Republican Niger Innis on Wednesday launched his Nevada congressional campaign on a populist note, saying he wants to revive the “American dream” by expanding job opportunities for the poor and middle class and by helping small businesses thrive.
He said Democrats have not done enough to provide equal opportunity for the poor and middle class.
Innis slammed U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for lamenting the gap between the rich and poor even though Reid has been in the majority power seat for seven years, including periods when Democrats held both houses and the White House and had more ability to make changes.
“They want to run on income inequality? Bring it on!” Innis said.
Innis also said his campaign will unveil a comprehensive immigration reform plan that would provide a pathway to U.S. citizenship for many of the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, although he said he would place a premium on ensuring the security of the U.S. border.
He said he’ll offer a health plan as well as Nevadans and Americans struggle to gain insurance coverage, now required by President Barack Obama’s health insurance law.
“We are a state that is filled with a diverse population of people who are not looking for government to solve their problems, but get out of the way of opportunity,” Innis said.
Innis, a conservative African-American and a member of the small-government Tea Party movement, is running for the 4th Congressional District seat now held by Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., a freshman and Nevada’s first black congressman. Innis also faces a primary against Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite.
The vast congressional district, created in 2012 after the latest U.S. Census, covers most of northern Clark County, part of Lyon County, and all of Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties. Still, more than four-fifths of the district’s population lives in Clark County, which is the home base for both Horsford and Innis.
With Nevada’s jobless rate at the highest in the nation at 9 percent, Innis said he wants to promote unemployment insurance as a “temporary emergency measure, not as a permanent way of life.” While saying he would likely vote for the latest proposal to extend jobless payments, he added that the measure would have to be tied to job creation efforts.
“The real solution to the unemployment problem is not unemployment insurance, but jobs,” he said.
Innis noted that unemployment among Hispanics is even higher at 14 percent and among African-Americans 16 percent. He blamed excessive government red tape and regulations for standing in the way of small business development.
“The problem is that prosperity is not trickling down for you or for me,” Innis said.
Innis, the national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, has lived in Nevada for several years. He’s widely known in political circles, particularly in Clark County, and has appeared on CNN and Fox News programs that have raised his profile statewide. Still, he’s considered a long shot in both the GOP primary and particularly the general election.
The ability to raise money will be a major factor in the race. Innis’ campaign would not reveal any figures, although he has the support of generous GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, the chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.
Hardy has raised at least $100,000 so far, according to his campaign. During the first nine months of 2013, Horsford raised $477,331, according to the Federal Election Commission. The year-end report is due at the end of January.
“I’m not going to fool you,” Innis told more than 40 supporters who gathered at Leticia’s Mexican Restaurant to cheer his campaign announcement, which didn’t mention his opponents. “It’s going to be a tough campaign.”
“We will fight for every vote,” Innis added. “We will appeal to the cowboys and cowgirls up north and the homeboys and homegirls down south.”
Hardy put out a statement welcoming Innis to the race, saying he looked “forward to a vigorous exchange of ideas as to how we can get Congress and Nevada working again.”
“As a fifth generation Nevadan, I know this state and our issues through and through,” Hardy said. “I firmly believe that my deep Nevada roots and vast experience in public service will resonate with 4th District voters.”
The Horsford campaign didn’t comment on Innis’ bid, but expressed confidence in victory.
“The congressman is very confident in the strength of his campaign team,” said Jennifer Taylor, his political director. “And as our representative to District 4, Congressman Horsford has broad grass-roots support across the district and all of its diversity.”
Contact reporter Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj.