On the Record: The policy positions of Democratic House candidate Susie Lee
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: Philanthropist and education advocate Susie Lee, who announced her candidacy for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District on Thursday.
Vouchers and Education Savings Accounts
President Donald Trump proposed putting $250 million toward an Education Innovation and Research program that would award competitive grants that offer scholarships allowing children to attend private schools.
Nevada has something similar to that voucher program — the Education Savings Accounts program — although the Legislature has not funded it.
Lee said she doesn’t support ESAs, which generally are opposed by Democrats.
“I’m for how are we going to promote quality education, public education. I think that’s the foundation for democracy,” she said.
But she expressed support for more educational options to parents.
“Obviously offering choice to parents — choice to all parents, choice to everyone in this community to have access to quality education — that’s really what I stand for and that’s what I’ll work to make sure we have here in Nevada,” she said.
Early Childhood Education
While progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders, and even Nevada Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, have proposed free and universal early childhood education programs, Lee didn’t commit to such a dramatic plan.
But “I have always been a proponent of expanding early childhood education,” she said.
Lee pointed out that she started one of the first after-school programs in Las Vegas for at-risk kids 20 years ago — After School All-Stars. She also leads the board of Communities in Schools, which offers educational programs and “wraparound” services such as food, medical care and counseling in some of Nevada’s neediest schools.
“Early childhood education is one of the most effective interventions to help kids, especially kids living in poverty, prepare to succeed,” she said. “Obviously I am passionate about that issue.”
Lee said she wants to ensure that federal Pell grants — which helped her get through college — are not rolled back. The Trump Administration’s budget proposal didn’t expand the program or index it for inflation, and proposed allowing federal loan programs expire.
“I continue to look at my basic premise — equal opportunity, equal access to opportunity,” she said. “To the extent that Pell grants and federal aid help our most impoverished students have access to education to reach the American Dream, I’m going to be a strong fighter for that and for expanding that.”
But she’s not committing to some more dramatic proposals, such as Sanders’ plan to make public college free. She said she wants to assess where the country is at now on the issue and move toward more affordability.
“These are complicated issues,” she said. “They have fiscal impacts and so I support looking at a solution-based decision-making in this and really deciding how we move toward that.”
Lee said she supports the fight for a $15 minimum wage, but didn’t commit to a specific timeline for bringing it to pass.
“I’m going to go back to my approach of how do we get there, without hurting the very people we’re intending to help. Having that goal but bringing people together, focusing on common-sense solutions that get us to that goal, is what I will move toward.”
Lee said she feels strongly about the Affordable Care Act after watching her uninsured parents struggle with huge medical bills when her mom had a heart attack. They couldn’t get coverage because of preexisting conditions.
“The ACA to me was refreshingly a bipartisan solution to a problem that has been plaguing this country for years,” she said. “But it’s not perfect and I do think that things do need to be done to change it. Premiums are still going up, deductibles are still going up, people have limited choices so that sort of threatens the whole basis of having equal access to quality care.”
Asked about potential improvements, she pointed to efforts such as a diabetes drug-pricing transparency measure proposed by Democratic state Sen. Yvanna Cancela in this spring’s legislative session and highlighted the need to reduce drug costs. She also opposed any effort to repeal Obamacare.
Her criteria for any reform bill? “Does it either protect or expand protections for people with pre-existing conditions? Does it not burden people over the age of 50 and does it protect Medicaid and Medicare and those people who access health care under those systems?” she said.
Universal Health Care
In a candidate forum in late 2015, Lee affirmed that she supported free universal health care for all.
But she took a more cautious approach in a Sept. 13 interview and didn’t commit to supporting a Medicare for All bill backed by Sanders. The measure has essentially no chance in the current Republican-controlled Congress, and it has divided Democrats.
“This is sort of what’s frustrating to many people about Washington and why Washington is so broken and not producing results for families — because we’re forcing people to be in one camp or another on an issue that is clearly, clearly complicated,” she said. “And there’s many options on the line. You have this bill, there’s probably five or six bills floating out there with options to do it. I think that the type of approach I take to anything is let’s find the path we want to go to, bring people together and produce a solution that has an impact on people’s lives.”
“I’m a supporter of the DREAM Act for sure. And I think what we have done to our DACA children in this country — almost a million people — is unconscionable,” Lee said, referring to the Trump Administration’s decision to stop renewing work permits in six months for young people brought to the country illegally as children. “We asked you to trust us and now we’re pulling that rug out from under you. So I think it’s incredibly important that we see a DREAM Act passed and hopefully it will be done in the near future.”
She wants to see comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship but said she also wants to “do as much as we possibly can to secure our borders as well.”
Iran Nuclear Deal
Lee said at a 2016 candidate forum that she would have opposed the Iran nuclear deal but would enforce its provisions if elected to Congress.
“I feel that Iran is a destabilizer in the region and an exporter of terrorism,” she said. “I’m not for repealing the deal, but I had grave concerns.”
That position put her at odds with Kihuen, who said he was an early supporter of the deal.
Lee didn’t directly answer how she felt about the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership in a 2016 candidate forum.
Asked about the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and TPP in a Sept. 13 interview, she said she supports “expanding trade but also making sure we have the protections of the environment and the workers internationally,” as well as “helping our country create not only good-paying jobs but good-paying careers.”
Lee said at a 2016 candidate forum that she supports campaign finance reform that would include immediate contribution reporting and more transparency.