Inside retail politics – an interview with Patricia Ackerman candidate for Assembly 39

by Brian Bahouth

Patricia Ackerman participated in a League of Women Voters forum on October 16, 2018 - image - Kristin Simons, Nevada Capital News.
Patricia Ackerman participated in a League of Women Voters forum on October 16, 2018 - image - Kristin Simons, Nevada Capital News.

Carson City – Patricia Ackerman is the Democratic candidate for Nevada Assembly District 39.  Ackerman has been knocking on doors and talking about issues with voters in the district for the past several months and recently took a break from the campaign trail to record an interview with Brian Bahouth …

We first spoke with Patricia Ackerman when she began her campaign, and since then she has adopted an eye-to-eye approach to politics marked by knocking on doors and showing up at events.  Incumbent Republican Jim Wheeler has raised 5 times as much money as Ackerman, almost exclusively from corporate support, but Ackerman has raised 5 times as much from individual contributions as Wheeler.  Ackerman says being honest and genuine engages voters, no matter their affiliation.

“I say this to the people when they do engage me at the the door I’m there hoping to be their next representative, and I want to go eye-to-eye with you.  I want to go heart-to-heart with you, and I tell you Brian, when I say that, and they know I’m being genuine, they are very giving of their time, of their presence, because most of these people have never experienced having a candidate coming to their door, so it’s a new and very fresh experience, and I have also had many people come and say to me, ‘I’m a registered Republican or Independent, but you’re the only one that’s come to my door, so by gosh, you got my vote,’ and that matters to them,” Ackerman said with a smile.

For candidate Ackerman, the manner-less rancor oftentimes exhibited on social media and in national politics has alienated many voters who may have many important shared interests with neighbors of differing political stripes.  Ackerman said, as a candidate, she wants to foster a sense of community involvement through the political process that would continue as a priority should she be elected.

“They see that this is something that is a lot of work, a lot of commitment, and when it is genuine, they know it, and they want a representative who says you’ve got my phone number.  Call me.  Stay connected because one of my primary goals in this is to create more of a community engagement and get people involved and have them realize for maybe the first time or at least for a long time of apathy, their voices matter,” Ackerman said.

Patricia Ackerman’s Republican opponent, incumbent Jim Wheeler was absent from a recent League of Women Voters forum and another debate in Douglas County, but Ackerman attended both events.  Mr. Wheeler has not responded to several attempts to arrange an interview. Patricia Ackerman says she’ll be a lawmaker who does not hide from the media or constituents.

“I’m the only one who is showing up,” Ackerman said and paused.  “And that’s the truth. I’m the only one who is showing up. I am the only one who is actually demonstrating, through a lot of hard work, that I am engaged and I care,” said Ackerman.  “If that doesn’t galvanize the community, relative to what we’ve currently got … our current Assemblyman is not showing up.  He hasn’t been present in the last two forums that were put on, one by the League of Women Voters that was just this past October 16th, and even though he said he would come, he just failed to show up.  Then there was another debate after that that was held by the Chamber of Commerce and some co-sponsors in Gardnerville, and he refused to show up to debate, to let the constituents clearly see the differences between his and my campaign and what I want to put forward to help the people.”

Knocking on doors and talking about politics can be dicey, so Ackerman said she typically canvasses with another person or two, but the experience has been an unforgettable education.

“It’s been a journey.  We have been now months and months … we actually started the full-on campaign of going door-to-door about May,” Ackerman said.  “It was slow getting started with the door-to-door. It’s an art.

“Halee (Ackerman’s stepdaughter) and I were in the car the other day after a particularly unsettling incident, which are very very rare by the way, but we had a particularly unsettling incident where it was a white male, 35 to 40 years old who was very amicable about standing at the doorway talking, but made it very clear to me that there was no such thing as inequality.  There was no such thing as white privilege,” Ackerman Said. “When I responded to him with, ‘then sir, I think we can just leave it at that and agree to disagree,’ and he says, ‘I hate that statement. No I don’t accept that.’ It was very unsettling to experience what many times most of us read about but don’t actually go hand to hand with in this kind of dialogue.”

Ackerman recounted a story from her step daughter and campaign manager who worked on political campaigns while in college in Tennessee and encountered overt racism and sexism when canvassing.

“We know that there is so much inequality, so to have that in our backyards is unsettling, and I said to Halee, ‘this door-to-door is much like a ticking time bomb.  Because when that door opens, you really never know if it’s going to explode or not,’” Ackerman said.

But Ackerman was quick to add that frightening events are rare, and the citizens she encounters are eager to discuss policy and be heard.  Assembly District 39 is large and includes population centers in Zephyr Cove on Lake Tahoe, Minden and Garnerville. Fast growing Dayton is in the district as is the Comstock area to include Silver City, Virginia City and most of Storey County north to the Truckee River.

“Out of the thousands of doors that we’ve gone to, we’ve literally had only 7 less than polite situations, a few that were flat out belligerent, but when you’re speaking of thousands of doors of all the different party affiliation doors, the general population is very gracious, very kind, and oh my goodness Brian do they want to talk,” Ackerman said with a smile.

For more from Patricia Ackerman, listen to the audio interview embedded above …