Door-to-door politics in Carson City – an interview with Autumn Zemke candidate for Assembly 40

Assembly District 40 - image - State of Nevada.

Carson City – Autumn Zemke is the the Democrat running for Nevada’s Assembly District 40, which includes all of Carson City, the Washoe Valley, and a little bit of Reno.  Zemke took a break from knocking on doors in the district recently to stop by the studios of KNVC for a conversation with Brian Bahouth …

Autumn Zemke said she is working to win votes one person at a time.

“We’ve just been knocking doors every day,” Zemke said.  “One of my volunteers has been keeping track of his miles, and on Saturday, he did 5 miles, and I probably did about 3 because I was going here and there, so we are really out, and we will continue to knock doors until the night of November 6.”

Zemke said that more than any other issue, people want to discuss affordable housing, especially for renters.

“We still are hearing, ‘affordable housing, affordable housing’ over and over again,” Zemke said.  “The reality of the affordable housing crisis is whether or not you rent or you own that impacts us all as a community because we’re being destabilized, and so we really have to care about the people who are renters and are being priced out, and their children, and making sure that they’re having the stable life that they need, especially for those children in our public schools.”

We asked Zemke what role the state government should play in the affordable housing shortage.

“Well, there’s a couple of pieces to that.  We’ve been into some apartment buildings where there really needs to be major work done,” said Zemke.  “I was in one building and I had to … it was outside stairs, and I had to step over one stair because it was totally broken.  So safety and what kind of apartments are people living in, and what are the ramifications for the owner who doesn’t do the repairs that are needed so the place is actually livable.

“And the other thing is,” Zemke continued. “We don’t have any kind of rent control, and I think that is something we need to start talking about, especially we have month-to-month people, and they only need 15 days notice to raise the rent, and if you are on a lease, I believe it is 30 to 45 days, but that could be any percentage (of increase), whatever the market will bear.  And at this point there are people who can afford a $1,500 a month one-bedroom, but there are more people who can’t afford that.”

Zemke said the housing crisis is largely a result of low wages.

“In the state of Nevada, you have to make $14.80 to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere.  Our minimum wage is $7.25 if you get healthcare and $8.25 if you don’t,” Zemke said. “If you add in the cost of childcare, literally you are not able to afford to work if you have to have childcare, and most single women say that is the biggest obstacle to becoming successful is the cost of childcare, and you throw those things together, and we’re here.  We have homeless families at this point, and we keep on wanting to talk about mental health and addiction, but that’s not the reality.”

We asked Zemke how she is received when knocking on doors.  Does partisan politics present changes for positive communication?

“I do have names and addresses, but when we’re in a neighborhood we actually go every door.  We never pass a door, so a good portion of the time we have no idea who we’re talking to, what party affiliation,” Zemke said.  “I talk about the issues, and more than anything, I listen to their issues and really … I think it’s so important that we as a community continue to do that, and so in November I will start having community meetings because I think that’s a huge thing that neighbors get to know one another also and understand that they may be going through the same thing, or they may be going through different things, but that we can have compassion and sympathy for our neighbors.”

See a funding breakdown of the race for Assembly 40 here.

Zemke said door-to-door politics gives her the best chance to unseat incumbent Republican Al Kramer on Election Day.

“It means something when I show up, and this person who is older says to me, ‘I’ve never had a candidate come to my door and ask me about what I thought,’ and when I hear that, as a voter myself, it actually makes me angry.  That is our public official’s job to find out what we think,” Zemke said. “I am running as a candidate the way I think voters should be treated including myself, and I think that is resonating with people.”

For more from Autumn Zemke, listen to the audio interview embedded above …