Four Democratic candidates are vying for the open Assembly District 20 seat in the primary, after four-term incumbent Ellen Spiegel decided to make a run for state Senate.
David Orentlicher, a physician and attorney who also teaches heath law at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law, said he chose to run to improve the health policies in Nevada.
“Right now, we have critical issues to address in our health care system,” Orentlicher said. “We need to better protect the public health during pandemic outbreaks, and we need to make health care more accessible and affordable.”
Emily Smith was focused on improving health care and education systems when she first filed, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed her priorities.
“The ongoing pandemic has shifted my attention to the economy, and the decisions that will lead us to a full recovery,” Smith said. “We need to make sure businesses reopen, our state returns to full employment, and the health care and social service systems that have been devastated return better prepared to serve the community in a time of need.”
With the 2021 legislative session slated to be a tough one due to the economic impact of the pandemic, candidate Michael McAuliffe thinks it’s time to revisit the state’s mining tax.
“I would work with the governor (Steve Sisolak) to bring this issue back in front of the voters,” McAuliffe said. “While it failed by less than half a point in 2014, I believe that the public today would strongly support the concept of using Nevada’s wealth for Nevadans’ health. While the mining industry will no doubt be opposed to this idea, we can mitigate this by simultaneously lobbying the federal government to release some of the 7/8ths of Nevada they control for mining development.”
The fourth candidate, Zachary Logan, didn’t respond to multiple attempts to reach him for comment.
Smith said living in the district since 1993 sets her apart from the other candidates in the race.
“My personal and professional background give me the benefit of seeing our community through many points of view. My kids grew up attending public school in this neighborhood, my husband is retired and has lived in this district since the 60s,” Smith said.
“I have a long history of service to my community, leading nonprofits and representing children and individuals with disabilities. I would tackle my work as a legislator much like I do my work as a nonprofit leader— you have to listen to your constituents, understand what their needs are, and figure out how to address the root causes of concern (not just the symptoms).”
With previous experience in politics in Indiana, Orentlicher said his knowledge of handling a budget makes him the right candidate, especially during a time of economic uncertainty.
“In Indiana, I served on the House Ways and Means Committee, so I have a strong understanding of the budget-writing process,” Orentlicher said. “In addition, my background in medicine and law has prepared me well to take on the health policy challenges that we face. I’ve spent my career working on health policy, including on the package of policy proposals that eventually became the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. I am ready to work hard to find solutions for the challenges Nevadans face.”
As Nevada’s population becomes increasingly urban, McAuliffe said the state needs to establish larger social safety nets, as the conservatism and rugged individualism of the American West worked fine when Nevada was admitted to the Union during the Civil War, but needs to be updated now.
“We all like good roads, so we must pay to maintain them. We all like our fresh fruit, but if we Americans don’t want to pick and pack it, then we must address our need for immigrant workers,” McAuliffe said. “We say that we value and respect our women, so we must pay them equally and acknowledge their right to control their own body. We all want to live long and prosper, so we must address our communal health and fiscal security needs. Some people call this socialism, I call it common sense.”