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August 23, 2019

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Harris in Carson City: Teacher pay raises, Yucca Mountain, gun safety


Scott Sonner / AP

California Sen. Kamala Harris talks to teachers during an education round-table at Eagle Valley Middle School in Carson City, Nev. during her first presidential campaign trip to northern Nevada on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Harris says that in addition to raising teacher salaries she would vigorously defend the rights of teachers nationally to join unions and bargain collectively.

CARSON CITY — Touting increased teacher pay, health care protection and an end to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project, California Sen. Kamala Harris spoke to voters at a Battle Born Progress event on Tuesday in the state’s capital city.

“I don’t know what it says about my personality, but I’m really enjoying this campaign,” she said. The crowd included many state lawmakers, including Speaker pro Tempore Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Sarah Peters, D-Reno.

Harris started her speech by thanking voters for sending Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto to the Senate, and by expressing admiration for Cortez Masto’s grilling of Energy Secretary Rick Perry on the Yucca Mountain waste facility Tuesday.

“Anyone see Catherine today with Rick Perry? Oh my god. She tore it up,” said Harris, the first Democratic presidential candidate to visit Northern Nevada this year.

Yucca Mountain came up briefly at the stop, with Harris saying it wouldn’t continue under her administration.

Harris promoted her teacher pay gap stop at the event. Harris has emphasized the issue in her campaign for the White House as she aims to fix the gap between teacher pay and the average living wage — Harris says 30 states have an average teacher pay under the average living wage, a claim Politifact rates as “Mostly True.”

Her policy initiative would give teachers raises around the country to match their state’s living wage, a number she has put at $15,000 per teacher in Nevada, higher than the national average she cited of $13,500. The plan is estimated to cost $315 billion over the next decade.

“We have brilliant students who are studying science, who want to go into an elementary school and teach our babies about the joys and wonders of the world but instead they’re looking at their bills and they make the decision instead to go work for a pharmaceutical company,” she said. “What kind of incentives are we creating? We have got to pay our teachers.”

Harris’ remarks about the teacher pay raise came after she attended a roundtable event with educators earlier in the day.

She took issue with what she said is a political climate of falsehoods, saying the reality of climate change is being unjustly debated and the “existential” threat is being irresponsibility dealt with in Washington. She said that science should be the basis of relevant public policy, and spoke about her mother, who was a researcher.

“My mother had two goals in her life — to raise her two daughters and end breast cancer,” she said. “She would take us to the lab with her, you know, after school and on weekends. Little known fact … my first job ever was cleaning pipettes.”

Harris spoke on gun safety as well, saying students should not have to deal with the aftermath of school shootings — such as shooting drills — and that children who have to go through such exercises may ask why.

“The answer, of course, is because their supposed leaders in Washington, D.C., who have failed to have the courage to reject a false choice between which suggests you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns way … who have failed to have the courage to understand we must have smart gun safety laws in this country.”

Harris backs universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

The candidate said that she’s in the race because she was raised to believe that public service was noble, and that she believed change was possible.

“All good fights are based on optimism,” she said.