Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016 | 2 a.m.
One of the most impactful developments in this election cycle is the retirement of Harry Reid. He has served Nevada, and the nation, as a member of the U.S. Senate for 30 years, including 12 as the Senate’s Democratic leader. We know him as Harry, the savvy, tough deal-maker who took care of us in more ways than can be counted, including preventing Yucca Mountain from becoming a burial ground for highly radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.
We now need to elect someone who will build on his legacy of looking out for Nevada. And that person is Catherine Cortez Masto, an exceptional attorney general for Nevada who promises to protect our interests on Capitol Hill.
Her crackdown on domestic violence and human trafficking — a crime that plays out on the streets of Las Vegas — earned her the congratulations of our Republican governor, Brian Sandoval. And when Cortez Masto finished her second term as attorney general and stepped down, her successor, Republican Adam Laxalt, was quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal saying that she was “a role model in how she has run the office during the past eight years.”
Her efforts for Nevadans also showed in her creation of the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force to investigate and prosecute fraudulent foreclosure-rescue and loan-modification scams, and her administering $1.9 billion to help foreclosure-fraud victims in Nevada, thanks to the national mortgage settlement with big banks.
In other words, Cortez Masto has a history of working directly on behalf of Nevadans.
Moreover, her election will help bring the Senate back under Democratic control. When combined with a Republican House led by deal-making Speaker Paul Ryan and a president in Hillary Clinton, who works both sides of the aisle, the nation can finally exhale and move forward, with its leaders desiring compromise for the betterment of the country and to restore confidence in our institutions of government.
For her part, Cortez Masto can work on issues important to Nevadans: immigration reform that will keep families intact; funding for cancer screenings and other vitally important women’s health care provided by Planned Parenthood; and the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who will reaffirm opinions involving a woman’s rights over her own body, guarding against guns falling in unqualified hands while protecting the Second Amendment, and transparency in campaign funding so money-stoked special interests can be smoked out of hiding.
Perhaps most important to Nevada, Cortez Masto will not give an inch to the nuclear power industry, which wants to store used fuel rods — still highly radioactive, and the deadliest material known to man — inside Yucca Mountain, after coursing through Clark County. Just why a state that has no nuclear power plants should get stuck with other states’ nuclear waste remains unclear except that, when the idea surfaced in the 1980s, Nevada didn’t have the political muscle to fight it.
Since then, though, Nevada statesmen, including governors and senators both Republican and Democrat, have derailed the nuclear industry’s plans. If that steadfast resistance were to crack, the state’s primary economy — tourists coming here for a relaxed, safe time — would be ravaged. With Reid’s retirement, the next senator will be expected to join Republican Dean Heller, the rising senior senator, in not giving an inch while protecting Nevada. Cortez Masto will be that person.
Cortez Masto’s opponent, ultra-conservative, polarizing Republican Congressman Joe Heck, says that if the nuclear industry wants to discuss burying radioactive waste inside the mountain, Nevada should participate in that discussion. Such a suggestion is a fundamental weakening of what has been Nevada’s unified ranks in fighting the use of Yucca Mountain: Entertaining even the mere whisper of a suggestion that Nevadans could be talked into allowing the use of Yucca Mountain puts Nevada in jeopardy. That topic is off the table, period, end of story, and for Heck to say he’d want to have that discussion undermines a safe Nevada.
Heck would not only be willing to discuss putting Nevada in harm’s way, but has voted to defund Planned Parenthood and opposes as “bad legislation” Question 1 on the ballot, which would close loopholes so almost everyone buying a gun would have to undergo a background check.
And while Cortez Masto as attorney general fought domestic violence and human trafficking, Heck has opposed an additional $3 million in funding for sexual assault victims assistance within the Office on Violence Against Women prevention and prosecution programs and an additional $3 million for missing and exploited children programs in the juvenile justice programs.
Sinister-looking campaign commercials promoting Heck would have you believe Cortez Masto had a poor grip on her office as attorney general, with claims that the crime rate increased under her watch and rape kits went untested without her knowledge. In fact, the crime rate decreased (not that an attorney general can influence that, regardless), and the use of rape kits is a function of local police departments. Still, viewers were pummeled with dangerously misleading ads.
It’s unclear what sort of damage Heck might do to Nevada if elected to the Senate; much of his campaign funding can be traced back to the notorious Koch brothers, the country’s most infamous special interests.
At least Heck has finally stopped supporting narcissistic bully Donald Trump for president. Until the release of the videotape of Trump boasting of his sexual assaults on women, Heck had been an unconditional supporter of the TV showman, presumably hoping to latch onto Trump’s coattails. But like many other stalwart Republicans, Heck has turned against Trump, courageously cutting away from his fanatical followers. We applaud him for finally embracing principle over partisanship.
But that doesn’t translate to a ticket to the Senate. We need someone who will bring good ideas, not ideology, to Washington. Catherine Cortez Masto is the best fit for Nevada, today and for our future, and we proudly endorse her for the Senate.