Democrat candidates say Amodei out of touch with many of his constituents

MINDEN — The three Democratic candidates seeking a primary win in June to take on Rep. Mark Amodei in the 2nd Congressional District in November agree on one point: The GOP incumbent from Carson City is out of touch with many of his constituents.

At a candidate forum here last week, Vance Alm, Rick Shepherd and Chip Evans spoke to the Douglas County Democratic Women about why they are the best choice to face off against Amodei, who has represented the district since 2011.

But any of the candidates who win the June 14 Democratic primary will face an uphill battle.

The congressional district, created in 1981, has always been held by a Republican. The district originally reached into Clark County but now stretches across the northern third of Nevada. It is heavily Republican, with 157,161 active registered voters compared with 117,280 Democrats and 62,553 nonpartisan voters.

Unlike the races in the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts in Southern Nevada, this contest is not considered competitive by political analysts.

THE CANDIDATES

Shepherd, a Reno businessman, was particularly forceful in his criticism of Amodei for, among other reasons, supporting the transfer of federal lands to state control. A resolution was passed by the Nevada Legislature in 2015 seeking the transfer of 7.2 million acres to state control, and Amodei has introduced legislation in Congress to enable the process.

Shepherd said such a transfer would violate the Nevada Constitution.

“Differentiating between me and him is easy,” Shepherd said of Amodei. “We agree on nothing. He doesn’t represent me. He is supposed to. I’m tired of sending him emails and getting form letters back saying how wrong I am.”

Alm, a practicing physician and retired Air Force officer from Reno, said his military experience and work as a small-business owner bring important qualifications to the job.

“I know what it is like to run a business,” he said. “I know about overhead, and that controlling costs is really important. Dealing with all the regulations and red tape.”

Alm said he became politically active in recent years to represent the people in the district who have no advocate now. He ran for the seat in 2014, but lost in the primary.

“My granddaughter does not have representation,” he said. “I want to be her representative going forward.”

Evans said what sets him apart from his colleagues is the effort he is making to defeat Amodei in November. A former chairman of the Washoe County Democratic Party and liberal talk show host, the Reno resident said he has raised more money in the past three months than all the Democratic candidates for the seat from 2010, 2012 and 2014 combined. He also has the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. He reported $53,000 in contributions through March 31.

The other two candidates reported no financial activity in the first quarter.

Amodei reported nearly $480,000 in contributions in the first quarter of the year.

“I know what it takes to work in Congress,” Evans said. “Congress works the way it works. I am not sure we can change that dramatically. You have to build consensus so at the end of the day the common good is served. I am prepared to do that.”

NEED FOR CHANGE

But Shepherd, who joined the Occupy Wall Street movement for a time in 2011, said the days of making only modest progress on important issues facing the country and world are over.

Climate change is real and it needs to be addressed now, he said. But established politicians get campaign funds from donors who don’t want action on the issue. So part of the answer to address climate change is campaign finance reform, Shepherd said.

“I represent a future that doesn’t pander,” he said. “I will not capitulate on my ideals. Change needs to take place and we need bold action. We can’t take baby steps anymore.”

Alm said he would focus on health, education and jobs. He suggested that a program similar to the Works Progress Administration created in the 1930s to provide jobs to the unemployed could be resurrected to help young people find employment and gain job experience.

He also suggested that Congress take one-tenth of the trillion dollars used to bail out Wall Street banks to provide 1 million people with $100,000 business startup loans to create jobs.

“Small business works,” Alm said. “Small business works for Americans.”

Evans, who has not run for public office before, said he can put a winning campaign together to defeat Amodei.

“Amodei has told the press he would like to come back to Nevada,” Evans said. “I want to help him do that.”

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Find @seanw801 on Twitter.

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