Las Vegas Sun

August 27, 2014

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Q+A:

After taking on hitmen, Democrat Teresa Lowry faces big test in move from prosecutor to politician

Teresa Lowry

Teresa Lowry

Campaigns don’t scare Teresa Lowry.

For nearly three decades, she’s prosecuted hardened criminals and represented abused women and children in the Clark County District Attorney’s office.

Her campaign to oust state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson doesn’t have the same made-for-TV drama, but it could have a big impact on the state.

Lowry’s race is one of three this year that will determine which party controls the Senate in the 2015 legislative session. If she knocks out Roberson, she will likely help the Democrats maintain their majority, which is currently at 11-10.

But her opponent is no easy match. Roberson is a Republican tactician who has a fundraising network across the state and the luxury of incumbency.

Lowry recently spoke with the Sun about child abuse in Nevada, women’s wages and how to campaign in 110-degree weather. Her answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Teresa Lowry

Age: 54

Party: Democrat

Career: Lowry is an assistant district attorney who oversees the family support, juvenile delinquency and child welfare divisions. She manages 300 people on a $33 million budget. Before that, she worked in the county’s Special Victims Unit and as a social worker.

Is life working on the Special Victims Unit as grisly as television portrays it?

Yes. Television can’t even begin to convey the drama and trauma associated with these kinds of cases with child homicides, serial rapists and pedophiles who victimize young children. Some of the TV shows do a nice job of trying to illustrate what that world is like. But it can’t begin to convey the human devastation that occurs.

Nevada’s infants are among the most abused in the nation, according to the journal Pediatrics. It is also fourth in the country when it comes to the rate of children being removed from abusive homes. Can legislation change those statistics? Are there other measures?

These are very complex issues. Nevada continues to lag behind other states in terms of how we address child welfare. It has to be approached holistically. It has to be a collaborative effort between parents and nonprofits, schools, the mental health facilities and juvenile justice and child welfare.

Can and should the Legislature be involved? Absolutely. Historically have we been doing a good job in terms of child safety? Absolutely not. That’s not just my opinion. That’s the opinion of the objective surveys and analysis nationwide.

In a chamber of 21 senators, there are only four women — three of whom were Democrats. What does a legislative body miss when there’s a gender imbalance?

They miss the perspective of half of their population.

Sen. Michael Roberson is a rainmaker with political clout. His party has a 475-person voter registration advantage in the district. What’s your plan for winning?

As a career prosecutor, I’ve never backed down from a tough situation. One of the rapists I prosecuted did not like that I didn’t give him a negotiation. He hired someone to try to kill me. I still stayed on the case. He’s in prison serving multiple consecutive sentences. It’s winnable because I am at the doors talking to the people in my district. I have an army of folks, of friends, colleagues and family who have known me for my lifetime here in my hometown.

Your opponent came under fire during the 2013 session after he passed on endorsing Republican Sen. Barbara Cegavske, the longest serving senator, for a leadership post. In 2012, he was quoted as saying “I don’t think there’s discrimination among women as far as pay goes in this country.” How would you respond to that?

The research and the data are clear. Women in the state of Nevada make 77 cents for every dollar men make. For anyone in leadership to say that is out of touch. Women’s pay equality is not just a pay issue. There are husbands, fathers and sons who want women in their family to make the same for the work they do.

Do you have any tips for canvassing and campaigning in 110-degree weather?

I grew up here. I played out in the yard as a kid in the summertime. It doesn’t occur to me that you wouldn’t go out in the summertime and do what you need to do.

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