Thursday, September 9, 2010

NV-03: Life Inside a "Swing District"

All too often, I hear the Beltway pundits chatter away over national poll numbers, party fundraising, who's hiring which lobbyists, what the strategists at The White House must REALLY be thinking, and so much more.

But you know what? Here in what may be one of the districts that determines who will control Congress next year, none of that really matters. People here are asking who has solutions to the actual problems that plague us.

“For Sale” signs hang in front of houses on most blocks. Apartment buildings fly banners advertising discounted rent and free Internet to lure tenants into vacant units. Businesses are closing, and the ones staying open are cutting employees’ hours. The district leads the nation in unemployment and the state in foreclosures.

In interviews with the Sun, the overwhelming sentiment among voters of all political persuasions is that government is not working.

How to fix it? That’s the debate that will decide this congressional race — and the races for U.S. Senate and governor.

And I know all about these real problems, as my own friends and family here have suffered in this economy. They've lost jobs. They've come dangerously close to foreclosure. And I've felt scared.

No, most of my fellow voters in Nevada's 3rd Congressional District aren't paying too much attention to the DC chatter. They just want solutions to the problems we're facing here.

And one of the biggest problems here is home foreclosures, and Dina Titus has had to fact this head on. Dina's district office is constantly working on helping distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. I have spoken with people whose homes were saved thanks to the help they got from Dina and her staffers. While she's just one representative in the US House, she just happens to represent one of the hardest hit districts in the country and her office has had to rise to this occasion.

Over the past year, her office estimates Titus has saved constituents $2.4 million, most of it by reworking mortgages. (Some of the savings is from unrelated help, including securing veterans’ or Social Security benefits.)

Five staffers in Titus’ district office in Las Vegas now handle housing problems, in addition to the jobs they were hired to do. They have no formal training in real estate or mortgage finance. Each carries about 100 cases at a time. One staffer has personally handled 300 cases.

The group started out rescuing homes from foreclosure in much the same way homeowners facing foreclosure do, dialing up the banks’ call centers and asking for help. They got put on hold, transferred, disconnected.

They learned by “trial and error.” Each time they found a bank staffer who seemed competent, they jotted down the name and number, and returned with new cases. They built relationships.

Of course, the other big concern here is jobs.

And of course, Joe Heck, the Republican running against Dina Titus, is trying to make this into an issue that hurts her. And yes, people here are very frustrated over the economy here and the need for more and better jobs. However, Heck seems to forget what he has said about jobs in contrast to what Dina Titus has done to bring jobs here. And by the way, guess who he agrees with on this?

Dr. Heck even used the same wording as Angle, “the role of Congress is not to create jobs“, and he also wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare, just as Sharron Angle wants to do. In fact,Dr. Heck took $5000.00 dollars for signing a pledge to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

For more than 200 years, voters in every State have sent their elected officials to DC to help bring money back to their States for all kinds of special projects that create jobs.

There are thousands of special projects across the country and most of them are worthy projects and deserving of our federal dollars, not all special projects are pork.

Because of Nevada’s Democratic delegation of Dina Titus, Shelly Berkley, and Harry Reid, new jobs are being created for Nevada.

Solar plants, wind turbines, and geothermal are all being expanded in our State, and with that expansion comes jobs. A new high speed train system from Southern California to Las Vegas will be built, which will bring more tourists to our State, which will create new jobs. A new VA hospital, more jobs, etc. You get the idea.

None of those special projects could have happened without the help of the federal government and the federal dollars that our elected officials help to secure for those special projects.

What, you thought we could talk about Nevada politics without bringing up Sharron Angle??!!

But seriously, compare this...

To this...

Remember, they are both Republicans running for Congress on the same platform here in Nevada... And Heck wholeheartedly endorsed Angle in July at the Nevada GOP Convention!

"The primary's over. We now have to rally around a slate of candidates up and down the ticket -- Sharron Angle all the way down the ticket." [Emphasis mine.]

So while Joe Heck tries to "hedge his bets" these days, he can't take back his doubling down on Sharron Angle's extreme agenda.

But of course, there's a flip to this. What about this guy?

Yep, Harry Reid factors very much into this as well. Not that long ago, when Reid was considered "a goner", many pundits were also quick to write off Titus. However, I had thought otherwise for some time... And now, I'm hoping and doing whatever I can to ensure I'll be proven right in November.

For one, it's not like everyone here is ignorant as to who's been working hard to deliver some much needed help.

In addition, Angle and Heck are doing themselves (and each other) no favors in refusing to offer any help and skewing so far to the right.

Phil Esser, 68, a music minister in Boulder City, said he voted for Porter two years ago because he trusted him. This year, Esser will vote for Titus.

“I think she’s doing a good job.”

For Esser, it comes down to the approach. The Tea Party, with its aggressive anti-establishment campaign, turns him off. He sees local Republicans, including Heck, as sharing the Tea Party vision.

“It’s kind of like the old Ross Perot party, but with torches,” Esser said. “Ross Perot wanted change and accountability in government. I thought that was healthy for our political system. But I don’t see that now with the Tea Party people insisting our president is a Muslim.”

In the U.S. Senate race, Esser plans to vote for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the same reasons. Two years ago, Esser was unsure whether he would vote to re-elect Reid.

And here's another thing that the pundits don't see, but I do. I see Dina Titus out in the community all the time, whether it's at festive events like the Boulder City Damboree Parade...

Or at a BBQ by my house in Henderson with our local LGBTQ community...

Or at all the "Congress on the Corner" open house days with constituents and other events throughout the community where she just takes time to listen to us and whatever concerns we have to share with her. Honestly, I really can't think of any representative I've had to deal with before who was more available and more accessible than Dina is. If I had to grade Dina on constituent service, she'd easily get an A+!

(And for the record, I still haven't seen Heck anywhere around here...)

And finally, there's a little something I consider to be Nevada Democrats' "secret weapon" in winning this election. No, I'm not really about EMILY's List or President Obama coming to town, though both will certainly be helpful in keeping NV-03 and the entire state blue. No, I'm talking about something that I saw being built up in 2008, and is now operating in full force.

The state party has been very wise in investing in a strong party structure and strong field operation designed to turn out votes for Reid, and for Titus here in NV-03. Whenever I stop by my local office in Henderson, I always see volunteers on the phones and field organizers at work planning walks and other events. Even while we may be freaking out over poll numbers and White House rumors and lobbyist chatter online, they're laying the essential groundwork for any kind of Democratic win here in November. And most importantly, the base is busy at work here.

Now don't get me wrong, we can't take anything for granted here. Times are turbulent, people are restless, and there's still so much more to do to get our state and our country back on track.

However, I feel a sense of zen calm when I think about what might happen in November. I listen to what my neighbors have to say at our "poolside chats". (Yes, I'm fortunate enough to have two lovely pools in my suburban gated community in Henderson.) I always let them start the discussion, and they tell me about how Sharron Angle scares them or how Dina Titus had a card table outside the grocery store or how Harry Reid brought home more funds for UNLV. As long as they, and all the other sane folks here vote, we'll win. ;-)

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