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April 20, 2014

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Q&A: Erin Bilbray:

Democratic hopeful for Congress keeps pressure on incumbent

Erin Bilbray

Erin Bilbray

Erin Bilbray wants to represent you in Congress.

She’s been campaigning since July and recently reported she raised more than $250,000 in the first few months of her campaign.

Since announcing her run, Bilbray’s campaign team has coalesced and she has the backing of many Democrats who are hoping to unseat Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican from Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District.

Heck represents about 700,000 Nevadans from Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City to the Arizona border. Democrats think they can unseat him because those 700,000 Nevadans are about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

Bilbray, 43, met with the Sun for a quick chat over coffee as she hustled between caring for a sick daughter and running for an office in a legislative body she calls “dysfunctional.”

Why are you running for Congress?

In this last year, I kept watching as my friends and neighbors were losing their homes and their jobs. The fear that people have — there’s so much insecurity with the economy. They don’t know how they’re going to send their kids to college. No one is saving for retirement. I just kept watching a Congress that, instead of focusing on jobs and creating a more secure economy, wasn’t doing its job, and that’s what finally pushed me.

Why shouldn’t voters send Joe Heck back to Washington?

I think the clearest example of not doing his job is shutting down the government. We have such a fragile economy here in Southern Nevada, and to keep the government shut down for two weeks, that’s completely irresponsible.

I think they have 15 works days left until the end of the year, and we have critical legislation that is not going to be called forward.

But Joe Heck doesn’t control the calendar. House Speaker John Boehner does.

(Heck is) very close to the leadership, and he can absolutely let them know his opinion. He received about $80,000 in contributions from Senate Leadership Republicans; they don’t support you like that if you’re not part of their group.

The rollout of Barack Obama’s health care law hasn’t gone smoothly, to say the least. What actions do you think need to be taken to provide affordability, accessibility and fairness in the health care system?

I share all of America’s frustration because we have a website (healthcare.gov) that is not working.

I would encourage people to look at the plans that were cancelled and see if there’s something out there that might serve them better, but I do think the president needs to honor his commitment.

Voters consistently say that jobs and the economy are top priorities, so what role do you envision Congress playing in boosting the economy of Boulder City, Henderson, Las Vegas and the rest of Southern Nevada and Congressional District 3?

We should be focusing on transportation dollars to Southern Nevada and also make sure that Interstate 11 to Phoenix is complete.

The other thing I always talk about is that here in Nevada we have an abundance of wind and sun. We should really be investing in environmental technology, not just using it, but manufacturing it.

What would be the first piece of legislation you would introduce?

I think the first piece of legislation I would introduce is tax credits for companies to entice them to develop and manufacture solar and wind energy.

I think there needs to be more streamlining to make it easier for these companies to do this and really encourage them to get up and going, including the manufacturing and selling of it.

Congressional District 3 has a pretty sizeable minority populations, especially Asian and Hispanic populations. How would you work to represent these constituencies in a different or better way than Joe Heck?

Let’s talk about comprehensive immigration reform. We have to get legislation passed with a pathway to citizenship. There’s a good bipartisan bill that has been voted on in the Senate. I think that legislation has to be a priority and we have to move that forward. And I think that bill is a start to representing your constituents.

Joe Heck said he also supports a pathway to citizenship.

Well, he should have signed on to the legislation in the House.

I think this is another example of Heck wanting to have it all ways on both sides. He’s concerned about his base, which does not want immigration reform, but he’s also concerned about voters in his district because the majority of voters do.

What makes you spend so much time on women’s issues with Joe Heck, going so far as to say his campaign email against you was “un-American”? What makes you go out there and look at those issues with him?

Obviously, I’ve spent my entire career trying to help women and children and trying to get more people engaged in the political process, and when you look at Joe Heck’s record on women’s issue, it’s horrible.

If you look at the research from the Barbara Lee Foundation, women are a lot less likely to participate in politics because of the nasty, negative nature of politics and the attacks, and I just thought it was too early in the game to come out that way, but like I said, I think this is really silly, and what I really want to focus on is making Southern Nevada a better place, getting more jobs and focusing on the economy. That’s to me the real issue and that’s what this race is all about.

CORRECTION: Joe Heck said he would vote against a Senate immigration bill but would support a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally, a key tenet of the immigration reform bill in the Senate. This story has been clarified to reflect these points. | (November 20, 2013)

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