Background: Attorney and former member of the Nevada State Assembly
The Race: U.S. House of Representatives, Nevada’s 4th District
Lucy Flores, 36, is no doubt the only candidate running for Congress who at the age of 15 was a gang member on parole for auto theft. Flores credits her parole officer for helping turn her life around. After earning a GED, she attended the University of Southern California. An outspoken supporter of Bernie Sanders during Nevada’s February caucuses, Flores earned the enmity of the Latina Advisory Council, a new initiative of Emily’s List and the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA to increase the number of Latinas elected to office. On March 10, Emily’s List announced it was endorsing Flores’ opponent, white philanthropist Susie Lee. In response, Alida Garcia, a political strategist for Obama’s 2012 campaign, slammed Emily’s List on Facebook, writing, “This is how white privilege works in ‘the establishment,’ pals. … White privilege is having your own money, moving into a district that’s competitive because of voters of color, never having worked for those people of color, and getting white organizations to endorse you because you have money.”
Key Endorsements: NARAL Pro-Choice America, Democracy for America
Latest Polling: +20 Primary: June 14
Why are you running for the fourth Congressional district in Nevada?
Lucy Flores: My inspiration for public service hasn’t changed; it’s always been inspired by my own experience growing up in this district. I’ve been living in Las Vegas, and in the fourth congressional district, since I was 2 years old. [Running] was really just a function of the challenges that I experience—growing up in a broken family, being raised by my father, being abandoned by my mother, growing up in a very low-income situation, being on parole on 15 and dropping out of high school at 17, and being able to turn my life around with the help and investment of others. It inspired me to do whatever I can do, within my power, to do what was done for me.
What are the three most important issues facing America today that should be addressed in the Democratic Party platform, and how are you proposing to address those issues?
Generally speaking, Democrats need to get back to their ideals and their values. One of the things that I found most troubling when I ran for lieutenant governor back in 2014 was the national climate among the Democrats themselves. You had state-wide, high-profile candidates running for offices like U.S. Senate who couldn’t or wouldn’t bring themselves to admit that they had voted for Obama, or railing against the ACA—attacking the most basic, fundamental issues that we all believe in: fairness, equality, justice, healthcare and education rights. We really need to get back to these progressive ideals.
How have social movements like Black Lives Matter, Occupy and climate change activism influenced your campaign?
What’s been great about the reproductive choice movement, Black Lives Matter, and the progressive climate change movement is that they have started to move away from functioning in silos. We’ve started to really focus on intersectionality. For example, we’ve started to notice how climate change is really intricately involved with social justice and with healthcare.
Being able to have these folks highlight these issues and bring them to the mainstream—so mainstream media and everyday people are paying attention—has been really important for people like me running for office. It gives us the ability to amplify that platform and have those issues connect and register with people. It’s a really symbiotic relationship.
Bernie Sanders campaign has galvanized young progressive voters across the country and attracted a lot of independent support. What are the lessons here for the Democrats and for your campaign in particular? What is your campaign doing to bring more people into the political process?
The way he’s raising money for his campaign has really empowered individuals. Two or four years ago, people felt like their $5 and a vote didn’t make a difference; now it’s a complete reversal. You have an enormous amount of people who can support candidates like me who don’t come from wealthy families. We can still run a well-funded, competitive campaign because people are inspired. When everybody comes together and everybody does their little part, we can really move forward together and get good people elected—people that they choose and not the people the über-wealthy choose.
I am up against a multi-millionaire, self-funding candidate; half of her donations are the maximum $2,700, and she’s given herself $150,000. In this system, if you’re not independently wealthy, you’re penalized.
Has your campaign seen the proverbial $27 contributor? Or the $5 or $10 contributor?
Yes, we absolutely have. Toward the end of February, we passed the mark of 2,500 individual contributions; to date [in mid-March], we have surpassed 6,000 contributions. It grows exponentially every single day. We were already competitive, 20 points ahead in the polls, but this allows us to run an extra-competitive campaign.
When the Democratic Party chooses its nominee in Philadelphia, the party will come together for the November election. What stands in the way of Sanders supporters and Hillary supporters working together under the Democratic Party big tent?
The only thing that’s going to stand in the way of people coming together is their deep disappointment in their candidate not winning. We have to keep our eyes on the prize and remember that this country—given the Republican nominees right now—is almost at a crisis. We have so much at stake in terms of everyday people’s lives. We cannot let our deep disappointment prevent us from moving forward.
Sanders has struggled with winning over people of color, and Clinton has struggled with youth voters and with the party's left base. What sort of bold, progressive platform can unite these constituencies in November and in years to come?
We have to remember our purpose. If we truly want to achieve change, if we truly want to get the things on Sen. Sanders’ platform, we have to continue moving forward and getting good people elected. No matter what president ends up in the White House, they’ll need a Congress and local officials that they can work with.
I get that we’re experiencing problems in winning over communities who would stand to benefit from Senator Sanders’ platform, but ultimately, all we can continue to do is talk to people about the issues. At the end of the day, that’s what matters: the people and their issues. I’d love to see a President Sanders, but I think even he would agree that what we want most is to get good policies implemented.
Find out what's next for the political revolution. Subscribe to the free In These Times weekly email newsletter: