Since the 1980 Census and the creation of Nevada’s Second Congressional District, 20 Democrats have tried and failed to win one of the geographically largest congressional districts in the nation. However, Patricia Ackerman hopes to be the first Democrat to flip the seat. Representative Mark Amodei has held the office since 2011 and is running for reelection. Ackerman sat down with Sierra Nevada Ally to discuss her motivations for entering politics and experiences on the campaign trail.
Ackerman’s Entry into Politics
Just as Ackerman hopes to overturn the seat, she flipped parties after being “a registered Republican for decades” but she still defined her stance as “quite neutral” and “on the periphery when it came to politics.”
However, after the 2016 election, she sensed that the country was headed in a direction that pushed her to become more involved in politics. She became a “non-stop activist” and claims that the Women’s March that she attended in Los Angeles was a “truly galvanizing force” for her and pushed her to find a way to channel the energy she gained from “being surrounded by 750,000-ish sisters and brothers that went to the women’s march.”
“It’s pretty clear that our current president, and also, to a large extent, our current Congressman, has put forth votes that are detrimental to women. And that’s where I felt the strongest core fight within me was to make sure that I had my voice heard, for the women all across this country in our press, then … the globe who have been discriminated against and marginalized,” Ackerman said in a phone interview.
Assembly District 39 is made up of largely Republican, Lyon, Storey and Douglas counties. Ackerman ran for the seat as a Democrat in 2017 and lost to incumbent Jim Wheeler, but the experience of conducting retail politics in Assembly District 39 as a Democrat led to Ackerman’s candidacy for CD2.
“Community members across northern Nevada started to point their fingers at me,” Ackerman said about the impetus to run for CD2.
After winning the primary, Ackerman is now running against Representative Mark Amodei for the CD2 seat. In a departure from many past races for CD2, the Democratic fundraising establishment has thrown its support behind Ackerman, as ActBlue has made significant contributions to her campaign.
“Raised in the rurales”
Ackerman grew up in rural Pennsylvania, lived in Southern California, and, after retiring, she and her family moved to Minden, where they’ve lived for the past 18 years. Ackerman said that rurales are important to her with many issues of concern, especially access to healthcare. Ackerman’s mother passed away due to a lack of accessibility and affordability of healthcare in rural Nevada.
“She died in my arms … because I couldn’t find a doctor here in local rural Nevada who would accept a new Medicare patient. I had to wait three weeks. And ultimately, she died in that period of time before her appointment. And I heard stories like that over and over and over again from people in [these] nice communities… people repeatedly were going bankrupt or literally accepting the fate of dying prematurely because they couldn’t afford health care.”
Ackerman said the pandemic has made it more difficult to locate these scant resources.
When asked how she would spend a million-dollar grant in Northern Nevada, she said that she’d invest in high-speed or rural broadband Internet to increase accessibility to telehealth for rural residents.
“Mark [Amodei] voted against the funding to expand high-speed Internet. I think that purchasing hotspots for families in the rurals so they will have access to telemedicine, so that children who are now forced to virtual learn” will have access to both better health and educational opportunities.
She also expressed concern for farmers and ranchers who “have been hit very hard“ and find themselves “in the midst of these very damaging and destructive trade wars.”
Black Lives Matter
The pandemic and the murder of George Floyd has given Americans ample time to become more aware of the Black Lives Matter movement and the notion of institutional racism. When asked about what she has learned in the past five months, Ackerman stated that the pandemic has given people an opportunity to “open the eyes of millions of people.”
She anticipates that “we will now finally have the roadmap to healing within this country.” She mentioned that she has studied Tom Steyer’s policy for Reparations which she supports According to Tom Steyer’s website, he supports H.R. 40, a bill sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson a Democrat from Texas.
Ackerman “stand[s] with the very brave women and men who have stood and used their voices for Black Lives Matter. And I think it’s very critical that we make sure that we understand the distinction between those voices who need to be heard, to bend the arc toward justice within racism, and those who are dealing the looting and violence, which is to be condemned.”
When asked if she had spoken with any Black Lives Matter protestors who congregate in Carson City, she said the last one she attended was a few weeks ago.
“It was a beautiful environment. There were children that were on the lawns. It was a very loving, supportive, nourishing, nurturing environment. Contrary to the other side of the street, which had very aggressive, unfortunately, they were Trump supporters who were displaying the aggressiveness. But the Black Lives Matter movement that was on side of the Capitol was an extraordinary experience. And I just see that continuing to, to manifest in a very, very positive, loving way. So yes, we have spoken, we understand that we are aligned with the goals of social justice and racial justice.”
Although Ackerman is a relative newcomer in the world of politics, the pandemic has caused her Congressional campaign to be significantly different than her run for Assembly. When running for the State Assembly, she knocked on over 10,000 doors according to Ackerman, and talked with community members face-to-face about their individual concerns. For this election, they’ve relied on mailers and social media interaction and advertisements, but Ackerman also publishes her personal phone number so she can converse with voters one-on-one.
When asked if she can continue that practice if she is elected, she said she hopes so, but knows that “once I get into office, clearly I will become a very public figure … so staff will take over the overflow of communications.”
For the time being, though, Ackerman is happy to talk with anyone who calls her, regardless of their political affiliation.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people who are calling are very respectful, even if they have differences of opinion, you know, and I get those few who have wanted to be belligerent and aggressive,” Ackerman said. “And, you know, we cut the conversations short. But other than that, people have been terrific about wanting to know my position. So we have good conversations on the phone, which … would most likely be at their doorstep.”
Ackerman is also grateful for the “over 400 volunteers who have signed on to this race.” She’s been “encourage[ed] to see so many people stepping up and getting involved.”
Ackerman’s campaign has kept her busy, taking away much of her leisure time for planting her garden or hiking.
“I am laser focused in on the needs, the desperate needs, the policies that we can put forward when we hit the ground running. And there’s so many people who are hurting that for me right now [that] my focus has to be on winning this seat. So we can help those people who are in desperate need. And it’s just the way that it is. After we win the race, I think I’ll take … probably a week to do yard work and hike. I want to go hike up to the top of Job’s Peak just so I can fully clear my brain and sit up there and meditate. Right now. laser focus.”
Ashley Ingle writes about politics, education and other issues for the Sierra Nevada Ally. Support her work.