Women voters will hold Dean Heller accountable for his vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, organizers vowed Saturday. Photo: Michael Lyle
Listening to Christine Blasey Ford share her story in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sully Park couldn’t help but notice the similarities.
Park doesn’t remember a lot of things about the night she was sexually assaulted — what day of the week it was, how she got home, or what season it was. But decades later she has never forgotten that she woke up while being raped, nor has she forgotten who it was.
“The truth is I didn’t tell anyone about my assault for years,” she says. “I had to block it out of my mind to survive it. Seeing the way Dr. Ford and (Brett) Kavanaugh’s other accusers have been treated has sent a chilling message to women who want to come forward about sexual assault.”
Just hours before the United States Senate voted 50-48 to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court Justice, Sully joined about 100 other people along with organizers from Battle Born Progress, Planned Parenthood, Faith Organizing Alliance and For Our Future.
They gathered Saturday to condemn the vote to confirm Kavanaugh, especially the vote cast by U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, who is up for re-election in about 30 days.
“He is bad on health,” says Annette Magnus, the executive director of Battle Born Progress. “He is bad on women’s issues. He is bad on voting rights. You name it, he is bad on it.”
Since Trump took office, Heller has voted 92 percent in line with Trump’s positions, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis. Heller’s vote to confirm Kavanaugh is not the only reason organizers say they have been angry with Heller.
Lindsey Harmon with Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood says the list includes Heller’s votes to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s time for Nevadans to show up to the polls and show Dean Heller who he works for,” Magnus adds. “He constantly ignores the will of the people and the will of Nevadans to do the right thing. Now, it’s time to hold him accountable.”
Park also complained that Heller ignores his constituents. “I’ve called his office many times to try to speak with him,” she says. “It’s like he doesn’t listen. He just says, ‘We have to agree to disagree.’ ”
After Heller said, “We got a little hiccup here with the Kavanaugh nomination” last month, it further energized her to organize against him. “Hearing him say that felt like a kick in the gut,” Park says.
It was only in the last five years that she started talking with her friends and husband about her assault. With the election of Trump and the rise of the Me Too movement, Park began to speak out more.
Though Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed with Heller’s support, organizers have their sights set on getting the vote out to unseat the senator this November. Trump narrowly lost Nevada to Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Nevada Republicans are hoping Democratic turnout will be much lower than it was in a presidential year, as is usually the case in midterms.
“Those in power have dismissed our experiences, disregarded our concerns and have convinced themselves they will not face consequences for ignoring the demands of regular Nevadans,” said Michelle White, the state director of For Our Future Nevada. “There is one place they cannot ignore us. There is one place we can make them feel the consequences for dismissing us. That is at the voting booth.”
After the speakers wrapped up, the crowd was led in the chant, “Hey Hey, ho ho, Dean Heller has got to go,” before heading door-to-door to canvass neighborhoods and engage potential voters.
But some paused long enough to take to the streets in another manner — posting up on sidewalks along Sahara Avenue near Valley View Boulevard and holding up signs like “Kava Nope.”
Park says recent events, including Trump openly mocking Ford at a rally, have increased her determination. “Anything I can do to vote (Heller) out,” she says. “I feel like this issue is very unifying to women. So many of us can talk about sexual assault and harassment. I’m hoping many other women are feeling re-energized.”
Magnus says there is no time for organizers, women in particular, to slow down or be burned out. “I don’t think survivors, or women in general, have the luxury of giving up right now,” she says. “So much is at stake. We have to hold our elected officials accountable.”
In a recent CNN poll, U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is challenging Heller, trailed Heller by seven points among Nevada men, but had a 14-point lead with Nevada women, giving Rosen a four point lead overall.
Rosen blasted Heller’s vote Saturday, calling him a “rubber stamp” for Trump.
“Based on his record, I believe Judge Kavanaugh is a threat to the future of women’s reproductive freedom, the Affordable Care Act, consumer protections, campaign finance reform, and our civil rights,” Rosen said in a statement. “The fact that Senator Heller did not have a single reservation about confirming Judge Kavanaugh and even dismissed credible allegations of sexual assault against him as nothing more than ‘a little hiccup’ in the confirmation process shows that he’s clearly out of touch with Nevadans and never had any intention of being an independent voice on this Supreme Court nominee.”
Heller also released a statement Saturday.
“Like all Nevadans, I listened to Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh last week,” Heller said. “They both delivered painful, genuine, and brave testimony. However, they provided starkly different accounts while under oath, and no corroborating evidence to support the allegations surfaced during the hearing. On Thursday, I read the independent reports on the FBI’s seventh background investigation into Judge Kavanaugh. They, too, did not provide any corroborating evidence.”
On the Senate floor Saturday, Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto listed numerous reasons Kavanaugh should have been deemed unfit to serve on the Supreme Court, not the least being his “belligerent” and harshly partisan performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which Kavanaugh conspiratorially charged that those opposing his nomination were seeking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”
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