This is Reno profiled candidates for select local races in the 2018 mid-term elections. Student political writer Don Dike-Anukam attended a number of political events in recent months to track down candidates, learn about issues, and to see what the candidates had to say about topics being faced by the Reno community. While this election remains contentious around the country, at the local level many Reno-area candidates tended to focus more on issues and less on mudslinging. Here are the two candidates for State Senate District 16: Ben Kieckhefer, the incumbent, versus newcomer Tina Davis-Hersey.
By Don Dike-Anukam
Ben Kieckhefer (R)
Nevada State Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno/Carson City) was first elected to Nevada State Senate in November of 2010. He was re-elected in 2014. Before going into political office, he covered the Nevada State Legislature as a reporter, a press secretary, and then served in Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services.
He calls his district (District 16 — South Reno and Carson City) the “most beautiful [and best] district in the state.” District 16 runs all the way down to the Douglas County line. Kieckhefer ran for office when longtime Senator Robert Townsend was termed out. Kieckhefer said he hopes to be termed out after winning and serving his third and final term.
“It happens fast.” He started his first term when his children were very young. He has four kids, two sets of boy/girl twins; two in the seventh grade and two in fourth grade. He keeps his kids in the public school system, which he is proud to say because he feels it keeps him and his family connected to the community. “Having kids in the district gives me better perspective,” he said. He also added that he doesn’t begrudge parents who choose different paths for their children.
Senator Kieckhefer is running with a continued focus on economic development. He thinks people will vote for him because he’s helped the community weather a recession. Kieckhefer prides himself as one of those who helped pick up the mantle of economic development. He adds that the fruits of labor are all around us now and that the main issues today are infrastructure and housing, both of which are problems that accompany success.
“Which are much better than problems of failure,” he said.
If re-elected he wants to refocus what the state is doing to support entrepreneurial ecosystems to build Nevada companies. He also said plans to continue to position Nevada as a safe harbor for innovators and tech startups and people who want to rethink how we do things.
Tina Davis-Hersey (D)
I had a chance to sit with Nevada State Senate District 16 candidate Tina Davis-Hersey (D) in late August. She is challenging current incumbent Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno/Carson City) for the seat this November. Tina Davis-Hersey has lived in Northern Nevada for 18 years, since landing here on Nevada Day of 2000, ironically enough.
She earned her degree in English literature and history while attending college in Oregon. She has a family of her own (a husband and 4 kids all now in their twenties) as well as several pets. Davis-Hersey has a background working for a civil engineering and natural resources company. It was there she learned how diverse the people, landscape, and environment are in our region.
She is running for State Senate because she has recognized in her time living in and traveling throughout Nevada that people generally want a good quality of life. That, from her standpoint, is simple, however it doesn’t always happen easily. She sees the people who are struggling and if elected she wants to help those people get out of their respective ruts. She does not simply want to help the rich line their pockets.
She wants to “ease the burden,” as she said. Davis-Hersey supports an increase in the minimum wage and wants developers to work with the communities they operate in. In short, Davis-Hersey wants Nevada to be a positive example, a place we can all be proud of. District 16 consists of South Reno, Carson Valley, and Incline Village.
Davis-Hersey has a couple of issues of primary concern. One of those is helping those who are struggling, noting the housing market crisis. The average rent for an apartment in the Reno/Sparks/Carson City metropolitan is what some might consider to be Southern California prices and for too many longtime residents is unaffordable. The average home is currently being priced at $400,000. If elected, Davis-Hersey wants help find a solution. This problem needs to be addressed and the standard of living needs to be raised.
She added that, while Nevada might have a low unemployment rate, “many of these jobs are low paying or part-time.” With these types of jobs, one simply cannot make anywhere near a comfortable living.
Education is another primary area of concern for Davis-Hersey, as it transformed her family’s life for the better in ways that she never would had have without it.
She plans to win this race by steering away from party politics and focusing on the people in the community. She’s willing to get herself out there and talk to Republicans, Independents, and anyone all in the name of making progress and promoting positive change. She frequently holds town-hall meet-and-greets while campaigning to hear the concerns of voters and members of the public.
Even though Davis-Hersey has struggled economically herself, she still manages to smile when she thinks about the future. She wants to give voters who are still struggling throughout the area a reason to smile, too, if given the opportunity to serve.