On the Record: Democratic congressional candidate John Anzalone
It happens like clockwork.
Candidates announce their bids for office. Then the attack ads follow in short order, unabashedly targeting their voting records and more.
We’re here to help. The Nevada Independent already produces fact-checks for political advertisements and off-the-cuff remarks, but we also want to get ahead of the campaign game.
When politicians announce their candidacy for public office, we’ll roll out “On the Record” — our look at their voting history and stances on a broad array of subjects.
Now up: Democratic congressional candidate John Anzalone, the principal at Sierra Vista High School who announced his candidacy in December. Issues are in alphabetical order.
Anzalone, who is pro-choice, says his position is informed by his and his wife’s struggle with infertility.
“Because I have always had that struggle, you know, abortion to me is a very personal choice,” he said. “I would never feel like the government should get involved in that because I know how personal of a situation having a baby is and how difficult really, what a miracle it really is.”
Asked about whether he’d support repealing the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funds from paying for abortions, he reiterated support for Planned Parenthood.
“I would never want to hurt Planned Parenthood because not only do we need Planned Parenthood here in Las Vegas, but I’m an advocate for Planned Parenthood in the rurals because to be honest, that’s about all a lot of the small towns have,” he said. “So anything that’s going to hurt Planned Parenthood, I would be fully against.”
“We need to find a way to make community college free,” he said. “I think that that would make me so proud if we can make Nevada a free community college, College of Southern Nevada state. The states that have already instituted that have seen not only a jump in college admissions but also a more diverse population, and I think that’s what our economy needs. So I would work on that right off the bat.”
While he says the Nevada Promise Scholarship instituted by the Legislature “is a great start,” he said students are running into problems meeting the scholarship’s requirement of 20 hours of community service. The award is a “last dollar” scholarship, paying the remainder of community college tuition costs after students have already sought Pell grants and other government aid.
“It’s a lot of hours, and not only that, it’s a lot of manpower to actually go through that,” he said. “Our counselors already are so inundated. Now we’ve put that on their plates as well, and just siphoning through all of that has been very challenging. But I think it’s a great start, but I think we can do more.”
He also believes high schools have overemphasized college at the expense of pushing other options such as trade schools.
“First of all, we need to work with the state to increase the amount of funding for people for [career and technical education],” he said. “Right now, it’s about $20 to $22 per student, for every student enrolled. I think we need to increase that because it’s barely scratching the surface.”
He thinks much of the problem has to do with how technical jobs are perceived.
“I would love to bring auto shop back. The problem is parents are still feeling that that’s a very grease monkey job, and I think we can all agree on it’s a very computer based job now, which is very lucrative,” he said. “Educating our community that some of these jobs have actually transformed into more of the white collar market would hopefully generate more interest from the students.”
Principals should also be heeding the advice they get from the state about what jobs are most in demand.
“I think a lot of principals kind of do what they think is important rather than what the surveys and what the data is really showing us,” he said. “For instance, everybody wants a culinary program. Well the data will show that that market’s very saturated right now. And so we may not really need to open up additional culinary programs. We really need to be looking more at IT, coding, you know, we need to look closer at marketing and business programs. But culinary just is that attractive one.”
Anzalone believes in a ban on “after-market” products that make widely available guns more deadly, and said he hasn’t met anyone on the campaign trail that disagrees with that. He thinks the fix could easily be brought to pass at the federal level.
The dicier issue, he said, is about a full ban on assault weapons.
“My concern is what do we do with current owners of those weapons?” he said. “I don’t want to put our U.S. Marshals, our National Guard in jeopardy of going into people’s homes to take those away, but I would be in favor of looking at tighter gun control on those weapons that are considered … war machines.”
Although he said he wants to ensure he’s protecting people’s 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, he believes there’s an overabundance of guns in the country. How to address that is the question.
“If we go too strong on bans or buy-backs or giving people the feeling that we’re taking guns away, I feel like we’re going to have citizens going into an unrest,” he said. “I worry that the black market will explode because people by nature want what they can’t have. So again, I think we need to just be cautious, but use common sense.”
At a recent candidate forum, Anzalone wasn’t ready to commit to supporting a Medicare for All program.
“I believe that we’re probably going towards that. I definitely believe that everyone should have access to affordable health care,” he said. “I think that we may be gearing towards a Medicare for All, but I also want to be realistic as a freshman congressman. You know, I’d rather start off by fixing some of the holes in the Affordable Care Act. I’d rather start off by repairing some of the, you know, areas of need before we go directly to Medicare for All because one thing that I’m hearing out in the field, especially in our rurals is that Medicare isn’t exactly a perfect program in itself.”
He said he could see himself signing onto a single-payer bill, but only after getting a feel for how his constituents feel about it.
“As a principal, I rarely make a big decision that’s going to impact my kids and my families before running it by the stakeholders,” he said. “So I think before I signed off on it, I want to make sure that the stakeholders get a feel for it first because they’re the ones who ultimately elected me.”
Anzalone said he supports decriminalization of marijuana “100 percent.”
“We have people that are serving time in prison that have no business being in prison. We have schools that are suffering because we have not been able to obtain the money from marijuana sales,” he said. “There’s a market there that we are desperately in need of, and until it’s federally allowable and legal, we’re going to keep running into stumbling blocks.”
In particular, he raised concerns that the federal ban on marijuana has made it impossible for cannabis businesses to use banks.
“I’ve talked to owners who have been carjacked, they’ve been mugged. They’re trying to keep the cash in locked drawers and safes,” he said. “To me, we’re actually putting our citizens in harm’s way by not decriminalizing it. And so at the end of the day, whether you agree with marijuana or the recreational use or the medical use, whether you agree or not, I think we all would agree that we want to keep our constituents and our citizens safe.”
He said he feels the laws about drugs have led to over-incarceration and racial discrimination, and that he sees the effects among minority students.
“They’re going from a school that is an unequal playing field into a society that has an unequal playing field, and absolutely I think the war on drugs perpetuated that,” he said.
Anzalone said he worked closely with Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in 2011 and 2012 trying to move immigration reform forward. He estimates he had about 400 DREAMers in his student body when he was principal of El Dorado High School.
“That’s probably one of my biggest priorities is making sure that DACA is passed,” he said. “I have had students come to me in desperate need of an education and support and, you know, just wanting to live that American dream.”
He said it breaks his heart to have some students wondering whether someone might come into their classroom and deport them to a country they don’t know.
“How can a teenager who already has a million things going on in their minds struggling with just being a teenager, the stresses of social media, the pressures of college,” he said, “and on top of it not even knowing if they’re going to be sent to a place that they know nothing about? That to me is worth fighting for just by itself.”
As for the 11 million or so immigrants in the country illegally, Anzalone believes many deserve a path to citizenship after paying appropriate fines. He also wants to see resources used to make a path to legal status streamlined and expedited, instead of using money on a border wall.
“I think people for the most part are good people who have come here to live that American dream, to find that American dream,” he said. “And have there been some that have taken advantage of that, taken it for granted? Absolutely. And I think we need to find a way to make sure that they’re, you know, removed. However, I think the vast majority we need to wrap our arms around, and just like all of us in this room, we all came from immigrants.”
“I absolutely believe in the fight for $15 and that a minimum wage should be $15 an hour, but I also believe that is only a minimum wage,” Anzalone said. “I think that that’s a good starting point, but we should still, you know, encourage our families, encourage our workers to want more and become more trained, become more educated and not settle for that.”
He believes the wage should immediately be raised to $15, rather than implementing a ramp-up period. But he thinks there should be a carve-out allowing new businesses pay less than that wage for a period of time, perhaps a year.
“That’s the difference, I think, between a very left wing Democrat and more of a moderate Democrat,” he said. “I think there needs to be some timeframe for new startup businesses to get there, possibly a year because, again, I wouldn’t want to be in the business of shutting people down.”
“I am a huge advocate of rurals,” he said. “I travel through all of Northern Nevada, Gold Butte specifically, and I will tell you right now, those lands need to stay federally owned, they need to stay protected and I just don’t believe that we should be building upon those lands or even considering it.”
He worries about what would happen to Nevada’s natural beauty should large tracts of federally managed land be turned over to the state.
“If we turn those lands over to the state, I’m very, very concerned that ... that land would be abused and that worries me,” he said.
Anzalone doesn’t support storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.
“As someone who was essentially raised here in Nevada, whether scientists will tell you that it would be fine for the time being, we need to look to the future, right?” he said. “And my worry is what happens after 50 years? What happens after 100 years? Should I just say, ‘Well I’m not going to be around, so I don’t care?' I think that if we allow this to happen, then we’re basically being selfish. We’re basically putting a band aid on a problem, but eventually that band aid is potentially going to burst open.”
As for Yucca Mountain’s promise of economic development — a reason why many near the proposed site are open to it — Anzalone said he wants to work with rural communities to seek other options for revitalizing their economies.
“If we all sit at the table and they really do have a representative who truly will invest time, energy and money into those worlds, I think we can convince those residents that there are other ways to rebuild those economies that we don’t just have to do it that way,” he said.