Rep. Susie Lee says her decision not to endorse a presidential candidate until after the Nevada caucus in February is personal, not political.
“I think that people should make their own decisions,” she said during an interview with the Current. “(Their decision) shouldn’t be based off mine. I’ve been on the receiving end of that.”
Lee recalled her unsuccessful 2016 run for Nevada’s Congressional District 4, in which she came in third behind Ruben Kihuen and former state Assemblywoman Lucy Flores.
“I was not endorsed,” said Lee. “There were other candidates who were endorsed.”
The former nonprofit executive would go on two years later to successfully win Nevada’s Congressional District 3, replacing Jacky Rosen after her successful ascent into the U.S. Senate. CD3 is considered a battleground district and has been represented by two Republicans and three Democrats since being established in 2000. Lee was the first Democrat to win the district in a midterm election when no presidential contest is on the ballot to drive turnout.
Lee is one of 31 Democratic members of the House representing a district that Trump won in 2016. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in CD3 by a percentage point. Those districts are key to the Republican Party’s hopes to make House gains in 2020.
Although the freshman congresswoman has decided not to endorse a presidential candidate before the caucus, she says she has been in contact with “quite a few of them” with varying degrees of interaction to share her insight into the priorities and needs of the district.
“And I’ve told them how to pronounce Nevada,” joked Lee.
Being against storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain is a given, but Lee says there are some issues outsiders fail to recognize as being important to Nevadans.
Like the climate crisis.
“Unfortunately the whole climate crisis gets centered around our oceans,” she said. “People are not understanding the interior of this country … Drought has an incredible impact and will continue to.”
News broke earlier this month that Nevada, Arizona and Mexico would have to cut back their supply of Colorado River water as part of a short-term drought plan. Lee adds that climate issues should go hand-in-hand with workforce development issues, particularly in the growing field of renewable energy.
“The innovation is there,” she says. “Nevada stands to be at the forefront.”
As a congresswoman, Lee has concentrated on legislation related to education, workforce development, veterans and healthcare, including providing extra funding to combat the opioid crisis and the modernization of healthcare records. Most of her efforts have been bipartisan in nature, she says as a point of pride.
“I think it’s easy to fall into the this-camp-versus-this-camp,” Lee said. “We can come together on about 80 percent of issues. That division is at the fringes.”
And when it comes to the man at the center of political division?
Lee says impeachment of President Trump is “not off the table” but she — like Rep. Steve Horsford — has not signed on to the call for an impeachment inquiry with Rep. Dina Titus and a growing number of House lawmakers.
“There are definitely things about this president I don’t agree with,” said Lee, “and I’ve been vocal about my disagreement. Most importantly, the level of noncooperation and obstruction. It permeates throughout, within the Veterans Administration, within the Department of Education. There’s just an opaque nature of this administration.”
Lee added that the House’s ability to impeach is a “solemn decision,” tied in importance only with the ability to send people to war to defend the country.
“The chairman has said they are continuing with impeachment inquiry,” she said. “We’ll have a decision point at the end of this year. Based on the evidence, I will make that solemn decision. I don’t treat it lightly. I think I can be afforded the time and access to all the information.”