3rd Congressional District: Lee, Rodimer wrestle for House seat

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Congresswoman Susie Lee (D-NV 3rd District), incumbent democratic candidate for Nevada’s 3rd congressional district. (file photo)

Fri, Oct 16, 2020 (7:05 p.m.)

Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, which contains much of Henderson, has a history of being a swing district.

It’s the most moderate and less ethnically diverse district in Southern Nevada, giving Republicans hope that they can pick up a seat in the House of Representative with political newcomer Dan Rodimer, who is taking on Democratic incumbent Susie Lee. 

The district in 2016 picked President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, meaning there could be enough Republican backing to elect Rodimer, who shares many of Trump’s views — constructing a border wall and scrapping the Affordable Care Act, for instance.

Early voting begins today for the general election.

Despite its label as a swing district, a Republican hasn’t been elected since 2014, including in 2018 when Lee won by nearly 26,000 votes out of 286,168 cast. 

She’s favored to win again, with analysis services Inside Elections and the Cook Political Report saying the race is either lean or likely Democratic.

Let’s get to know each candidate:

Susie Lee

Lee said she initially ran for office because she was disgusted with the divisiveness in Washington. Her bipartisan effort over the past two years hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The one-term representative touts her membership in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, and her 2019 selection by the nonprofit Lugar Center as the most bipartisan politician in Nevada. The center ranks her as 103rd most bipartisan representative overall.

“I believe that a lot of the ways that we solve our problems, instead of standing in the corners and declaring what we won’t do, why don’t we start out with what it is we want to do, what are our shared interests, and work from there out,” she said.

According to GovTrack, a government transparency outlet, 10 of the 17 bills and resolutions Lee brought forward in 2019 had bipartisan cosponsors. That number tied her in eighth place among House freshmen for bipartisan cosponsorship.

One of the most notable bills she introduced was a repeal of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ 2019 borrower defense rule, which made it harder for student loan borrowers to receive relief when they were defrauded by schools or hurt by school closures.

That bill passed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate with bipartisan support, but was vetoed by Trump.

Though Lee has worked across the aisle on some legislation, she has voted with Democrats on many key issues, including on the impeachment of Trump.

Lee, in a video released in June, declared systemic racism a problem in America and announced her support of the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act, a bill sponsored by Democratic Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson that would launch a commission to study “social disparities” that effect Black men and boys. That bill has been signed into law.

“The act of police brutality that led to the death of George Floyd is really a manifestation of the systematic racism that has existed in this country for centuries,” Lee said in the video. “Addressing systematic inequality requires a systematic response.”

Lee also voted for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a large bill that would allow the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to subpoena police departments in bias investigations, limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to police departments and bar no-knock warrants in federal drug investigations, among other issues. That bill has stalled in the Republican-led U.S. Senate.

She’s also been clear of her support for reproductive rights. She’s been endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and has an F rating from the Susan B. Anthony List’s National Pro-Life Scorecard.

She’s also supported the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, in the form of the Affordable Care Enhancement Act. That act would expand tax credits to lower marketplace health insurance premiums, allow more middle-class Americans to qualify for subsidies and renew expanded federal matching for states to push every state to expand Medicaid.

Lee said that this year’s election is a referendum on who Americans see as the best option to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, and she lambasted the Trump administration’s actions on the issue.

“This election is about this administration’s failure in leadership,” Lee said. “From the beginning of even recognizing how significant of a problem this was going to be for this country, to failure to have a national testing strategy, a national personal protective equipment (distribution) strategy, to forcing states literally to bargain against one another for critical resources.”

Lee criticized Senate Republicans for not taking up the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, which was passed by House Democrats in an effort to offer additional stimulus measures to Americans.

Lee said she was working with a bipartisan group to try to get further stimulus passed and move leadership closer to the middle ground to do so. She has made a joint statement with Rep. Mark Amodei, Nevada’s only Republican in Congress, requesting further aid. This, however, was before Trump announced he would not consider any further negotiations until after the election.

If reelected, Lee said, securing state and local funding is one of her top priorities. The economic impact of the coronavirus has hit Nevada’s state coffers hard. Nevada lawmakers early this summer cut around $1.2 billion from the state budget.

“Obviously, most important is helping our economy recover from this pandemic,” Lee said, adding that she would also focus on support for higher education and looking at mental health resources.

Lee has come under fire from Rodimer and Republicans over her husband’s benefiting from an expansion of the federal Paycheck Protection Program to cover gaming businesses. The Small Business Administration originally did not allow gaming businesses to qualify, triggering a push from the entire Nevada congressional delegation, including Lee, to assist those businesses.

“My response to that is, I was doing my job. I was nothing short of transparent,” Lee said.

Lee said she was confident in the state’s ability to conduct the November election fairly. State lawmakers passed a bill this summer that will send ballots to every active voter in the state, a move that some Republicans have said, without evidence, would lead to voter fraud.

“I’m confident that our state will cover a fair election,” Lee said. “My response to any of this back-and-forth over mail-in voting is, get out and vote and make sure you vote early and get your vote in.”

Lee said that her opponent was “unfit for office.” Why?

“This election is going to be about who is going to get to work, who is going to roll up their sleeves and help our economy recover,” Lee said.

Click to enlarge photo

Former professional wrestler Dan Rodimer, Republican candidate for Nevada's 3th Congressional District, speaks before a rally with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Boulder City Municipal Airport Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020.

Dan Rodimer

When Rodimer speaks at events on the campaign trail, his background as an entertainer is apparent. The former WWE wrestler often urges responses from the crowd and returns that he will “take a folding chair to the establishment.”

Nevada State GOP Chairman Michael McDonald told Rodimer that the state Republican party wanted to make the candidate the face of Fox News.

“I said ‘I don’t want to be the face of Fox News, I want to be the face of CNN and MSNBC,’” said Rodimer, who goes by “Big Dan.”

Rodimer, who unsuccessfully ran for the state Senate in 2018, hopes to become the first Republican to win the congressional district since Joe Heck in 2014.

The majority of Rodimer’s positions line up with the Republican Party as a whole. On immigration, he supports a border wall and “merit-based” immigration while ending both chain migration and the green card lottery.

He’s also signed the conservative nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform’s taxpayer protection pledge to oppose any tax increases, and states on his campaign website that he wants to cut taxes for middle-class Americans and create permanent tax cuts for corporations bringing jobs to the country.

Rodimer has been endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion organization, and has made much of his pro-life bonafides, attacking primary opponent Dan Schwartz as a “pro-choice Republican.”

Rodimer on his website said that he “has seen firsthand that Obamacare isn’t working for millions of Americans,” and said he wants to allow people to choose their own plans without government interference, protect those with preexisting conditions and allow for further options for health care plans.

Rodimer said that restarting the economy after forced closures from the pandemic was one of the most important issues facing the country. He is hoping for a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year and is pushing for more testing. He criticized Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s restrictions on businesses in Nevada.

“We can’t do that right now when you have folks like our governor who keep changing the metrics,” Rodimer said. “We can’t survive.”

Rodimer, a member of the Clark County School District School Safety Advisory Committee, has made school choice — freeing public funds to pay for students to attend private school  — a significant part of his platform, as well as 529 expansion college savings plans that offer specific financial benefits.

Rodimer also criticized Nevada’s mail-in ballot plan, under which every active voter in the state will receive a ballot automatically in the mail. The measure also removed restrictions on who can turn in another person’s ballot, which Republicans have decried as “ballot harvesting.” He also said that mass mail-in ballots could lead to voter fraud, although there is no evidence to support the claims.

“I’m not happy, but the fact is, we’re going to win anyway,” he said.

Rodimer, like Trump, has run on a platform of law and order, and decried calls to defund the police — shuffling funding out of police departments to other social programs. While some Democrats have supported these calls, the party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and many rank-and-file members such as Lee have not.

Rodimer touts his endorsement by the Public Safety Alliance of Nevada, a coalition of Nevada police unions that includes the Las Vegas Police Protective Association. The association endorsed Lee in 2018.

Some were critical of the groups for endorsing Rodimer, who in the early 2010s was arrested in Florida and charged with battery. He completed an anger management course and prosecutors agreed not to continue the case against him. 

“Obviously it’s tough on the family when people are talking and talking and talking,” he said, stressing he had no convictions or criminal record.

He’s been active in campaigning, including being the hype man at Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance this week in Boulder City. 

“I was the worst wrestler in the WWE,” Rodimer said, “but I was good on the mic.”

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