Wednesday, April 20, 2016 | 2:17 p.m.
Jacky Rosen has kept a relatively low profile since she launched her campaign in January to represent Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District.
Democrats had struggled for months to recruit someone to run for the seat held by Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Former Secretary of State Ross Miller, state Sen. Minority Leader Aaron Ford and Heather Murren were all approached to run, and they all declined.
Rosen, president of Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, made the decision to run after meeting with U.S. Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid and representatives of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Compared to Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, CD3 is far from a safe bet for a Democrat.
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a blog run by the University of Virginia political scientist, only last week changed the district’s rating from “leans Republican” to “toss-up.”
The most recent voter registration numbers show a 3,300-person voter registration advantage for Democrats in CD3, compared to the comfortable 30,000-person advantage they enjoy in CD4.
That race features a competitive Democratic primary between former Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, state Sen. Ruben Kihuen and philanthropist Susie Lee.
The only possible primary challenge Rosen faces is from Henderson lawyer Jesse Sbaih, a Muslim immigrant from Jordan.
Sbaih is largely self-funding his campaign — personally loaning himself $500,000 for his campaign while raising $54,000 last quarter.
Rosen raised $170,000 last quarter and has loaned her campaign $35,000.
Sbaih grabbed national headlines last month when he told several media outlets that Reid told him a Muslim could not win the race. Representatives from Reid’s office have said Sbaih’s religion was not the reason he was told he couldn’t win.
Rosen, by contrast, has remained relatively quiet so far in the race. But she took some time after a forum hosted by the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada on Tuesday night to answer some questions.
Here are some of the highlights:
On raising the federal minimum wage
Across the nation, workers have been pushing for a $15 federal minimum wage as part of the Fight for $15 movement. But Democratic candidates haven’t always been favor of a $15 federal minimum.
It’s a split that divides the two Democratic presidential candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Clinton supports a $12 minimum wage, while leaving room for cities and states to set higher wages. Sanders supports a $15 minimum nationwide.
Rosen declined to put a number on what she thinks the federal minimum wage should be.
“I think the Fight for 15 is a great fight. I think, unfortunately, depending how the Congress works out, we may have to get there in increments. But I think we absolutely have to work towards that for sure,” Rosen said. “The way it is now, the Republicans maintain an edge. It’s going to for sure have to be in those increments because we don’t have a majority.”
She added: “I think there’s been a lot of studies that say $12 is a good minimum wage. There have been others that say $15. I think we actually have to look — a lot of it depends — what’s the rate of inflation. It isn’t necessarily something you can lock in that stays stagnant, because we have cost of living increases with Social Security every year. Some years it’s 3 percent, some it’s 2 percent — it’s tied to the rate of inflation.”
She compared setting the federal minimum wage to a moving target.
“If inflation and interest rates go back down, it might be a different amount,” Rosen said. “If they start going way up, then that $15 could become something else. So, like I said, I think we need to move in the fight towards $15.”
She added that she supports states taking a look at their own circumstances, such as state income tax levels, to set their own minimum wages.
On the Affordable Care Act
Rosen applauded the Affordable Care Act as a “fabulous first step,” highlighting protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“That’s what tied people to jobs. They were afraid to quit because, ‘Oh my gosh, I have high blood pressure. Who’s going to give me private health insurance?’ or ‘It’s going to be so much,” Rosen said. “There have been a lot of things in there that are really great. I do think that we have to look at some of the things that work, improve those, and some things that haven’t worked so well, we need to modify those.”
She called the ACA “a good bill,” adding that improvements may be necessary as more details emerge about the bill’s impact. “We probably need to work on negotiating prescription drug prices, the power of economy of scale with a large group, and level some playing fields there,” Rosen said.
On the Iran nuclear deal
The Iran nuclear deal threatened to divide Democrats in Congress late last summer, with many raising serious concerns about how Iranian nuclear sites would be monitored and whether lifting sanctions on Iran could hurt Israel. The deal was particularly divisive within the Jewish community.
Reid publicly announced his support for the deal in August and was instrumental behind the scenes in ensuring the deal would succeed.
Rosen neither professed support or opposition to the deal, saying that “right now, it is what we have; it is what we have to work with.”
“Being a private citizen when all that happened, you can only know what you know from TV and the newspapers,” Rosen said. “I absolutely think that we cannot trust Iran. We have to be sure that we hold their feet to the fire in every instance. We need to be sure that we keep shining that spotlight. They’re some of the leading sponsors of terrorism.”
She said she thought the president “made the best deal that he thought he could at the time, or he probably wouldn’t have made it.”
She reiterated that the deal does not mean the United States will stop watching where money is invested in Iran and where Iran is spending its money.
“It doesn’t mean that we don’t keep watching them,” Rosen said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t keep improving on the agreement where we have to or imposing sanctions where we have to.”
On national security
Asked whether she thought the U.S. should put “boots on the ground” to combat ISIS, Rosen said that should be a last resort because it puts lives at stake.
“I think it has to be part of a comprehensive plan,” Rosen said. “I think you have to have a comprehensive plan. Just to say, if I have a stew and it’s too salty, well if you just throw one thing in it, you know, there’s always more — it’s never as simple as one thing. I think that should be a last resort because, obviously, that’s the biggest toll we pay with human lives.”
She said other countries in the Middle East need to have “skin in the game” in fighting terrorism within their borders.
“The best thing we can do is talk to the people who are living in those neighborhoods — and when I say neighborhoods, those countries, they’re there, they’re living with it — and build those coalitions,” Rosen said. “Unless they have skin in the game and they have a buy-in to the future success of their country and of their people, what’s in it for them?”
On Sen. Harry Reid
When Rosen is mentioned, it’s often in connection with Reid’s name. Rosen said she was “really honored” that Reid came and spoke to her, but she rejected the notion that she’s “a puppet.”
“You know, Las Vegas is a really small community, and when they were looking for people to run, there were quite a number of people that they spoke with, and I was one of those people,” Rosen said. “I will say that I’m not a puppet for anyone. I wasn’t told, ‘You’re going to do this, and here you are,’ because let me tell you, it’s really, really hard work to do this.”
She said she’s “humbled and honored” to run. She said she feels she’s lived a life that she is proud of — working, raising a family, taking care of her parents and in-laws, and volunteering in the community.
“It’s really great to have Harry Reid or whomever come say, ‘Oh you’re terrific.’ But I really feel that my life is representative of the people in the district and what they’ve gone through,” Rosen said. “I was raised to believe that you need to leave the world a better place than how you found it, as corny as that sounds.”
She continued: “No matter what Harry’s policies — Sen. Reid’s policies — are, the reason I’m running is not just because they spoke to me. It’s because you have to really dig down deep and decide if you want to do it, because you’re really exposing yourself and what you think and what you believe, and it’s not always nice or pretty.”
If she wasn’t running, she said jokingly, she would probably be “throwing shoes at the television.”
“Kidding aside, it’s really a great opportunity,” Rosen said. “I feel really blessed and honored that I have this chance to take a life I’m really proud of and take that forward and hopefully do the right thing for all the people.”