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More Than A Strip: Breaking Down Barriers in Nevada’s 4th

Davis Bates Image
Davis Bates
on November 7, 2016

State Senator Ruben Kihuen

J Street’s blog aims to reflect a range of voices. The opinions expressed in blog posts do not necessarily reflect the policies or view of J Street.  

There’s really only one thing most people picture when they think of Las Vegas: a debaucherous glamtown blanketed with slot machines and strip malls in the middle of the desert. And while the Strip holds true to its reputation as the epicenter of gambling and (at times cheesy) entertainment, the rest of the city also represents something far more interesting: the diverse cross-section of demographics and political issues that could well define America’s future.

Las Vegas is at a crossroads that few other single locales face. This sprawling boomtown was hit severely by a foreclosure epidemic following the housing mortgage crisis, and its casino-driven economy employs thousands in the service industry working to ensure equal pay for equal work with dignity. Its location in the desert is ideal for renewable energy like wind and solar, not to mention its close proximity to Hoover Dam. Its burgeoning Hispanic and Asian American/Pacific Islander population combined with an historic black community make up a kaleidoscopic electorate interested in pursuing policies that ensure opportunity for all. And with 2016 ballot initiatives concerning private firearm sales and legalizing marijuana, as well as its role as a battleground swing state, Nevada – and Las Vegas in particular – is a frontline for issues facing our country.

On Saturday, in a small room in the northern part of the city, two candidates embodied the promise of the American dream, and their presence demonstrated how communities that encourage inclusion and promote cooperation can foster prosperity for all. State Senator Ruben Kihuen, who is running for Congress in Nevada’s 4th district, came to America when his parents immigrated from Mexico. Ruben’s mother, who he proudly describes as “the hardest working person I know,” works to this day as a housekeeper in the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, which inspired him to join public service.

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Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, running for US Senate and the first in her family to go to college, referenced her immigrant grandparents and how she hoped to emulate their intrepid spirit by pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. Raising the minimum wage, supporting workers, protecting women and children, investing in renewable energy, protecting consumers and reducing gun violence are all issues these two candidates approach with an earnestness that is immediately evident. And their support for the Iran nuclear agreement shows their dedication to principled and pragmatic foreign policy that will keep Americans safe. To top it all off, Ruben would be the first Latino sent to DC from Nevada, and Catherine would be the first Latina ever elected to the US Senate.

Our country has a lot of serious issues to grapple with, and we need legislators that prioritize solutions over posturing, progress over regression, optimism over cynicism. Ruben and Catherine have worked tirelessly to address complex and difficult challenges in order to improve the lives of all Nevadans. There are few others as well positioned to navigate Nevada’s unique political crossroads as these two. Needless to say, Congress would be lucky to have them.

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