New York City Mayor and presidential hopeful Bill de Blasio courted veterans to start a weekend campaign trip in Southern Nevada.
During a morning roundtable discussion at Veterans Village II, near downtown Las Vegas, de Blasio heard stories about the struggles some face when they return home, including the frustration of getting health care from Veterans Affairs.
He said he is puzzled by the lack of federal response to the needs of veterans not just now, but going back decades.
“If anything should have been bipartisan, it would have been that,” he said. “And I will tell you Democrats and Republicans alike have failed to fix the VA.”
He told reporters that if he is elected, he wants to strengthen the department. De Blasio pointed to success in turning around public health care in New York City and said that same focus should be applied to the VA.
During the discussion, he highlighted New York City’s success with its Department of Veterans Services, which addresses housing, health and employment needs. In the past seven years, New York City has reduced the number of homeless veterans by 90 percent, de Blasio said.
The money to improve the lives of veterans and everyday people exists, but it is in the wrong hands, he said.
First lady of New York City Chirlane McCray joined her husband on the campaign trip, telling crowds of the importance of providing mental health resources and reducing the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
“I am appalled that this is not the number one priority for our nation because the most important part of our nation is its people,” she told the group of veterans.
De Blasio also took time to share a personal story of the struggles his father faced after being wounded in World War II.
After a brief tour of Veterans Village, de Blasio participated in a private meet-and-greet at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in the northeast valley.
He spent more than an hour Saturday afternoon with Clark County Democrats at La Cabana on Sahara Avenue, sharing his vision for supporting working people. He distanced himself from Washington, D.C., opting to tout his record as an executive in a diverse city.
De Blasio highlighted progressive policy pushes in New York, including guaranteed health care for residents.
“And I argue you need a president who knows how to get these things done,” he said. “(I’d be) the first to say the presidency is not the place for on-the-job training.”
He also told the group he supports a $15 an hour minimum wage and wants to create a platform to relieve student loan debt in the U.S.
“If we can bail out big banks, we can bail out everyday people,” he said.
Despite attacking President Donald Trump as a “con,” de Blasio said he does not disparage Trump voters, whom he claims the Democrats lost by becoming too elitist.
He also pushed back on concerns about division in the country, saying he believes there is more that unites people.
De Blasio told reporters after the event that he does not support the use of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository without local consent. The waste, he said, should stay in the sites where it was generated until leaders can determine a long-term solution.
After de Blasio left the event with Clark County Democrats, a heckler shouted at him in the parking lot.
The mayor this month joined a field of more than 20 Democratic candidates vying to take on Trump next year.
He rounded out his first day of campaigning in Las Vegas this weekend by visiting immigrant families at Los Molcajetes on Eastern Avenue.
On Sunday, de Blasio is scheduled to talk to Nevada State Education Association members and attend the Puerto Rican Memorial Day Festival outside the Clark County Government Center.