Editor's note: We have made repeated requests to Sen. Heller's office to appear on our program, he has not replied.
Jacky Rosen, U.S. Representative, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate