This week on Face the State, Arianna Bennett interviewed republican candidate, Joe Heck and democratic candidate, Catherine Cortez Masto who are running to fill the senate seat that will be vacated after Harry Reid decided not to run. Read the full transcript below or watch the interview in the video player.
Arianna Bennett: Welcome to Face the State, I'm Arianna Bennett. Thank you for joining us. The eyes of the country will be watching the election results for senate here in Nevada with a heated race between former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto and congressman Joe Heck. And we will begin this coverage with Dr. Joe Heck. Congressman, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Dr. Joe Heck: Thanks for having me.
Okay so tell me generally why you decided to run for the senate position.
Well over the last six years that I've been in congress I've been able to work in a bipartisan way to get bills that address the issues that we address here in the state. And so here's an opportunity now to leverage that experience and bring it over to the senate and try to take care of not just the people that live within my congressional district but work on behalf of all Nevadans.
Yeah that leads me to my next question. You do represent congressional district 3 which is in southern Nevada. How specifically would you work to represent northern Nevada as well?
Well we've spent the last 18 months traveling all around the state as we've campaigned for this office, learning more about the issues specific to rural and northern Nevada. and I previously served in the state senate and while I was there I served on the natural resources committee which deals with a lot of issues that are unique to northern Nevada. And so it's a matter of building relationships with individuals all across the state, letting them know why I would be the best person to represent them as their next US senator based on the issues that are important to them. Then keeping that dialogue open and making sure that we have a presence all across the state so that we truly do represent everyone that is all across Nevada.
Okay now this is a question that's been chasing you around this campaign, you originally had endorsed Donald Trump for president then you rescinded that endorsement and since then you've taken a hit in the polls. What is your message to voters who are concerned about that change in your endorsement?
Well we are focused on the state-on the senate race right and we wanted to make sure that we are the next US senator from the state of Nevada and that's what we talk to people about as we've traveled around the state both before and after that announcement. And letting them know that based on the issues that are important to them, whether it's jobs and the economy, national security, health care, or education that I have real world experience in every one of those areas having worked in each one of those areas. And so I believe that I'm the best person to represent them because those are the issues that are most important to them as we've learned from traveling around the state.
But for those who are adamantly for Donald Trump and maybe would've voted republican in the down ballot races because of that, is that a concern for you?
We've been traveling around the state ever since the announcement certainly up here in the north and throughout rural Nevada talking to voters, we still get a great response everywhere we go because people-people are tired of the gridlock that they've seen in the senate. They’re tired of the obstructionism. They want something done to address the critical problems and concerns that they have. And when talking to them about the success that I've had in the House and wanting to leverage that on behalf of all Nevadans in the senate they understand the critical importance of making sure they have somebody who has real world experience representing them.
Okay, now you haven't come out and said who you will be voting for, so who's it going to be?
Well I'm undecided. I'll wait until election day. I always vote on election day. My family and I go as a group, we don't vote early. But I'm not going to vote for Hillary Clinton I will say that.
So it could be third party?
Well we'll wait and see what happens on election day.
Okay. Now you're a physician and at the debate you mentioned that when it comes to healthcare what you would most like to do is repeal, repair and replace the Affordable Care Act. So specifically what parts of that would you like to keep and what parts would you change?
Great question, so you know the consumer protection piece of it is critically important. The things that say you can't get dropped from your policy the day after you get sick, or you can't be non-renewed because now you reached an age where the insurer thinks you're too old and too much of a risk, or no family should ever hear that they've reached their lifetime cap at the point where one of their family members is about to undergo a procedure. So those consumer protections are critically important and we have to keep those. The piece that I would like to get rid of is the idea that you have to buy a policy that has the minimum benefits as approved by the government from a insurer that's approved by the government and if you don't do so you're going to be fined or taxed on your income tax. I'd much rather incentivize people to buy a policy that works for them and their families and have the coverages that they want. And so instead of a penalty let's give individuals a tax credit much like we do employers who provide health insurance. This way they can purchase an individual policy for them and their families that's truly portable, can go with them wherever they go if they change jobs, and get that same tax credit in order to be able to afford that policy. Coupled with that you need to be able to expand the use of health savings accounts to help cover the out of pocket expenses that they will incur. It's more about increasing access to healthcare for me than it is about increasing access to health insurance. Because what we've seen in the healthcare law is that while some people may have gotten a health insurance card it still doesn't allow them to go see a healthcare professional or the have incredible deductibles that they still cannot afford. And so during my time in the house I've worked on those pieces of legislation that will make health insurance more affordable and make healthcare more accessible.
Do you see it as an issue if under that system people opted out of getting insurance to begin with. Do you think being uninsured is a problem as a doctor?
Well it certainly is a problem. and that's why you want to make sure that people have the opportunity to get a policy that works for them and their families and doing that through a tax incentive I believe is a better way than saying, 'you've got to buy at least this much policy of we're going to fine you," 'cause what we have found is there's still 20 million people that have opted not to buy the policy as approved by the Affordable Care Act and are paying the fine.
Okay. Now we have seen really unprecedented gridlock in Washington and know I can speak on behalf of Nevadans and probably people across the country that it is-it is frustrating to see and I think a lot of them see it as politicians putting party over country. So should you be elected to the senate, are you comfortable making the promise that you would maybe cross party lines, go across the aisle, to make bipartisan deals?
Sure well look you know my professional career has been as an emergency department physicians where you have to work as a team. I've served in the military where I've commanded troops, you've got to be able to work as a team. And that's what I've been able to do in the house of representatives. So I've had seven pieces of legislation that have been passed in a divided congress and signed into law by a democratic president. And how did I do that? It's because when I identify a problem specific to my district or the state I realize that there must be somebody in the other side of the aisle that has that same problem and so I go and seek that person out. And I get them to work with me and we work together to bring both sides to a-a compromise or a solution that benefits everyone. And so everyone of the pieces of legislation I've had passed out of the house passed near unanimously. I've been voted as the 29th most bipartisan member of the house of representatives by the Georgetown School of Public Policy because of my willingness to work across party lines to actually get things done.
Now if Hillary Clinton wins, many people in the republican leadership have been saying they'll block anything she tries to put through. What's your thought on that?
Look, I'm willing to work with anybody who's got a good idea to move this country and this state forward. Right? Likewise I'm also willing to block bad ideas that I believe will not move this country or this state forward. So for me again based on my track record in the house it's not a partisan issue it's about identifying a problem, developing a solution, and then getting that solution implemented.
Okay the senate has been refusing to hold hearings for supreme court nominees from President Obama. What's your opinion on that?
Well I thought that was a mistake and I said that originally. I think that at the very least you know a confirmation hearing could be held whether or not a vote was scheduled after that would depend on the outcomes of the hearing.
Okay so if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency and she nominates someone for the supreme court you can promise to vote for hearings?
Well certainly I would expect there to be at least a hearing on a nominee.
All right. If elected, what are your top three legislative priorities?
So it's continue to set the conditions to increase economic growth so we get more, better paying jobs here in Nevada which has been one of my focuses while in the house, concentrate obviously on healthcare policy quite a bit, again trying to make sure that we have an opportunity for people to get access to quality affordable healthcare, not just insurance. And international security and defense issues is another area that I spent a great deal of time on. I served on the armed services committee and I chair the sub committee on military personnel and so making sure that our men and women in uniform have the tools, the resources they need to do the job that we ask them to do and that we're taking care of their families.
All right. Bringing it back to Nevada now we've got some really important issues on the ballot, ballot questions that people are going to be deciding on, so I want to go through these and just get an idea of where you stand on the issues.
So question one is proposing universal background checks for gun sales, where do you stand on that?
I'm against Question 1 because I believe it will not do anything to actually keep guns out of the hands of people who wish to do us harm. There are other ways that we need to address that issue first plus the language is somewhat unclear about when you can actually loan a gun to somebody if you are out at a gun range so I think it will only criminalize law abiding citizens and I'd much rather concentrate on other ways that have a demonstrated track record of keeping guns out of the hands of those that wish to do harm.
All right Question 2 is recreational marijuana. I know you've come out against this so can you explain your position?
Sure. So I-I just from a public safety perspective the last thing we need is another legal intoxicant for people to be operating motor vehicles under. Having worked in hospital emergency departments for over 20 years I've seen the scourge of drug abuse and I think that while I support medical marijuana when prescribed by a physician, moving to legalize recreational marijuana would put us in a very bad position especially based on what we've seen coming out of Colorado where now edible marijuana type products that are ten times as potent as inhaled marijuana are finding their way onto elementary school grounds.
Okay. And Question 3 is energy deregulation, taking away the monopoly from NV Energy. Where do you stand on that?
I think we should deregulate. I think I'm a supporter of free markets and competition is a good thing.
Okay. What about here in Washoe County we are going to have to decide whether to raise the sales tax to build schools, where do you stand on that?
Well that's obviously a question to be decided by the folks here in Washoe County. You know we've had tax ballot questions in southern Nevada as well for the more cops. You known I'm not that versed on the issue up here in Washoe county as to the impact on schools. Certainly I support increased funding for schools, the question is how do you get that funding? Right we want to make sure schools have the resources necessary to provide a quality education for every student.
Okay. Similarly down in southern Nevada there's going to be an increase in the room tax in order to build an NFL stadium. Where did you stand on that?
Well I didn't take a position on that because while I would like to see a football stadium and a pro team come to southern Nevada, I think it would be a great boost for our economy, that's a question that needed to be decided by the state and local elected officials and they both at the county commission and the state legislature made that decision and decided to raise that tax so now hopefully we'll see a stadium constructed which will bring about 10-thousand good paying jobs to southern Nevada. And then we'll see a pro football team here that'll help boost our economy.
All right, we've got a couple of minutes left which is a fair amount of time. You know you're fairly well known in southern Nevada as a representative down there but to northern Nevadans who are maybe undecided voters what's your message to them, what do you want them to know about you and what kind of senator you'd be?
Well as we've traveled around the state and learned about the issues that are most important to Nevadans regardless whether they're from south, north, or rural I have the real world experience necessary to tackle those tough issues. It's not from theory, it's not from reading a book, it's not from talking points. It's as a physician having worked in the healthcare sector. As creating jobs, having owned my own company and actually put people on a payroll. From serving in uniform and doing tours overseas. From having children that have gone through the public education system actually from K through 12 and even post secondary all three of them here in the state of Nevada. I understand the issues that are of concern to Nevadans. And so I have that real world experience to tackle those issues and my proven record of success in the house will allow me to leverage that and be successful for all Nevadans all across the state as their next US Senator.
Okay. Congressman, thank you so much for your time -
(overlapping) Thank you.
- I sure appreciate it.
Well coming up on Face the State we will sit down with democratic candidate for senate, Catherine Cortez Masto. Stay with us.
Arianna Bennett: Welcome back to Face the State, I'm Arianna Bennett. Thank you for being with us. Well we continue our look at the race for Harry Reid's senate seat her in Nevada between Congressman Joe Heck and former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto. I'm here now with Catherine Cortez Masto, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Catherine Cortez Masto: Thank you for the invitation.
So to start us off, tell me generally why you decided to run for this office?
It's a great question and it's something for me, I was born and raised in this state and was fortunate enough to be the attorney general for 8 years and during that time really made an issue fighting for families, making sure that we were tearing down barriers, there's working families that are still struggling, and for me now it's time to take that fight to Washington because I don't know about you but I am tired of all the partisan bickering. I'm tired of the gridlock. I think there's-we should start solving problems in this country, that's always how I've operated, particularly as attorney general, and we need to start solving problems and finding solutions to the issues that I know that families are dealing with every day here in Nevada.
Now a lot of people see you as Harry Reid's handpicked successor and he is a bit of a polarizing force here in Nevada so how do you distinguish yourself from the legend that is Harry Reid?
Well I think it's pretty simple, being born and raised here, went to cl-went to school here at UNR and graduated and then was fortunate enough to be the attorney general for 8 years which was being elected statewide twice before right? And lived here in Reno while I was attorney general for 7 years. And you know it's just getting out and talking to people. I think for me nobody's going to win this race but me, you know. I've got to get out and talk about the issues, make sure I'm connecting with people across the state about what's happening in their lives, what we're going to fight for in Washington, and I'm excited about it. You know I made that decision to run for the US Senate like I did for Attorney General and like I did when I took on the big banks and sex traffickers that are in our state and I'm gonna continue to fight for families and small businesses and ensure that we're tearing down those barriers. I think everybody wants an opportunity to succeed and they should have so and have a voice in Washington who's going to fight for them.
So do you and Senator Reid agree on all issues? Or do you differ from him in areas?
Oh there's going to be clearly places where we differ, there's no doubt about it. There are issues that we differ on and on a national level but again for me it's gonna be fighting for families. And the other thing that is gonna be different is I'll be the first Latina ever elected to the United States senate. And bringing different issues that I think are important, that I hear from people every day like passing comprehensive immigration reform; like fighting for our education system. I'm the product of the public education system here in the state of Nevada. I think we can do a better job, you know that here in Washoe what we're talking about when fighting for our kids and making sure they have a world class education.
Okay. So if elected what would be your top 3 legislative priorities?
Great. What-what I've just talked about. It should be growing the economy - right, jobs. I know that talking with working families that paycheck doesn't go as far as it used to. We are moving in the right direction in this state but at one point in time we had the highest unemployment. We had people losing their homes to big banks who were taking advantage of them and now it's about jobs. It's giving them economic security. It is about increasing that minimum wage, equal pay for equal work. It's about an education system not only for our kids that they can access K-12 right we're at what regardless of the zip code they come from but it's also addressing the exorbitant debt we see now that kids that want to get a college education are dealing with. I don't think you should have to mortgage your future just to get that college degree. And passing comprehensive immigration reform is another issue for me that's just as important.
You know another concern on the other side of the aisle is increasing taxes on people in order to pay for a lot of these programs. Where do you stand in terms of-of our tax system? Do you believe it needs to be reformed?
Well I think it-listen I've been around this state talking that about actually giving tax breaks to middle class families. I think we should give them a thousand dollar tax break and let them keep more of their hard earned money. And how we pay for it is we don't give tax breaks to big corporations that ship jobs overseas, that we don't give unnecessary subsidies to big oil and we pass something like the Warren Buffet rule where a millionaire, billionaire isn't in a-a lower tax bracket than their administrative assistant. There's a lot of common sense things that we can do and really focus on how we help people get into the middle class and working families. And I think that requires that bipartisan kind of problem solving, working together. And I don't think there's anything wrong with working across a partisan divide. I did that as attorney general. I was in a unique position to be able to introduce legislation and I introduced over 40 bills that passed out of our legislature with the support of democrats and republicans. And to me that's how you get things done.
Now speaking of bipartisanship, the American public overall and I know Nevadans are very frustrated with the gridlock in Washington but when push comes to shove we often see elected representatives voting along party lines and I'm sure it's very difficult to break from your party on issues. So can you make a promise to voters that you would be willing to break with party lines to put country over party?
Absolutely and I think that's what we should be doing. And I-I agree with the frustration. I think for me and many others across this state we've seen it, we've seen where individuals like my opponent has put party interests above the best interests of the people and the families here in the state of Nevada and that's not what this is about. For me it's not my voice I'm taking to Washington it's all of our voices and for me to be able to do that it's-it is really talking to families, talking to small businesses, making sure we're having conversations about things that are impacting them and how we work together. I had an opportunity to sit down with some small businesses here in Reno. You know and they're struggling. They want to keep their doors open but they don't get the tax breaks that the big corporations get. They're hiring people right here and creating jobs here. This is where they're headquartered. There's business here that hires the disabled and they don't get any extra benefits that some of these big corporations get. We should be looking at how we sure up the small businesses in our communities. They're the back bone of the economy. There's 230 thousand of them here in Nevada. Those are the things that I'm interested in fighting for.
Okay. I want to get n idea of where you'd stand on this issue: supreme court nominations. The Senate is refusing to give a hearing to President Obama's nomination right now. Should Donald Trump get elected president, puts forth a nomination, do you see the Democratic Party doing the same thing? Refusing to have hearings? Refusing to accept anyone who he puts forward? And where would you stand on that?
Well first of all, Donald Trump's not gonna win. But there is a system in place that is already set up that the-the Senate is required to hold hearings. And the challenge we have and rightfully so that many people are frustrated with is that there's the republicans who are a majority of the US Senate are refusing to even have a hearing. They can have a hearing and decide whether they're going to support the President's nominee or not and they're refusing to even do so. And when I talk to voters about it and people even bring the subject up to me, they question well if I didn't do my job I would get fired so why do the republicans get to forestall that and prevent a supreme court nominee from even having a hearing? That's part of the problem and that's part of the gridlock I'm talking about. They're putting partisan politics above everything else. That's got to stop.
So hypothetically, I know you say Trump's not going to win, but hypothetically if he did you can say that you would move forward with hearings should he make a nomination?
(overlapping) I think we should always move forward with hearings, no doubt. I think the US Senate should be doing it's job.
Okay. Coming back here a little bit more locally we've got some pretty important ballot questions on the November ballot this time around so I want to get an idea of where you stand on them. Question 1 is about expanding background checks here in Nevada for gun sales. I know that many elected law enforcement officials, sheriffs, have come out against this. You’ve done a lot of work with law enforcement, so where do you stand on background checks?
Well a couple things, one, I'm very honored to have the support of law enforcement statewide. They've endorsed me in this US Senate race over my opponent. And this is a conversation I've had with law enforcement and listen, my husband is a retired secret service agent, he is law enforcement, we own guns and I grew up in the state of Nevada with a father and uncles and aunts and cousins who are hunters and we all have this conversation and I've had it with people across the state, we get it. Responsible gun owners who get the idea of reducing gun violence in this state and by supporting Question 1 we can have a common sense approach to reduce gun violence by expanding the background checks, closing those private gun show loopholes, and preventing people from buying guns over the internet without a background check because I don't think people that are terrorists, that are criminals, that have mental illness or a domestic battery should be able to access guns without a background check. It's common sense. It reduces violence. And at the same time there are many responsible gun owners I know across the state who get it and that's the first step. We’ve seen unfortunately the crime that's happening in our community as a result of guns and listen I was an attorney general who chaired domestic violence prevention council in this state and one of the areas we led in this country at one point in time was the number of women who were murdered per capita as a result of domestic violence and the majority of that was from hand guns. So we have to work as a community and then as a country to reduce that gun violence and supporting Question 1 is a common sense approach to doing so.
Okay, quickly because we don't have a ton of time left, Question 2 recreational marijuana you've come out against it, can you briefly tell us why?
Sure because I right now I think the train's on the track, I think it's going to pass at some point in time but we don't have a structure that's set up. We just put an infrastructure in place to handle the medical marijuana. I have concerns particularly about the lack of banking in this whether it's medical marijuana establishments or legal recreational medical marijuana. There are no banking system in place because it's illegal at the federal level. I have concerns about money laundering and more crime that follows that cash. I have concerns about driving under the influence and not giving more resources to law enforcement if we have more impaired driving on the-on the roads so for me we should be working towards addressing at a federal level, decriminalizing the laws, putting a banking system in place that will accept the medical marijuana establishments as la- as well as the legal marijuana establishments. That's something that I'll be fighting for in the United States Senate.
Okay. On your platform you've listed the expansion of clean energy as one of the things you're standing for. Question 3 on the ballot would eliminate the energy monopoly in Nevada. Where do you stand on Question 3?
(overlapping) Deregulation - I'm actually still looking at that. Here's my concerns between the two. I am absolutely supportive of vesting in green technology in this state and we are primed for solar, we can create jobs, we've got geothermal up here, we've got wind. We can not only create jobs we can have a positive impact on climate change which I do believe is happening. But at the same time I know that deregulation could open up for more investments but I'm also concerned about the high rates that it might have an impact on rate payers here and their rates would increase. So I'm actually still doing my research on that to decide how I'm gonna vote.
Okay well we have a little bit less than a minute left so for those who weren't familiar with you, undecided voters, what's your final message? What do you want them to know about you?
Thank you, no please do your homework. I have worked hard in this state which is my home state to make sure that I'm always giving back. I learned that from my parents, my grandfather is from Chihuahua, Mexico, brought his young family here. My parents worked hard, middle class family, and for me it was ensuring that we were always giving back to the community. I will continue to fight for Nevada and be their voice and I think it's time that we have a-a bipartisan problem solver that's focusing on Nevada.
Okay, thank you so much for your time -
(overlapping) Thank you.
- I sure appreciate it.
Appreciate it, thank you.
Well that is it for this episode of Face the State but for more information on all of this or to see past episodes, just can head to our website KTVN.com. Thank you for being with us. We'll see you next week.