Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is ramping up his ground game in Nevada, staffing up and opening offices in Las Vegas and more rural areas like Elko and Carson City.
In an interview with the Sun this week, Buttigieg stressed his appreciation for the state’s organized labor bonafides, pushed back against proposals for strictly government-run healthcare and argued for an increase in workers’ rights.
“One of the exciting things about Nevada is how much good work is going on here right now, when you see the organizing that’s happening and the political power for workers that has been achieved through organizations like the Culinary Workers Union and others,” he said.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said he recognizes the importance of Nevada as the first state in the West to caucus, and the campaign’s expansion effort is a play for votes statewide.
CNN polling from late September — the latest to focus on Nevada — had Buttigieg at 4% in the state, well behind the frontrunners — former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., both at 22%, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., at 18%.
Paul Selberg, the state director for Buttigieg’s campaign, said they are not overlooking any part of Nevada.
“We’re investing in our ground game here to spread Pete’s vision to unite our country and win the caucus in February,” he said.
Buttigieg said Nevada could help his campaign succeed in the Democratic primary.
“We see a lot of potential for us in Nevada,” he said. “We think it could be one of the states that really sets us on a course for victory for the nomination.”
Marijuana and banking
As states around the country legalized marijuana, problems involving the banking system emerged. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, making most banks wary about dealing directly with dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses.
While some legislative fixes have been proposed, Buttigieg is suggesting a more straightforward solution: legalize marijuana federally.
“One of the reasons why legalization at the federal level is important is that it simplifies a lot of the issues that you’re now seeing when a state steps forward but the federal system hasn’t kept up,” he said.
Buttigieg’s organized labor proposals include a federal policy to ensure paid sick leave for all workers and the right to collective bargaining.
“Our proposal on wages and labor includes paid sick leave on a national basis, and, importantly, setting up a sick leave bank that the employer has to pay into,” he said. “I think that this is something that’s important not just for full-time workers, but that we prorate it in a way that gig workers, for example, can access these benefits.”
In the 2019 legislative session, Nevada lawmakers passed a bill implementing a paid sick leave policy in Nevada.
Buttigieg is also in favor of guaranteed collective bargaining rights, including for public employees — another measure passed by the 2019 Legislature in Nevada.
“We’ve seen a sustained attack on organized labor nationwide, and I’m proposing that we take steps that would lead to a doubling of the rates of unionization in the country,” he said. “Part of it is expanding who can organize, supporting public sector negotiation; also ensuring folks like fast food workers have the opportunity to organize.”
Health care and the public option
Buttigieg backs a public health care option — essentially allowing a government-operated insurance program to compete with those in the private market.
The position puts him in contrast with candidates like Warren and Sanders who back a strictly government-run health care program.
“There are a lot of workers in Nevada who have fought for and negotiated good health care plans,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons why it’s important to me that as we move forward on health care, we allow people to keep the plans that they’ve got.”
Buttigieg said that while he wants the government to work on health care, he doesn’t want it to take over entirely.
“One difference with us is we don’t want to force people onto that plan if they don’t want to be,” he said. “Nevada’s a good example where there’s a lot of workers who would see the difference between my plan and one of the plans that would require you to go onto the public plan whether you want to or not.”