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Aaron Ford On His Run For Nevada Attorney General

Aaron Ford, Democratic candidate for Attorney General

In November, Nevadans will elect a new attorney general. 

The Republican candidate is Wes Duncan -- he's a former state assistant attorney general. 

The Democrat is Aaron Ford, the current state senate majority leader.


Why do you want to be the next attorney general?

“To state it shortly and succinctly, it’s because I believe that Nevadans deserves to have an attorney general that always puts families first. I think over the last few years, we’ve seen an attorney general and an office that has been ideology extremes and narrow agendas ahead of Nevada families.”

What experience do you have that makes you qualified for this position?

“I have been practicing law for 17 years. I’m a consumer protection lawyer now and I’ve been a consumer protection lawyer on and off for the last 17 years.”

Ford said he has worked on “both sides of the v,” meaning he’s represented both consumers and the companies that are being sued. He also points to his work as a clerk both at the district court and at the federal level as the experience he can bring to the AG’s office.

“I think that also my current capacity as Senate Majority Leader and having been a senator for six years provides me with a unique opportunity to utilize that experience that I’ve accumulated over the last six years in this process as well in order to be able to promulgate things that will help and assist Nevadans.”

What does the job of attorney general entail to you?

“The umbrella topic would be: how is this affecting Nevada families. Whether it’s a law, whether it’s a federal action, whether it’s a business or an entity engaging with Nevadans, or an individual engaging with Nevadans, the question becomes: how is this affecting Nevadans?”

Ford says the AG’s office should be asking that question foremost and basing its action or inaction on that answer. He pointed to the effort former AG and current Senator Catherine Cortez Masto did during the housing crisis as an example of what an attorney general can do to help the people of Nevada.

When you were in your 20s, you were arrested four times. The charges included failing to appear, theft, public intoxication. In addition, you’ve had some tax issues in recent years. How do you respond to questions about these issues?

“I believe those concerns are both legitimate and illegitimate. I believe they are illegitimate relative to what my qualifications are for this job. Can I do the job? Do I have the background and pedigree to be able to serve as attorney general and I believe I already do.”

“The legitimate component of this conversation is that my background has informed who I am today. To be sure, as a youth, transitioning from a tough neighborhood in Dallas, Texas to Texas A&M, I also transitioned from being a boy to a man at Texas A&M. Those cracks you hear people falling through on occasions, I fell through them. I made some bad decisions.”

Ford said some of those bad decisions were made in very difficult times in his life. For instance, when he was a junior in college he became a single parent. He said he almost dropped out because of that but instead he got help from the federal government in the form of housing vouchers and food stamps. He also received help from his family.

Ford said he is proud of the fact that he stayed in school and not only finished his undergraduate degree but went on to get two masters, a law degree and a Ph.D.

He said since then he has endeavored to be the best example of a father and husband and an “active social agent in society,” of a person who cares about others so that his sons could see what a man is supposed to be about.

Ford also said he doesn’t see why issues he had in his past disqualify him from becoming attorney general when other politicians have had similar problems in their past but are not disqualified for the position.

“What I would have people understand is that none of those missteps in my life prohibited me from ultimately becoming Attorney of the Year, here locally, or becoming Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in Dallas 2006, or receiving Top 40 Under 40 both in Dallas and in Nevada.”

“My opponent would like to revel in the fact that the Ford family had some financial misfortune during the recession, everyone did – well maybe not everyone – but I certainly was one of those.”

Ford says he understands what people go through when they have to make tough financial choices because he has experienced that. He also said that the tax issues he had were paid off two years ago.

Should the state be suing opioid makers or is that something cities and counties should be doing?

“While the state has an interest in ensuring that its interest are protected, vis a ve pharmaceutical companies in this arena, I don’t think that precludes municipalities from pursuing their remedies as well.”

If the state were to join these lawsuits, would you recuse yourself because of your role with Eglet Prince, the law firm that is working on some of these cases for municipalities?

“I’ve recused myself from the current litigation that my current firm is engaged in. So, it would be unnecessary to recuse myself from the state level.”

In 2016, voters approved universal background checks for gun sales, but it hasn’t been implemented. Do you think the measure should be enforced?

“Absolutely. I think the people of our state have spoken. This harkens back to the question you asked about why I’m running for attorney general because I think the people of Nevada deserve to be looking out for their interests first. The people of Nevada have spoken and what we should be doing as politicians but also in the attorney general’s office is seeking to implement not impede the will of the people.”

Ford says if elected he would work with anyone from the governor’s office to local law enforcement to ensure that the will of the people is implemented.

What steps will you take to ensure the background check initiative will be implemented?

“Legislation is obviously one of the options available. You asked me what my qualifications were and I’ve indicated that I’m uniquely qualified in the sense of being able to capitalize on the fact that I’ve been in the legislature for the last six years, including being majority leader right now. So, I have relationships in the Legislature and I’m looking forward to depending on those relationships as we look to in act any legislation that’s necessary.”

Is there anything you as attorney general could do to prevent tragedies like the 1 October shooting from happening again?

“I think one of the most important things to do is implement the will of the people and part of that is knowing what the will of the people is. I’ve been having conversations with Nevadans all across the state from young Nevadans in high school to old Nevadans and the conversation has revolved around this notion that we have gun safety here.”

Ford says he is proud to be a gun sense candidate who is endorsed by Moms Demand Action and EveryTown for Gun Safety. He said he believes in measures that protect people but don’t prohibit law-abiding people from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Current Attorney General Adam Laxalt has signed the state onto lawsuits brought by other states that some people have said go against wishes of Nevada voters. What is your opinion?

“We should be representing what people want and not be driven by a narrow ideology idea, which is what Adam Laxalt has done and he who seeks to take his office will likely do as well.”

Ford says the office is not about driving a personal ideology agenda. It is about looking out for Nevada families first.  

He also said the attorney general needs to consult with the governor before signing onto lawsuits brought by other states. He said that is not what has been happening with Laxalt but it would be something he would do if elected.

Where do you stand on Marsey’s Law or Question 1 on the ballot?

“I stand in support of Question 1. In 2015, when it was first presented I had questions about it and therefore didn’t support it. In 2017, having had an interim to consider it and to think of additional issues and to ensure myself of the fact that it was a proper balance between the rights of victims but also the rights of the accused, I think that it’s important that victims have the rights that are being sought under Marsey’s Law.”

Ford said he is concerned about the problems that have cropped up in other states because of Marsey’s Law but he thinks Nevada can learn from those mistakes.

Should the death penalty still be an option in Nevada?

“My personal opinion is I’m opposed to the death penalty, but it is part of the law in our state and when appropriate it will be enforced.”

Do you support keeping details about the execution of Scott Dozier or any death row inmate a secret?

“I’m certainly exactly what you’re asking about. At the end of the day, I think what’s happening here is taking place in the courts and what we should be looking at is what ultimately the courts are going to decide on how best to proceed in this instance.”

The state has tried to prevent information about the doctor who would be attending the execution secret. They’ve tried to keep secret where the state obtained the drugs that would be used. Are those details that only the Department of Corrections should know?

“I think reasonable minds can disagree on an issue. And reasonable minds are disagreeing on this issue. The Nevada Supreme Court is chiming in on some of these issues. I believe as early as last week the Supreme Court indicated that the doctor who would be administrating drugs his or her identity should remain confidential. So, I’m going to defer to the judicial branch on that particular issue.”

The attorney general sits on the pardons board. For you what would factor into giving someone clemency for a crime?

“I believe that some factors may be prescribed and others may vary but at the end of the day, I think sitting in conjunction with the governor and the justices on the supreme court having a robust discussion about the appropriateness of a certain request is going to be the approach I’m going to take.”

Ford said there have been instances where someone has been proven innocent, but the current attorney general has not allowed the person to be pardoned. He believes that is problematic.

He believes the attorney general should be open-minded and not driven by a narrow ideology idea about how things ‘should be’ and not how things ‘are’ under the law.

As attorney general, what would you do to defend Nevada’s marijuana industry from federal overreach?

“I’ll sue.”

Morell: “As simple as that?”

“As simple as that. I think again that this is another example of the attorney general needing to ensure Nevadans that he or she will stand up for the will of the people.”

Ford says if the federal government decides to step in and undo Nevada’s legalized recreational marijuana industry then Nevada should be allowed to debate that in the federal courts.

He said he absolutely supported the legalization of marijuana not because he partakes in the substance but because the criminalization of the drug was based on “an erroneous and racist premise” from the beginning.

When voters go to the polls in November, what is the one issue that should tip the scales in your favor?

“It’s not an issue, it’s a fact. And the fact is, when I’m elected attorney general I will always put Nevada families first. Point. Period. Blank.”

Aaron Ford, Democratic nominee for Nevada attorney general

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)