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March 2, 2015

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Shelley Berkley talks election, economy, education


Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Sun

Rep. Shelley Berkley meets with constituents one-on-one regarding their concerns during her “Congress on Your Corner” event honoring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Friday, January 14, at Berkley’s office in Las Vegas.

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"I can't think of something more intrusive than telling the American public what they can and cannot do in their own recreational time," Berkley said on the topic of online gaming.

After 13 years representing Nevada’s 1st Congressional District, Shelley Berkley wants a promotion — to the U.S. Senate. She announced her candidacy in April. And if she wins the Democratic nomination, she’ll likely face newly appointed Sen. Dean Heller.

In a recent interview, Berkley emphasized education as an economic development strategy. The first person in her family to go to college, she attended UNLV and is a product of the Clark County School District.

What can be done to turn around Nevada’s economy?

I see three things that need to be done, not only in Nevada, but nationally:

No. 1: Invest in ourselves. Education is very important to the future of this country. In 1983, I was a freshman assemblywoman. I was part of a group of people — elected officials, businesspeople, university people — who were attempting to diversify our economy by attracting new businesses to our state. Every company we spoke to, without exception, said they liked our tax base, they liked our climate, they liked our location, but they didn’t like the fact that they didn’t think our education system was up to their standards.

No. 2: We have a crumbling infrastructure. It was no accident or surprise that the levies in New Orleans didn’t hold during Hurricane Katrina. It wasn’t a surprise that the bridge collapsed in Minnesota. We had studies demonstrating that they could not hold under certain circumstances. We chose to ignore it. Not only does investing in your infrastructure provide very good construction jobs, at the end of the project, you have something.

No. 3: Renewable energy. Harnessing sun, wind, geothermal, of which this state has an abundance, is an economic necessity.

What will economic diversification in Nevada look like?

The focus will always be on gaming. Now, we’re at a crossroads. The people in Nevada have to make decisions about where and what we envision over the next couple of decades. Education is key. Renewable energy, infrastructure, Internet gaming. If you improve your education system, there’s no telling what kind of businesses you’ll be able to attract. We shouldn’t be limiting ourselves to anything.

We hear from Republicans that low taxes will attract businesses. Thoughts?

If low taxes were the way to bring businesses here, we’d have more businesses in Nevada than I could shake a stick at. Our overall tax load is as low as it was in the Truman administration. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes. But do you want your kids to get a good education? You have to pay for that. Do you want Medicare for senior citizens? I do. We have to pay for it.

How important do you think online gaming will be as an issue in the upcoming campaign season?

I’m not sure that online betting for poker is going to be a major issue for my campaign or any other. I’m very proud of it and certainly will talk about its significance to Nevada. I think it’s a benefit to our state. It would bring in revenue. But to have a campaign issue, you usually have to have a little bit of controversy, and I’m not sure there’s going to be great controversy in the election on this legislation.

You’re running your first statewide race. How’s that shaping up?

At first the question was: “How would she fare up North?” We went up there and tested the waters and the response was very heartwarming and encouraging.

Describe yourself, politically.

I have a reputation for being the hardest working person in Congress. Nobody knows the issues better than I do and nobody protects the people he or she represents better than I do. This is my job, this is my hobby. I’m a public servant. It’s my job to be a buffer from the federal government, and I’m a bridge to the federal government.

A longer version of this interview first appeared in VEGAS INC.

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  1. Yes, indeedy...

    Shelly Berkley stands in SHARP CONTRAST to her female contemporaries on the right.

    I will 3rd the assessment of Joe & Frank...
    Just the kind of folk America needs, politically & socially.

    I've heard the woman say, "I don't know. But I will find out for you."
    How many of our "know it all" politicians would EVER???

  2. Hey Frank:

    She is running against Heller, not Heck.

  3. I guarantee that if Nevada puts her in office, we all take a giant step towards putting sanity back into our politics. Her actions in the House show she has nothing other than the needs of Nevada in mind. She would stand up for all of us.

    Her ideas about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are calm, rational and logical. On the other side of the aisle, the whacked out warped ideas show nothing but a demonical desire to do nothing but destroy. Rep. Ryan's (R-WI) Medicare Voucher Plan actually will end up putting just about $6 trillion dollars on the deficit and provide a totally inadequate program that will kill off senior citizens and the disabled through neglect and indifference, providing a totally inferior quality and overblown expensive health service benefits. That is not fearmongering. That's the truth.

    Another reason is that Senator Heller should not continue. He's not Senator material. He don't serve us. He serves himself and his party only. His voting record is atrocious, both as a Representative and now as a Senator (he's the only man who voted for the Ryan Plan TWICE). He actually believes Nevada should take all the nation's nuclear waste and throw it in the ground 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas! Nevada deserves better than a shill appointed by yet another in a succession of bad Republican Party Governors who are succeeding in driving the Sovereign State of Nevada into an economic desolate wasteland. Put Heller in there, it'll end up a nuclear wasteland also. That is not fear I'm trying to promote. That is also a fact. Republicans will do ANYTHING if it gains them money. Heller shows he grasps that horrible policy well. He'll sell out anyone.

    And lastly, we need to get away from the Republican hell world ideas infecting our politics. I need to remind people of the horrible hypocrisy and lies of that pond scum Ensign. The way it's shaping up is that Heller votes exactly the same as Ensign. He's like a clone. Maybe he will complete that picture by shtooping an aide's wife too.

    The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party, in this Senate Seat, BLEW IT.

    We're taking this one. It goes Democrat.

    Time to shove them out of the way. Enough is enough. We can't take the chance of having yet another useless hack that only entertains party politics, disregarding the needs of Nevada.

    Berkley's got my vote. Enough of this Republican nonsense. I don't want any part of it. I want sanity in my politics here in Nevada.

  4. Frank Marino is proof that Shelley doesn't have to look this way- Maybe she can hire him to do her makeup????

  5. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has always been responsive and attentive to all citizen concerns. it matters not, to her, what party you are, she will actively listen and truly do her level best to answer with some solution or resolve. She will continue to get my support!