When Congress went into recess last week, constituents from across Nevada asked, “Where’s the Senator?” So far, it’s been difficult for most constituents to get a hold of U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R). Did that change?
On Valentine’s Day, a group of constituents in Southern Nevada asked for a town hall with Senator Dean Heller. Heller’s Las Vegas staff made no commitment on a specific date for a free town hall open to the public. Yet when it came to a commitment Heller had made for a private Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce event last Friday, he could not appear. (Apparently, his vote was needed to confirm Scott Pruitt for EPA.)
Senator Heller has not appeared at a public event in any of Nevada’s major urban areas so far this year.
Is this a trend? A day after he was a no-show at the Latin Chamber event, Heller tweeted (under his campaign account) photos of himself at a private Republican Party event in Virginia City. Since Congress adjourned for February recess, Heller has generally kept a low profile. This stands in stark contrast to Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Nevada’s other Members of Congress meeting with Nevadans across the state.
I ventured to the Gold Dust West casino in Carson City on Wednesday to see if Heller would finally appear in public. He had been scheduled to appear at a private Carson City Chamber of Commerce luncheon with Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City). Due to Heller’s and Amodei’s commitments to attend, the event sold out weeks prior.
Their constituents outside sounded their fury over another private “pay to play” event.
“Mark Amodei and Dean Heller are not doing their jobs.”
That was Elvira Diaz from Immigration Reform for Nevada in Reno. She also voiced her frustration over Heller’s and Amodei’s lukewarm responses to President Donald Trump’s immigration actions. “Immigrants belong to Nevada. They need to stand up to ICE.” While she was glad Heller now supports the Bridge Act to extend deportation relief for some DREAMers, she expects him and Amodei to do more to rein in Trump… And avail themselves to all constituents.
“It’s time for Dean Heller to have a town hall, open to the people.”
Another constituent of Heller’s in Carson City was angry over the Senator seemingly standing by as Trump “ramrods through the Constitution” with his attempted Muslim Ban and other anti-immigrant orders. “Heller should be protecting the Constitution. […] We want him representing us, not rubber-stamping the Trump agenda.”
I sensed a shared concern over Trump’s disregard of the U.S. Constitution throughout the group of protesters.
“There’s an attack on our Constitution, on our democracy. We’re asking our representatives to choose sides.”
Gayle DeFrutos is a retired teacher in Reno who’s been trying to get a hold of Senator Heller’s office. She’s not alone. Several protesters I spoke with had the same complaint of struggling to get in contact with Heller’s office. And when they do, it’s often in the form of a form letter or polite phone filibuster.
DeFrutos summed up protesters’ other main frustration with Senator Heller during our conversation.
“[Heller and Amodei] do not answer our questions. They do not address our concerns.”
Senator Heller and Rep. Amodei spoke behind these closed doors inside the Gold Dust West casino. They didn’t bother coming out to address the protesters, and Heller was likely unpleasantly surprised by the tough questions he faced inside the Carson City Chamber event.
Rep. Amodei has committed to a public town hall in April, but Senator Heller still refuses to. The trend continued in Las Vegas Thursday, as Heller attended a private Republican event while constituents were conducting a town hall meeting without him.
Judging from the events this week, if Heller continues to limit his exposure, his constituents will continue asking where their Senator is.