By Marty Bachman
Nevada’s Third District U.S. Congressman, Dr. Joe Heck, who is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in the June 14 Primary race, made campaign stops and held town hall meetings in both Ely and Eureka last Friday, to meet with local voters and share with them his campaign goals. Should Heck win the nomination, he will face the Democratic nominee to take over long-time U.S. Senator Harry Reid’s seat in the November General Election. Reid announced his retirement, after serving five terms, in March of this year.
Heck’s resume includes serving as a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserves, three deployments including one to Iraq, and working as an emergency room physician in Las Vegas before his election to Congress. Heck has also been a volunteer firefighter, ambulance attendant, search & rescue team member and SWAT physician.
Heck told the audience that he had always thought he would be a teacher, and it was a career he pursued prior to entering into the emergency medical field.
“It was less stressful,” he joked about the switch to emergency room doctor, then changing to a more serious tone, said, “My hat goes off to all teachers.”
Heck said that all of his children were educated in public schools and that education was still one of the more important issues in his life. As a congressman, he serves on the Education and Workforce Committee, a committee he said no other congressman would choose to be on because of all the fighting, but one he willingly volunteered for, saying it was important to the future of the country.
Citing Common Core, a federal school standards program, Heck said we need to get the federal government out of education
“When you had this administration force Common Core on the states, that just added to the problems,” Heck said. “Policy is best left to the parents, teachers and administrators. Testing takes away from actual instruction. They should say, you’re the state, were going to overlook but you figure how to keep your school up.”
Heck answered questions from an audience that filled a meeting room at the Prospector Hotel and Gambling Hall in Ely. He said that the problems facing Nevada were the same facing most of the country; that 90 percent of the people he had spoken to were concerned about the economy and keeping a good job.
“Jobs and the economy are number one,” he said.
Heck cited his experience as a small business owner, overseeing a business that provided medical training, consulting and operational support to law enforcement, EMS and military special operations. He talked about how, when the recession hit in 2008, it was a struggle to keep the doors open and that often he went without a paycheck in order that his employees didn’t miss theirs.
“I know what it’s like to keep payroll,” he said.
He was critical of the almost eight years the Obama administration has controlled the White House and 30 years of Reid representing the Silver State as one of it’s two senators. He spoke out against the Affordable Care Act, saying “we got insurance, not healthcare,” and that the health care law was flawed and did nothing to give access to health care. He said that refugee relocation and national security were other real issues people were concerned about.
He said the treatment of veterans was very important to him and he blasted the long waits vets endure in order to see a doctor at VA facilities and hospitals.
“What’s going on at the VA is a shame and a travesty,” he said. “They come back with some catastrophic injury and they’re not receiving the care they need. They don’t complain about the care but the hoops they have to run through to get the care.”
Heck shared a story of how, while working as an emergency room physician at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, he had to say good-be to his fellow employees as he was going to be deployed.
When asked why he would be willing to work as a reservist when he was so well off as far as income, he told them, “If my being there as a doctor means one son gets home, it’s worth every pay that I lost.”
Heck answered questions from the audience concerning wild horses, touting injectable contraceptives as a long term solution, and roundups as the short term answer. Heck was critical of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) herd management programs saying they had to do a better job and then stating that the state had a better understanding of the issue and could handle the land better than the BLM. He said the BLM needed a leader in Washington who better understood western state issues.
He was also critical of grazing policies and the ensuing fire dangers these policies have perpetrated and said he would fight hard to have land under the control of BLM released and returned to the states
and local jurisdictions.
He decried Obama’s cuts to the military budget, saying the “U.S. was fielding the smallest army
since WWII and that we were on the path to having the smallest navy since WWI and the smallest Air Force since the Air Force’s inception.
He accused Obama of cutting military member’s pay raises, stating they had not had a full pay raise in three years and that many troop families had to receive food stamps.
“We need a president who doesn’t want to use the military for a petri dish,” Heck said. “Someone making sure they have the resources they need to do the job —and not just for the guy or gal in uniform, but for their families that are not having mom or dad around for 24 months.”
He answered questions about Medicare, illegal aliens, border security and the challenges facing Border Patrol agents who must enforce the law while taking care not to destroy environmentally protected lands, which are the one’s most used by illegals crossing over.
Even more important, he said, the government needs to better oversee those who enter the country legally and then overstay their visas.
“We don’t know who’s coming or going,” Heck said. “We need a biometric system about who’s coming or going — a system where we know when you expire and we come after you.”
He said he supported an e-verify system where those present and are legal can work. He said that when jobs dry up, as they did during the recent recession, illegal crossings slowed as well.
He said that he was a proponent of streamlining environmental processes in order that businesses can build in an economy that matches their recent research and studies, not an economy that has changed after 10 years.
“We can’t stop a project for one desert tortoise,” he said.
In answer to a question about term limits, Heck said that he has abided by the will of the Nevada voters and not sought out more than three terms as they have deemed, but he did not consider term limits a good thing for a U.S. Senator, stating that there was a learning curve and a seniority system that long term senators and their constituents benefitted from. Heck said he was very much in agreement with a retirement system though.
“We don’t need someone who is 84 years old and we have to prop up his hand to vote,” Heck said. “Someone who is not aware of what’s going on in the world.”