Front Line Series: Senator Aaron Ford AG candidate in Nevada

Aaron Ford is running for State Attorney General for Nevada

As the State Senate Majority Leader, Aaron Ford has said of his rough and tumble background, “It’s my history, it’s my story, it’s what makes me who I am…an example of being able to persevere, to continue to fight and strive and never let things get in the way.” His political enemies have been trying to use mistakes he made in his twenties, but for Ford, it’s those life experiences—and rising above them—that led him to where he is today; from growing up in a household that qualified for food stamps to raising a family of his own and being the Majority Leader for the Democratic Party in the Nevada State Senate. Ford spent some time with Majority 60 to talk about restoring power to the people.

The first issue we discussed is the one that is at the forefront in the battle for the heart of the country: Voting Rights. The assault on the Voting Rights Act explains how elections can be kept tight enough for “dirty tricks” to be effective. “Look,” Ford said, “the right to vote is one of the most critical rights that we have as Americans. And frankly, I think it’s important that we protect that right at all costs in our country. We should be making it easier, in my view, for all eligible people to vote and to participate in a democratic process and to make their voices heard. I think the Attorney General’s office is an integral part of protecting that right to vote and enforcing that right to vote against those efforts to undermine it.”

We’re watching a concerted effort across the nation to suppress the vote, even Donald Trump recently fumbled an endorsement of voter ID laws. I asked Leader Ford how State Attorneys General could apply pressure to protect voters from being disenfranchised in this way. “Well, frankly, I think that some of the things that we see going on in our state by state approach to undermine the democratic process of voting are being duplicated in other states and so by joining efforts and sharing notes with other Attorneys General throughout the nation as well as working with like minded Secretaries of State, as we have here in my state, to ensure that both of those tactics that sometimes go unrecognized are indeed recognized and addressed—sometimes through litigation. And so we have to stay vigilant in that regard. And combine our efforts like that.” Ford said, “I also think there’s another opportunity to work with organizations that also support the right to vote like Let America Vote  to see what types of things they’re seeing nationwide that are being replicated throughout the states and joining forces with them to ensure, again, that we can protect this franchise and ensure that all those eligible to vote are given that opportunity and that it’s made easier and more accessible for them.”

The first step to a country for and by the people is definitely to protect everyone’s right to the vote. Coming from a leadership role in one party, it will be important for Ford to establish trust in his new role across the board. “I think that from a Democratic perspective, to be sure as Majority Leader, but as a Democrat it can be perceived as being more partisan and nonpartisan but the truth of the matter is I think that the Constitution in and of itself demands that as Democratic leaders we pursue certain things that protect civil rights whether it relates to the right to vote or any other rights; the right to equality, for example. And I think that that mindset or mentality—that approach to the Constitutional protections—is what I’m taking to the Attorney General’s office. That’s not a Democratic or Republican approach, but it’s an interpretation of the Constitution that was ratified and put into place so as to protect all citizens pursuant to the provisions in the Constitution.”

Ford believes that by taking this lowercase “d” democratic approach to the office he can restore trust. “I view it as an approach that looks at Nevada families and to see how we’re able to protect them both cumulatively as a family but also individually as people who reside in our state.”

Does Ford think that one of the roles of State Attorneys General is to be a check on the federal government? In short; yes. “Being a check on the federal government is paramount importance for the office of Attorney General. Our federalist nature demands that we have states that have Attorneys General who are willing to push back against overreach. And so when it comes to [Mr.] Trump, if his administration is attacking Nevada and its people, I’ll take them on. So whether it’s protecting Nevadans health care or the thousands of dreamers living and working here in Nevada or the 7,000 jobs in the marijuana industry and the millions of dollars that have been generated for our state, I will fight him tooth and nail if he tries to mess with Nevada. You know, I think AG’s are both the first and the last line of defense against the Trump administration and it’s time for Nevadans to have someone who is looking out for our families first.” It’s a very personal fight for Aaron Ford. “I know what it’s like, frankly, to grow up in a neighborhood that isn’t safe. So that’s why I’ll go up to those who seek to harm Nevada families. And again, if that’s coming from a federal government approach, then I will be taking them on.”

Ford speaks from the heart when he describes his motivation to become Nevada’s top prosecutor. “You know, I want to make Nevada a safe place for everyone’s kids to grow up and some of the policies and practices that we hear coming out of the Trump administration are, as I call them, existential. They frighten a lot of people. They make them concerned about their existence. And so at every stage of someone’s life, Nevadans have to be protected. I want to keep our schools and our neighborhoods safe. I want to protect college students from unscrupulous student debt collectors and other items like that. And so when you see Trump’s Education Department undermining those types of protections, I’m going to take them on. I want to be able to combat workplace sexual harassment and protect against wage theft and discrimination. And again, when you see a federal government that seems to have no understanding or appreciation for the needs of those protections then you need an Attorney General like me who’s going to take them on.”

Politics can get in the way of developing efficient strategies to protect vulnerable people. And we’re all vulnerable in one way or another. For trust to develop between the American people and their government, proactive and practical steps need to be taken to demonstrate those motivations and Ford seems to think he has the right policy prescriptions. The post of AG can feel a bit as if it’s in the middle of a minefield when balancing one right over another. After the terrifying mass shooting in Las Vegas shooting last October, I asked him what his approach to gun laws will be.

“I think in view of the fact that, in Nevada specifically, we’ve attempted to address gun safety—and I view it as a gun safety issue—so that’s what I’m going to be able to focus on. We had passed in this state a background check initiative petition that has yet to be enforced in our state because we have an Attorney General and a candidate running to take his place who both say that they cannot ‘implement the bill. It’s something that lies solely within the purview of the governor.’ I will work as Attorney General with anyone, whether the governor, the legislature, or the federal government, anyone out there who wants to implement background check legislation. So that’s how I view it. And I think that that’s one of the ways that we need to be seeing it. That background check initiative has passed in our state and the vast majority of people understand that the Attorney General is supposed to implement and not impede the will of the people. And that’s Democrats, Republicans, independents and not partisans alike.”

It’s impossible not to talk about the predicted “Blue Wave” that all the commentators are talking about and since I’m sure that Ford is confident in his own ability to reach voters, I asked him how important it is for the new AG to have the backing of a Democrat in the governor’s chair.

“I think the view of the Constitution that we have taken here in our state as Democrats, it would be would be great to have it reinforced with a Democratic governor. You know, regardless of your background whether if you’re Black, you’re White, Asian, Hispanic, rich, poor, LGBTQ or straight, you have civil rights in this country, for example, that they have to be protected. And so the importance of having a Democratic governor who understands that fundamental issue there will be very important. And as Nevada’s AG, I’m going to be tasked with protecting the civil rights of all Nevadans and I would love to be able to work in concert with a governor who has that same understanding and appreciation for the fact that all Nevadans deserve to have equal treatment under the law and that that’s the guiding principle for me as AG. It would be great to be aligned with a Democratic governor who has the same sense, and I’ll tell you I believe in Steve.”

Steve Sisolak (left), veteran/constituent (center) and (Aaron Ford). Twitter @AaronDFordNV

Ford adds, “Steve Sisolak is going to be a Democratic governor that reiterates these things through his actions and through the bills that that he supports and that he signs, and that will be a very important team that you see come into existence on Election Day of this year.”

Aaron Ford is ready to be the champion for Nevada families. But his message to voters is that it will take every Nevadan who cares about equal treatment under the law and having a check on a rogue administration to get out there and vote for a team that’s ready to fight for them.

Aaron Ford is a husband, father, former teacher, Majority Leader of NV State Senate & candidate for NV Attorney General. You can follow him @AaronDFordNV