U.S. Senate candidate Ensign stops in Carson Valley | RecordCourier.com
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U.S. Senate candidate Ensign stops in Carson Valley

by Linda Hiller, Record-Courier staff writer

U.S. Senate candidate John Ensign came to town last week to let Carson Valley residents know he is interested in their wants and needs as much as those of every other Nevada resident.

Ensign, a Las Vegas veterinarian, has moved his family of five to Reno for the next two months to become better informed about Northern Nevada’s concerns and to woo their votes in his bid for the Senate spot being vacated by Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., who is not running for another term. Ensign, a Republican, is running against Ed Bernstein, a Democrat also based in Las Vegas.

“We want to concentrate on Northern Nevada for the rest of the summer,” Ensign said, “Besides, it’s a lot cooler here in the summer.”

– The road to politics. Ensign, 42, is a fourth-generation Nevadan, his great-great-grandparents coming from Ely and Dayton. He was born in Roseville, Calif., on March 25, 1958, and came to Nevada at the age of 4.

During the Depression, Ensign’s great-grandfather moved his family to Gardnerville for a while.

“That’s about all I know about their time here,” Ensign said. “My great-grandfather worked the mines here – somewhere in the Sierra – and he also worked on Hoover Dam. That’s what they did during the Depression, they worked.”

Ensign attended George Whittell High School, graduated from Clark High School in Las Vegas, went to University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Oregon State University and Colorado State University and established a veterinary practice in Las Vegas. Around 1994, he found himself getting frustrated with the “politics as usual” world he observed.

“The Democrats were in control in Washington, and they were trying to nationalize health care, the national debt was out of control – it all got to me,” he said. “I decided to take action. I had never been a political person, either.”

Ensign ran for Congress that year, was elected and served two terms in the House of Representatives. He lost a 1998 bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. by 428 votes.

“I, of all people, know how important every vote can be,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re here – we want to win in Northern Nevada with such big numbers that it is overwhelming.”

Ensign and Bryan worked together on the “Bryan-Ensign Plan,” or the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Plan, while Ensign was still in office. This experience will help him to develop workable, localized plans for individual regions in Nevada, he said.

“I’d like to do a plan for each local area, using local experts so we can come up with a local plan,” Ensign said. “Some areas simply have a lack of communication and what they need are reasonable people to be part of the conversation.”

– Platform issues. Three issues are on the top of Ensign’s priority list, he said – education, nuclear waste and health care.

Ensign’s position on nuclear waste is to continue fighting its transportation to Yucca Mountain.

“No single issue unites Nevadans and no single issue transcends region, political party or industry like our fight against becoming the nation’s nuclear dumping ground,” he said. “I will fight it being transported here with every fiber of my being.”

With technology, Ensign said there is no reason that nuclear waste shouldn’t stay where it currently is and be used for producing energy.

“Nuclear waste could be a very useful fuel,” he said. “We now produce 98 percent of waste for every 2 percent we use in current reactors. Instead, we could use it for energy to make us less dependent on foreign oil.”

Ensign’s position on education focuses largely on getting the federal government less involved in the classroom.

“I’d like to put more money in the classroom, to raise teachers’ salaries and at the same time make them accountable, so we can weed out the bad teachers,” he said. “I also think the federal government is ruining special education.”

Ensign said he would also like to see more discipline in the classroom, freeing teachers and administrators from the fears of lawsuits.

“I’m not talking about using corporal punishment,” he said. “I just think the pendulum has swung too far in protecting students’ rights and we need to support teachers more.”

Ensign said a school system akin to the university system – with public, private, church and business schools vying for students – is what he would like to see for grades K-12.

“I am a public school-educated guy, so I am not against public school,” he said. “But I’m definitely in favor of charter and private schools. I think competition breeds excellence.”

Ensign said his children, 8, 4 and 2, will attend a private Christian school. Only his oldest son is in the school at this time.

– Traveling for ideas. Ensign said one of his functions, if elected to the Senate, would be to seek good ideas and help foster them.

“I don’t care where the ideas come from,” he said. “If the Democrats have a good idea, take that idea – if the Republicans have a good idea, take that idea – our job is to recognize good ideas.”

Ensign will be in Douglas County from time to time, he said, during the next two months and is trying to hit every community in Northern Nevada before returning to Las Vegas. If elected, he will hold regular town meetings to gather information from constituents, he said.

From his work as a veterinarian, Ensign has learned one thing that applies to politics.

“In veterinary medicine, it’s all about prevention,” he said. “A good diet is important.”

For more information on Ensign’s campaign or positions on issues, visit his Web site, http://www.ensign4nevada.com.