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December 21, 2014

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Politics:

After attending Michael Brown’s funeral, Steven Horsford steps further into spotlight on race relations

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Steve Marcus

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., responds to a question during a town hall meeting at the Cora Coleman Senior Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Nevada U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford's decision to join political and black leaders on Monday for the funeral of Michael Brown — the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a white police officer — is the latest sign that the freshman lawmaker is stepping into the national spotlight on race.

Horsford joined U.S. lawmakers, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and thousands of others at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. Missouri U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay invited Horsford, his Democratic colleague in the House.

After the funeral and a visit to the site where Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown, Horsford told the Sun he had a duty to understand what went wrong in Ferguson.

“The events surrounding the use of force that have resulted in the death of Michael Brown are a pattern where we see children being killed,” he said.

From Ferguson to Nevada, Horsford has made himself a part of the national conversation on race with an air of authority and passion that comes from being Nevada’s first black member of Congress and a rising star in the Democratic Party.

This spring, Horsford bristled when Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy wondered to The New York Times if “the Negro” race was better off as slaves. “His despicable comments about 'the Negro' belong in the dustbin of history,” Horsford said in a statement at the time. In a column for The Washington Post, Horsford pointedly called out Fox News and conservative commentator Sean Hannity for cheering Bundy on from the safety of their TV sets.

On the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Horsford was an active participant, saying America still had much further to go “to achieve equality under the law for all.”

In July 2013, Horsford echoed President Barack Obama's emotional response to the verdict in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

“It could have been me too, 25 years ago," Horsford said in a statement. "As an African-American male growing up, I recall the angst I felt driving, shopping at a store, or walking home from work late at night. I recall fearing that I would become a statistic: that by the age of 25 I would either be in jail or dead.”

Race may always be a factor in Horsford’s career. But Horsford said his focus was equality.

“I am a member of Congress who happens to be an African-American. I am not an African-American member of Congress,” Horsford said.

In response to Brown's shooting and the unrest that followed, Horsford said he’s most concerned about the militarization of police forces. Horsford is the lead sponsor of a bill to limit racial profiling in police forces that receive federal grants.

And he said he’ll take what he saw in Ferguson back to Congress.

“This tragic event of Michael Brown — while as horrible as it is, and he should have never lost his life as an unarmed boy who had just graduated high school — it is providing the opportunity for us now to have a national discussion on what policies, laws and practice we need to change so we can improve going forward,” Horsford said.

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