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July 23, 2014

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Jon Ralston:

Heller goes to Hispanic Central and survives

He came not to win, but to survive. He came not to pander, but to patronize. He came not to speak the language (no, he can’t), but to engage a hostile group (yes, he can).

Sen. Dean Heller strolled into Dona Maria’s restaurant near downtown Las Vegas on Friday morning knowing what was in store for him at a Hispanics in Politics breakfast: A crowd peppered with Democratic activists whose pumping salivary glands were almost audible and a media gaggle primed for pyrotechnics after Heller snubbed the Latin Chamber last year.

No fewer than six Heller operatives were in the room (and, hey, he has a Latino aide!), seemingly poised to whisk the senator out of the eatery should any trouble arise from the crowd or, more likely, the media. But trouble there was not, as the ever-friendly talking points machine deftly parried most questions, even the planted ones (DREAM Act, illegal immigration).

In the absence of any real conflict, though, those 45 minutes nevertheless provided a window into Heller’s race with Rep. Shelley Berkley, showcased the worst elements of politics and highlighted just how Washington prefers to exploit complex issues rather than solve them.

Heller has a naturally disarming way about him and a ready smile that serves him well as he answers questions by not answering questions. That talent was on display at the Hispanics in Politics breakfast as well as his almost cloying way of embracing anyone, even this Democrat-dominated organization. His brief remarks did not contain the words, “you people,” but his broad-brush painting of Hispanics as a monolith (we in the Fourth Estate are guilty of this, too), his grating “We agree on 80 percent” rote nonsense and his definition of that as “faith, family, community” were enough to induce a diabetic coma.

But the reaction of jaded cynics aside, the fact is Heller entered hostile territory to make his case, not retreating from his positions (“We disagree on the DREAM Act”) and unloading this gem: “I believe the Hispanic community has been let down by politicians who have taken you for granted, promised you the world and delivered nothing.”

He also patiently and cordially answered even the questions designed to embarrass him, including one inane attempt to make him look hypocritical because he spoke about the national debt and voted for earmarks (about 1 percent of the problem).

Gotcha? Not.

It’s that sort of nonsense that only coarsens and debases the debate, although often the public is just mimicking sound-bite candidates.

Heller showed little in-depth knowledge of most issues. Some politicians get into the weeds on policy; Heller tends to hide in the tall grass. And his rationale on opposing the DREAM Act was opaque.

When asked afterward by the AP’s Cristy Silva why he opposed the legislation that would allow young people brought here illegally to obtain a college education or enter the military, Heller said the act has “more bad things than good things” and said he opposes “amnesty for the 10 to 12 million” in the country.

Of course, the latter is not on point (and the word “amnesty” has lost all meaning since some guy named Reagan proposed it in 1986). And when I pressed the senator on what was so bad, he had no answer.

I would have felt better if he had just said, “Democrats want immigration reform because they will increase their voter rolls and we oppose it because it will increase their voter rolls.”

But even if Heller has no real answers on immigration — he offered to sit down with Latin Chamber boss Otto Merida and talk (that ought to solve everything) — neither do most of the Democrats, who love using the issue to mobilize voters. And it will probably work — the Democrats immediately pounced on Heller for reiterating his DREAM Act opposition — just as it will for Heller to keep repeating his mantra, as he did Friday, that he opposed the bailouts, stimulus and Cash for Clunkers. Actually, I bet that resonated with some of the less closed minds in that room Friday morning.

I am sure the Democrats were disappointed more blood was not drawn. They still remember Sharron Angle, but Dean Heller is not going to tell some in a Hispanic crowd that they look Asian to him.

Likewise, Heller is not going to change many Hispanic minds because, as he mentioned Friday, he is a sponsor of “The Smithsonian American Latino Museum Act.” I did not see any eyes light up.

Can Heller stop the Democrats from pushing a majority of Hispanics to vote for Rep. Shelley Berkley because of their records? No he can’t. But because of his willingness to reach out and his message that the administration has failed the community, can he possibly stanch the electoral hemorrhaging among Latinos?

Si se puede.

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  1. Well, according to all illuminaries on television, including Nevada Week in Review, it will be an unpredictable and tight race between Heller and Berkley.

    Rightfully so, the Latino/Hispanic Community don't trust most all politicians. They have seen a virtual opening of USA borders without much of a plan towards citizenship; no, in fact, it has been about having a cheap, compliant, transient, workforce to exploit. Not very respectful, is it?

    When the initial version of the Dream Act was introduced, it was FAR from being a 'dream' or win-win. It basically enslaved people and youth to a very long, drawn out process, riddled with restrictions. It was so bad, that even I couldn't support it. So many, who read it, and understood it, were right to oppose it. The frustration is in the LAWMAKERS carefully crafting this act without prejudice and discrimination, they clearly failed. So there is rightful disillusionment with the Latino/Hispanic Community. This problem is not going away.

    As youth reside here in the USA and are, by all appearances citizens, they are hit with reality as they graduate high school and enter college and the workforce. The inequity begins there.

    Our government is so broken and dysfunctional that they cannot vote their way out of a paper sack anymore. GEZ.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  2. No matter what Heller does regarding Hispanics in Nevada, it won't make a difference. He's only an appointee; not a popularly elected official. The constant and sustained heavy beatings the Hispanics take by the Tea/Republicans here in Nevada, all so they can get the Caucasian voters fearmongered and whipped up, will make an impact at the voting booths. The last national poll states 68 percent of Hispanic voters would never vote Tea/Republican. Why would they vote for people who just smile at them, say they sympathize, then turn around and stereotype ALL of them as illegal immigrants bent on forming criminal gangs to go after white people? You get beat on all the time, you tend to want to lash back. They will flex their muscle at the voting booth. They already did in November 2010 voting for Senator Reid against that nutball Angle.

    Heller is temporary. He's an appointee; filling the position of another Tea/Republican who was forced to leave in utter disgrace before being thrown out and/or criminally prosecuted (Ensign).

    The Democratic Party is taking this Senate Seat.

    The other side has forfeited all rights to it due to greed, incompetence and outright corruption. They cannot do anything to keep this Seat. We can't take a chance for any continuation of Ensign's crap. Berkley will get the nod.

    Jon, I disagree with your prediction Joe "Pay Per View" Heck will win in the CD3.

    He's been a total embarassment by an abysmal voting record. If he's not spending over half his time trying to collect campaign money, he's licking Speaker Boehner's boots. He don't have any interest whatsoever in Southern Nevada affairs.

    Thank God I am no longer in CD3 (in CD1 now). Never one town hall meeting here in Eastern Las Vegas. And now, since November, he has completely IGNORED us. He knows we'll be in a new district so he cannot pander for votes nor collect cash anymore. He put us on ignore.

    The guy is a ruthless politician who just don't give a crap about anyone except himself and his stupid party.

    Heck is a hack. I really hope the voters in CD3 wake up and look at his record.

    As a reminder, his very first vote was to vote to repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act. This is someone who is an emergency room doctor?!? He don't do Hippocratic Oath anymore, just hypocritical oaf.

    Anyways, I intend to lead the charge to get him gone. Although no longer in his district, I want to help those good people in CD3. They deserve better. Accuse me of it getting personal. Fine. So be it. There will be blood. I'll lead the charge to get rid of that idiot. He's bad not only for CD3, but the all Southern Nevada too.

    I am officially a card carrying member in good standing of the GROHAH* Movement.

    To Heller with Heck and to Heck with Heller.

    *Get Rid Of Heck And Heller.

  3. He hasn't passed the Tequila test yet - breakfasts are for wimps.