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October 31, 2014

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Q&A: Assemblywoman discusses upcoming session, social media strategy and new PAC for Hispanic Democrats

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Christopher DeVargas

Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012.

Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores was unopposed in the general election after winning her Democratic primary by a wide margin, but that does not mean the attorney took the summer off from politicking.

Flores, who is entering her second term in the Assembly, acted as a surrogate, campaigning for Democrats here in the Silver State and as far afield as Florida. Between campaigning, continuing to work full time as a lawyer and collaborating with other Hispanic politicians to start a new political action committee, Flores, who has completed multiple marathons, exhausted herself to the point of hospitalization one summer evening.

Flores, 33, represents the 28th Assembly District in the northeast part of the valley, which includes parts of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas. In October, she won “Best Politician Using Social Media” from Latinos in Social Media at the organization’s annual conference.

Now, Flores is focused on the upcoming legislative session and laying the groundwork so the PAC, dubbed the Impacto Fund, can aid Hispanic Democrats in future elections. She is working on legislation to alter the proficiency exam system for Nevada’s secondary schools and also is crafting a law to better regulate notaries and paralegals.

What are your priorities for the upcoming legislative session?

We need to have some serious conversations about education and it being adequately funded, and what that means. … Everyone always talks about how they are for education. You don’t ever find anyone who is against education. So what I tell people is the question should not be: Do you support education? The question should be: Do you support funding education? Because at the end of the day, that’s where the parties diverge. That’s where you’re either for education in action or you’re just about education in words. I think for a very long time we’ve been about education in words.

Now, how you go about actually ensuring that this gets done, that’s the million-dollar question. There is a finite amount of funds, and unless we talk about the topic we should’ve been talking about for a very long time, too, which is tax structure reform and dealing with our revenue issue, then we’re never really going to get to the answer (of the question): How do we actually make education a priority by funding it adequately?

But Southern Nevada has two-thirds of the state population and they just voted down the Clark County School District tax proposal for capital improvements. How do you combat the public’s aversion to opening up its wallets to state government?

I don’t see (the CCSD tax proposal defeat) as taking the temperature of the electorate on how serious they are about education. I think there were a number of different issues going on with that particular question that didn’t necessarily mean that Nevadans don’t care about education. I think that they do. It’s just that you had a completely separate issue going on with that.

The School District didn’t do a very good job of giving necessary information, I think, about that question.

We all have to admit that the CCSD hasn’t necessarily had the best track record when it comes to transparency and accountability. That’s not the current administration’s fault. I think Dwight Jones is fabulous and he’s doing a wonderful job. But he also came into a situation, and that situation unfortunately was one of distrust and one of the least amount of transparency as possible — and he’s admitted that in the past, as well.

I think it is this thing where people were unsure that if they end up paying more of their own money into property taxes, the School District would actually use the money to do what they said they were going to do.

You are a founding member of the Impacto Fund, a political action committee with members currently in Nevada, California, Arizona, Colorado and Texas, geared toward helping Hispanic Democratic candidates win election. What was the impetus behind the PAC?

Legislative colleagues from around the country, primarily the Southwest, and I saw that there was a need for pipeline development support. We all kind of agreed that when we first ran for office, there wasn’t much help out there for us, and Hispanics are underrepresented in politics, especially in elected office, and that there needed to be a purposeful effort to support and recruit Latinos as they made their way into politics.

We also recognized that oftentimes Hispanics — and not just Hispanics but people in general — will get into politics via what are considered a lower-tier office, local offices like school board or department of education or maybe even a city council race, but they enter via these local offices and then kind of make their way up into statewide office or federal offices. It’s those types of local offices that are incredibly difficult to fundraise for, and so what we saw was that there were a lot of really great and wonderful, qualified Hispanics who were running for these offices, but they weren’t winning because they were unable to appropriately fundraise for them.

In October, you attended the annual conference for Latinos in Social Media, where you were awarded “Best Politician using Social Media.” What is your social media strategy?

I think that I was probably the one who had the highest level of personal engagement, and most people know if it’s the candidate or the elected who is maintaining their Twitter and Facebook and everything else or if it’s a staffer. I felt that it was important for me to handle my own media, or at the very least the bulk of it, because I wanted to stay connected with my constituents and with people at large. I also think it was important for me to convey the fact that I’m a human being just like everybody else, and just because I’m an elected official doesn’t make me in any way, shape or form different. We have to get back to the basics of this being about public service and not being on some sort of elevated pedestal and not being accessible.

How did you end up hospitalized for exhaustion during the campaign season?

It was the end of a long day at the end of the primary. I was exhausted because I was still working full time. I didn’t take any time off to campaign, and I think I had worked every single day straight for at least three and a half months. So, I was just exhausted and I wasn’t feeling very well.

In order to not upset my stomach or do anything weird, I just stopped drinking water because I had all these obligations that ended with a live interview on Univision at 11 at night. I said: ‘I can’t cancel that because it’s live,’ and I just had a thousand things to do that day that were campaign related.

So, by the time Univision finished, I was ready to die. I did the interview, and I actually looked fairly normal, but I seriously wanted to curl up and die.

Then, I went straight to the emergency room after that. I just needed fluids. They had me on an IV all night, and I didn’t get out of there until 7 in the morning. … Now I have water on me all the time.

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