Congressional Newcomer Jacky Rosen Hopes To Unseat Nevada’s Senator Heller

One of the most-watched races during this mid-term election cycle is the battle for the Nevada senate seat currently held by Republican Dean Heller. Looking to unseat the incumbent senator is one-term Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen. The Democrat is a relative newcomer to politics, only joining Congress in January of 2017. But as Nevada turns “purple” and remains a battleground state, Democratic leadership sees Rosen as a political fresh face who just might be able to shift the balance of power in the senate.

Rosen, a 40-year resident of the Las Vegas Valley, made her career as a computer programmer and software developer. She graduated from both the then-Clark County Community College (now College of Southern Nevada) and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is said to have realized the political potential in the relatively-unknown Rosen in the lead up to the 2016 Congressional campaign. That election saw Rosen squeaking out a 1-percentage point victory over a better-known Republican rival Danny Tarkanian.

Can lighting strike twice in two years for Rosen – and her Democratic backers? A lot of money is pouring into Nevada to back both Rosen and Heller. Some $16.9 million has been spent on the Nevada senate race by what the Reno-Gazette Journal defined as “outside political advocacy groups — including funds from dark money organizations that don’t disclose their donors.” The RGJ used data from federal campaign finance data compiled by ProPublica. Rosen was the beneficiary of the funds by a 2-to-1 margin over Heller. In addition, 89 percent of those ads are trashing either Heller or Rosen, while only 11 percent of the ads gave voters a reason to support either candidate.

Unlike some of her more-fiery fellow progressive Democrats, Rosen has mostly stayed away from attacking President Donald Trump. Of late, Rosen’s television ads have mostly just linked Heller to Trump in a cozy way, while also claiming the Republican senator will not go against his party leadership. Meanwhile, Heller’s ads have linked Rosen to Democratic Achilles heels such as minority speaker Nancy Pelosi and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In a late September Las Vegas rally for Heller and other Nevada Republican candidates, Trump told his audience that while Jacky Rosen doesn’t say bad things about him, she nonetheless will vote against his agenda every time. And, in true Trump-like branding, he called Rosen by a nickname: “Wacky Jacky.”

But Rosen’s nonpolitical life is conventional by most measures: Rosen is the former president of Congregation Ner Tamid, the state’s largest synagogue. Born in Chicago, Rosen now lives in Henderson, Nevada. Rosen’s husband Larry is a radiologist. The couple have one daughter, Miranda, who is a college student.

Among the biggest fights between Heller and Rosen is over who supports veterans more, and their stances on Obamacare. In the summer of 2017, Heller voted against a Republican plan to cut the Nevada Medicaid expansion. Later, Heller voted in favor of the so-called “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, which would have eliminated the individual mandate requirement. By contrast, Rosen has supported the ACA as a whole, while promising to “fix” the law known as “Obamacare.”


Vegas Legal Magazine: How would your background and experience, both in Congress and prior to your election, prepare you to possibly take on the responsibilities of a United States senator?

Jacky Rosen: The experiences in my life have shaped my values during my time in office and the type of senator that I’ll be. I worked as a waitress to help put myself through school, and I was the first in my family to graduate college. I became a successful computer programmer in the private sector here in Southern Nevada, a caregiver for my parents and in-laws, and a community leader as the president of Nevada’s largest reform synagogue. I’m proud of my time in Congress and the bipartisan work I’ve done. I’ve been serving on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to support our troops and promote research and technology. I know I have what it takes to serve as Nevada’s next Senator and represent this whole state.

VLM: What do you feel are your biggest accomplishments in public life so far, and what would you like to make happen if you are elected to the United States Senate?

JR: I’m proud of my bipartisan bill to encourage early childhood education in STEM, especially for young girls, which passed the House unanimously earlier this year and I’m working to get it signed into law. I’ve gotten important amendments passed and signed into law through the National Defense Authorization Act as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, dealing with issues from stopping Yucca Mountain to supporting Israeli defense systems. Since joining Congress, I’ve been ranked as one of the most bipartisan freshmen in the House and I’m in the top 10 percent most bipartisan members. I’m a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, where I worked across the aisle to put together a comprehensive framework for rebuilding our infrastructure. I’ve introduced 17 different pieces of legislation, and nearly all of them have a Republican co-sponsor. I’m running for Senate to keep delivering smart solutions for hardworking Nevadans by fighting for better-paying jobs, safer communities, better schools, and affordable health care.

VLM: The political story getting arguably the most news coverage over the summer was the separation of immigrant families while illegally entering the United States at the southern border. You had spoken out in opposition to this separation. What solution would you offer to this problem, while still enforcing the United States’ border laws?

JR: I went to the border in June with a fellow member of Congress to investigate the Trump Administration’s despicable policy that separated thousands of kids from their parents. Hundreds of families still aren’t reunited, and this will cause lasting trauma for these children. I want to see us pass comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform that bolsters border security in smart and reasonable ways while also ensuring we allow people fleeing violence and seeking asylum at the border to come here and contribute to our economy and find a better life.

VLM: This is also on the subject of illegal immigration: With more than half of all Americans recently polled being in favor of enforcing U.S. immigration laws, how do you think this enforcement could be effectively – and humanely – accomplished?

JR: We need comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform that secures our borders, grows our economy, and provides a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are here and contributing to our communities. Immigration enforcement should prioritize targeting bad actors and violent criminals and not tearing apart families trying to make a better life here. President Trump is rolling back our immigration rules – for example, by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations for thousands of other law-abiding immigrants.

VLM: Veterans’ issues have been a hot-button political issue in your race for the United States Senate seat currently being held by your Republican opponent, Dean Heller. Organizations, seemingly in support of Sen Heller, have run ads accusing you of missing a vote on helping Vietnam veterans due to a photo opportunity at the southern U.S. border. How would you compare your support for veterans to Senator Heller’s support for veterans?

JR: These deceptive and dishonest ads are designed to mislead voters, and the attacks have been debunked by independent fact checkers. When I visited the border, I was doing my job – I was on official business with a colleague in my role as a member of Congress who has been proactively working to fix our broken immigration system and end President Trump’s heartless family separation policy. In Congress, I’ve been standing up for Nevada’s veterans and I’ve fought to expand benefits for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. I was an early cosponsor of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, I pushed Speaker Ryan to pass the bill, and I even helped introduce a similar bipartisan bill earlier this year.

Senator Heller puts his party first instead of Nevada families, and that sometimes comes at the expense of veterans and military families – whether it’s his votes to dismantle the Affordable Care Act or his efforts to undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I’m listening to veterans and taking their stories to Washington. That’s why I have fought to improve veteran health care programs, raise the pay of service members, combat veteran homelessness, provide and expand tax credits to businesses that hire veterans, and improve veterans’ access to child care. In the Senate, I’ll keep working to cut red tape and increase accountability at the VA to ensure we honor and fulfill our promises to Nevada’s veterans.

VLM: Senator Heller, President Donald Trump, and many other Republicans have said that — should Democrats gain control of Congress in the midterm elections – the Democrats will try to impeach President Trump. Would you vote for, or support, any impeachment efforts against President Trump?

JR: We are a nation of laws, and no one is above the rule of law. But before anyone makes those judgments, we need to get all the facts and the Special Counsel needs to finish his investigation without political interference. I’ve voted twice to table impeachment efforts in the House and have cosponsored a measure to protect the Special Counsel from interference.

VLM: Student loan debt is a huge, and growing, problem. You have voiced a desire to help reduce student-loan burdens by measures such as reducing government-loan interest rates. How would you go about reducing that rate and what other steps would you take?

JR: As the first in my family to graduate from college, I understand that access to higher education is a critical path to prosperity for regular, hardworking people. I made ends meet to get my undergraduate degree by waiting tables and taking out student loans. Today, students at Nevada universities graduate with an average of $24,000 in student loan debt; this keeps higher education out of reach for far too many.

I support making higher education more affordable, whether it’s through advanced skills-training, apprenticeship programs, community college, or a four-year college degree. In the Senate, I’ll work to lower interest rates on student debt and ensure that young people have access to a quality education that prepares them for jobs in a 21st century economy. In Congress, I’m supporting commonsense efforts to extend the Perkins Loan Program for two years to continue providing low-interest federal student loans for low-income undergraduate and graduate students. I’m also working to allow student loans to be dischargeable during bankruptcy, and I’ve helped introduce and pass bipartisan legislation to expand college assistance for veterans and allow new service members to use their education benefits later in life.

VLM: In ads, you have said you want to “fix the Affordable Care Act.” How would you go about fixing the ACA, or Obamacare, while also reducing the high insurance premiums?

JR: Hardworking families shouldn’t have to choose between paying their rent or putting food on the table and going to the doctor. We need to expand access and bring down costs, and there’s a number of common-sense ways I believe we can do that. First, we need to lower premiums by stabilizing health care markets and funding cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. I’ve also introduced legislation to reduce prescription drug prices for individuals and families by capping out-of-pocket costs, and I’m supporting bipartisan legislation to address Nevada’s doctor shortages by increasing the number of Medicare-supported residency positions. One important way to increase access and competition is creating a public health insurance option. And with Republicans refusing to let up on their crusade to sabotage and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, I’m doing everything I can to preserve the law’s coverage protections for people with pre-existing conditions and fighting to ensure we defend those protections in court in an ongoing federal lawsuit.

VLM: Many Democrats across the country have predicted a “Blue Wave” of Democratic victories this midterm. Do you think that “Blue Wave” will happen? And, will we see a “Blue Wave” in Nevada? Why or why not?

JR: Nevada is a battleground state where races are tight all the way to the finish line, but I’m confident we will flip this Senate seat and win other races up and down the ballot. We are seeing a lot of momentum and energy from people across Nevada who want a Senator who represents them, and not billionaire donors and party leaders in Washington. People in our state are frustrated with Senator Heller’s votes to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, defund Planned Parenthood, and reject bipartisan plans to protect our Dreamers. Nevada Democrats are running a coordinated campaign that is engaging communities in every corner of our state to make sure they register to vote and show up at the ballot box this fall.

VLM: The next presidential election is still two years away – in 2020. But is there any Democratic candidate that you would really like to see run for president in 2020?

JR: Right now, I’m focused on working hard for the people of Nevada and winning this Senate race in a few months. This election is so important, and we need to win in 2018 before we turn our attention to taking back the White House in 2020. But I’m looking forward to our caucus in 2020 and Nevada being back in the spotlight again as the first state in the West in the presidential primary – it’s an opportunity to showcase our amazing state and our rich diversity.

Valerie Miller is an award-winning, Las Vegas Valley-based writer who can be reached at (702) 683-3986 or