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October 16, 2019

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Youth forum draws handful of Democrats vying for Kihuen’s seat

'Keeping Up with the Candidates'

Miranda Alam/Special to The Sun

Congressional District 4 Democratic candidate Allison Stephens speaks during the Keeping Up with the Candidates panel hosted by NextGen America at Three Square in Las Vegas on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.

'Keeping Up with the Candidates'

Congressional District 4 Democratic candidate Pat Spearman speaks during the Keeping Up with the Candidates panel hosted by NextGen America at Three Square in Las Vegas on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Launch slideshow »

The race to replace Nevada’s retiring one-term congressman is a crowded one with 16 candidates, and a Democratic candidate forum brought out differences on corporate money and health care.

NextGen America, the liberal advocacy group that hosted the event at the Three Square food bank in Las Vegas, plans to put $2 million into Nevada to turn out young voters, targeting 18- to 35-year-olds. Candidates for the 4th Congressional District seat answered questions on issues such as gun violence as well as more lighthearted inquiries for the young audience, like what superpower they wish they had.

The group invited all of the Democrats in the race to the event. Steven Horsford, Allison Stephens, Amy Vilela, John Anzalone and Pat Spearman spoke to an audience of roughly 60 people and agreed on most topics, such as opposing the new tax law and supporting legislation to address gun violence, but differed on corporate donations. Vilela is the only candidate not accepting money from corporate PACs, saying Democrats are losing seats because they are beholden to corporate donors rather than residents.

Vilela also differed from some on the panel in her plan to sign onto the Medicare for All bill in Congress. Her 22-year-old daughter, Shalynne, had a blood clot and died at age 22 while waiting for her new insurance to kick in, Vilela said. Anzalone and Spearman said they had some concerns with the Medicare for All bill.

Spearman said she wanted to make sure the proposed law would not disrupt coverage for veterans and active-duty military, as well as address the high cost of health care. Anzalone said that Medicare for All should be considered carefully and that officials should ensure that people like his mother, who had a stroke and is currently on Medicare, are getting adequate coverage.

Horsford said he supports universal health care and reducing the costs of prescription drugs. Stephens said comprehensive reform and transparency is needed so that Congress can address high costs and get people health care they can afford.

They all agreed that they wouldn’t trade a wall with Mexico and more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for the Dream Act, a bipartisan plan for young immigrants living in the country illegally. The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protected certain young immigrants from deportation. The Trump administration is trying to end it, and wants to build a wall along the border.

Spurred by the administration’s efforts to kill DACA, more than 200 House members are working to get a majority to agree to skip over GOP leadership and force votes on certain immigration bills.

Horsford said he was a sponsor on comprehensive immigration reform while he was in Congress. That bill did include increased border protections and called for more Customs and Border Protection officers, but never received a vote in the House. A similar effort to skip over leadership and force a vote on the stalled bill failed to gain enough signatures, though the Senate did pass its version.

Congressional District 4, created after the 2010 Census, is one of the most competitive in Nevada. Democrats have over 30,000 more active registered voters than Republicans and there are more than 95,000 active third-party and unaffiliated voters. Democrats tend to have lower voter turnout during midterm elections.

Horsford is looking to take up the seat he lost in 2014 to Republican Cresent Hardy, who is also running for the seat again this year. Hardy lost re-election to the office in 2016 to Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen.

Horsford leads the pack in fundraising, with almost $190,000 cash on hand as of March 31 and nearly $29,000 in debt. He donated $2,500 to his own campaign, which has taken in more than $250,000.

Stephens’ campaign has received nearly $21,000 and had less than $19,000 cash on hand as of March 31. Vilela had nearly $26,000 cash on hand as of March 31 and debt nearing $24,000. Vilela loaned less than $4,000 to her campaign.

Anzalone has lent his campaign more than $29,000 and had over $75,000 cash on hand as of March 31. His campaign has seen less than $84,000 in total receipts.

Spearman’s campaign has received more than $71,000 and had less than $28,000 cash on hand as of March 31. The campaign has $100 in debt, and Spearman donated $200.

Kihuen is retiring from the district amid a House ethics investigation. A former campaign official told Buzzfeed she quit after he harassed her. Kihuen has said he looks forward to clearing his name.

NextGen America used the forum as a fundraiser for progressive group Make It Work Nevada and will match the money raised. Tickets were $5, or $3 for students. Similar forums have been held in Pennsylvania, California, Virginia and Iowa. They too focused on a mix of policy and lifestyle questions, like what the candidates’ favorite Netflix shows are.

All of the candidates in the race:

John Anzalone, D

Steven Horsford, D

Pat Spearman, D

Allison Stephens, D

Amy Vilela, D

Sid Zeller, D

David Glenn Gibbs, R

Cresent Hardy, R

Jeff Miller, R

Mike Monroe, R

Bill Townsend, R

Kenneth Wegner, R

Gregg Luckner, L

Warren Ross Markowitz, I

Dean McGonigle, unaffiliated

Rodney Smith, unaffiliated