As nation discusses police brutality and racial injustice, Amodei keeps quiet

The red district
Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei at a town hall in Reno in 2018 . (Photo by David Calvert/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — As protests over police brutality and racial equality dominate the national discourse, the lone Republican in Nevada’s congressional delegation is keeping a low profile on the issue. 

Democrats representing Nevada on Capitol Hill have been vocal in calling for federal action in response to last week’s police killing of George Floyd. 

But as of Friday, five-term Republican Rep. Mark Amodei hadn’t commented on his congressional or campaign websites about Floyd’s death or the protests and violence that have swept the state and the nation in its wake. Nor had he commented through his office’s Facebook or Twitter feeds or newsletter.

A search of news stories yielded no public statements about the issue from Amodei. Reno, in Amodei’s congressional district, was among U.S. cities roiled by protests. Reno city government spokesman Jon Humbert said the city’s communications department had not had contact with the congressman.

Amodei’s office did not make him available for an interview or provide a written statement for this story. 

“The silence is deafening,” said Fred Lokken, a professor of political science at Truckee Meadows Community College. This is a “critical issue” that other state and federal lawmakers are speaking out about, he said. Amodei’s silence, he said, is “shocking” and “inappropriate.”

Amodei represents the sprawling second district in the northern part of the state and is favored to win reelection this fall. He faces a primary challenge on Tuesday from a pair of lesser-known Republicans, and seven Democrats are vying for their party’s nod to take him on in November.

A Democratic candidate seeking to oust Amodei blasted his “continued silence” on the matter.

“Is he looking out for #NV02, or is he scared @realDonaldTrump will say something mean about him?” Democratic candidate Patricia Ackerman tweeted

Gov. Steve Sisolak has made several statements since protests began, including Friday morning when spoke out against “historic and systemic injustice” at a news conference. He also repudiated President Donald Trump’s threat to deploy the U.S. military to quell demonstrations for racial justice and called instead for compassion.  

“Unfortunately, the President has once again taken the path of inciting combativeness, stoking racial tensions and creating division when we need unity more than ever,” Sisolak said.

Adam Laxalt, a Republican who challenged Sisolak in 2018 and who now co-chairs Trump’s reelection campaign in Nevada, defended the president and slammed the governor on Twitter for failing to “take the necessary steps” to protect public safety.

Nevada Democrats, meanwhile, condemned the violence and called for action.

“It’s unacceptable that black and brown Americans face discrimination and brutality throughout this country,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement.

She has sponsored legislation that would help states train officers in “fair policing” and create an independent process to review the use of deadly force. She’s also backing a bill that would strengthen the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism.

“Our work to dismantle systemic racism in this country will take all of us,” she said.

Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen agreed. The status quo is “no longer acceptable,” she said in a statement. “We must do what we can at the federal level to rebuild trust and accountability in our communities. The American people are demanding action, and Congress must deliver.”

Rosen is working with Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey — two African American Democrats in the Senate — to address criminal justice reforms. 

Both senators signed on to a Senate resolution condemning violence and looting as well as the president’s decision earlier this week to order the use of gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters in a park near the White House.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced the resolution Tuesday in the wake of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the March police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky.

It was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who faulted the Democratic Party’s “myopic obsession” with Trump.

Cortez Masto and Rosen also signed a letter last week calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate discrimination and racial violence in policing.

“Those responsible must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law in order to serve justice for George Floyd and his loved ones,” they wrote. “And we must work toward justice for the community.” 

Congressional Republicans have also joined the national discussion about police brutality and racial inequities.

“George Floyd’s family deserves justice,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week. “Sitting and working together, not just within Congress but across our communities, with one another. That is the start and the beginning. That is the way to honor George’s life,” the California Republican said.

And McConnell issued a statement last week saying “For millions and millions of outraged Americans, these tragedies do not appear as isolated incidents, but as the latest disturbing chapters in our long, unfinished American struggle to ensure that equal justice under law is not conditional on the color of one’s skin.”

‘Unjust treatment of Black Americans’

Nevada Democrats in the U.S. House also expressed outrage over violence perpetrated by and against police and pledged to support federal action.

On Monday, Shay Mikalonis, a Las Vegas police officer, was shot and critically wounded. In a separate incident Monday, another man was shot by officers.

“This deadly targeting of a police officer is despicable, and the assailant must be brought to justice,” Nevada Rep. Susie Lee (D) tweeted this week. “We must also remember the true purpose of these protests, & that’s shedding light on the unjust treatment of Black Americans within the criminal justice system.”

Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford (D), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, also expressed support for both demonstrators and police officers.

“No one should be in fear of their life, whether expressing their constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful protest or working to protect and serve our community,” he tweeted.

Horsford and Nevada Rep. Dina Titus (D) back a House resolution condemning police brutality, racial profiling and the use of excesssive and militarized force.

Horsford has also signed on to legislation that would create a bipartisan commission at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to examine disparities that affect black men and boys. 

Black people comprise 13% of the population but represented nearly a quarter (24%) of police killings in 2019, according to the Congressional Black Caucus. 

Titus spokesman Kevin Gerson said his boss supports a ban on choke holds and neck restraints and also wants police departments to hire officers from the communities they serve and better train officers to de-escalate contentious situations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday House lawmakers will roll out legislation on Monday that will address police brutality. 

 

Allison Stevens
Allison Stevens is a Washington D.C. reporter for States Newsroom, a network of state-based nonprofit news outlets that includes Nevada Current.