By Mark Waite
State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, the sole Democratic candidate for the new fourth congressional district, said his humble beginnings in North Las Vegas guide him in his political career, in a speech to party faithful at the Mountain Falls Grill Room Monday night.
“My mother was a parenting teen, she got pregnant when she was just 16. My father did not claim me at birth and I did not know him growing up,” Horsford said. “My mother is now a recovering drug addict; she’s celebrating 20 years of sobriety this year.”
“I had to raise my three siblings who all now have made it to college,” he added. “When I was 19 years of age, my father, who again I didn’t know or grow up with, died. He was shot and killed a block away from where I worked as the head of the culinary academy because of drugs and crime in our neighborhood.”
His grandmother emerged from a coma when he was 19, paralyzed on the left side. She spent 27 years in a nursing home.
Horsford emerged from it all to become chief executive officer of the Culinary Arts Council of Las Vegas, with more than 100 employees and a $16 million budget, a position he said showed him the need for a trained work force to grow the economy. He is a board member of Nevada Partners.
Horsford was first elected to the state senate in 2004. He is Senate Majority Leader and chairman of the Finance Committee.
“When we started having budget discussions and prioritizing budget decisions and where to spend money it was very easy for me to say we won’t cut nursing homes,” Horsford said.
“When I think about drug court, that’s a very personal issue with me because my mother tried to seek treatment, but Nevada is 51st in budgeting for drug and alcohol treatment and in rural areas like Pahrump there are very few services available.”
When he worked with the governor to help reshape the state’s economic development strategy, Horsford said he realized community colleges and trade schools need to adapt training.
“There is a role for government to play, not in being the only factor in creating jobs but in helping support an environment for job creation and job expansion,” he said.
Horsford’s remarks were a sharp contrast to the rhetoric from Republicans at two Lincoln Day dinners in Pahrump who railed against Obamacare and government regulation. Horsford, who said he’s a Nevadan first, said he’s pro-business and pro development. He said the official name of Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act.
“If we want to say Obamacare, let’s say Obama cares because he made it enough of a priority to pass health care for the American people. A third of our population in Nevada is uninsured, most of them are children,” Horsford said.
“When people work hard, most of them have insurance and we want to make sure that insurance is affordable, that it’s quality health care and it’s accessible.”
He supports President Obama’s Affordable Care Act but feels there could be some revisions made.
“I support a woman’s right to choose. I respect my wife and I respect her decision with the consultation of her doctor to decide what she does with her body,” Horsford said.
“I believe in what this president stands for. I believe in the need for us to move forward as a country, not backward. I believe this is a very critical time in our nation’s history and we have some enormously difficult decisions to make. But I also believe sometimes we need to put some partisanship aside and do what’s best for the country and that’s true for both parties,” he said.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, Horsford said he heeded President George W. Bush’s appeal for Americans to come together as a nation, something Americans should do for this president.
“I will fight to protect Medicare and Social Security because of my grandmother. I will fight to protect services that support the middle class because I came from the middle class,” Horsford said.
In the state Legislature, Horsford said Nevada had the worst budget deficit as a percentage of the overall budget than any other state in the country. There was 30 percent less money in the last two sessions.
“So what do we do? My position has been you end or close corporate tax loopholes, you end or suspend corporate welfare programs that are subsidies to corporations, particularly big banks. “At a time when you’re asking the middle class family to do something you have to ask major corporations and big banks to do their part and I believed in a balanced approach at the state legislature and I believe in a balanced approach at the federal government,” Horsford said.
Horsford said he agrees with the governor, Nevada has taken a position on Yucca Mountain. His biggest concern is the possible danger from transportation of nuclear waste across highways, next to schools and businesses.
“We have to look at alternate uses of that facility now that billions of dollars have been spent on it,” he said.
Some programs aren’t working and need to be eliminated, but Horsford pledged, “One of the things I will fight for is Medicare and Social Security. If I have to do that by closing corporate loopholes and corporate welfare subsidies that’s something I will look at.”
Asking why he is making the leap from state to federal government, Horsford said he could serve one more term in the state senate, four more years, without facing term limits. He is often approached by constituents asking for help, at the store, dropping off his children at school or at church.
“I don’t like telling them, well I’ll try to fix it in 2013. In Nevada our legislature only meets every other year in 120 days and we’re expected to do a lot of things in that 120 days,” Horsford said.
“I could do every day in Congress what I could only do every other year as a state legislator. That’s ultimately why I decided to pursue this race.”