Our choice for attorney general: Aaron Ford

Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford speaks during a news conference at the Las Vegas ReLeaf marijuana dispensary at Paradise Road and Sahara Avenue Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Lawmakers criticized Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt for failing to support passage of the SAFE Banking Act. Ford is also a candidate for Nevada Attorney General.
Photo: Steve Marcus

As a child in a low-income household, Aaron Ford would wake up not knowing if the water or electricity would still be turned on.

As a young, single father, he would make ends meet by accepting food stamps, and he nearly dropped out of college.

And then there were legal problems—judgment errors he made as a young man that ended with him getting in minor trouble with the law.

“Those cracks you’ve heard of people falling through? I fell through some of them,” Ford has said.

But he kept striving through it all, becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college, then going on to a successful career as a lawyer.

Six years ago, he took another major step forward when he was elected to the state Senate, a position from which he then advanced to minority leader of the chamber in 2015 and majority leader the following year.

Now, Ford is trying to take another step forward in public service, this time as a candidate for state attorney general.

With his experiences in life, work and leadership, he’s overwhelmingly the best candidate.

His familiarity with the legislative process and the various players in state government gives Ford a strong ability to work with lawmakers on policy issues related to the AG’s office—consumer protection, sentencing, criminal prosecution and more.

As a partner in the high-profile Las Vegas law firm Eglet Prince, his extensive legal experience and skills speak for themselves as qualifications for AG.

Ford’s personal story is one of overcoming obstacles, both those placed in front of him and some he erected for himself.

Ford’s parents divorced when he was young, leaving his mother to raise him and his two brothers on her own. Ford, as the oldest child, had responsibility early on, looking after his younger siblings.

Money was tight—the kind of tight where things like Boy Scout dues couldn’t be scraped together. So Ford got involved in school activities instead, including doing service through the Key Club. Meanwhile, his mother got him into a program tailored to children who would be the first in their families to attend college.

Ford buried himself in his studies, and he made it through school. He enrolled in—and later graduated from—Texas A&M University.

But in the early ’90s, when Ford was in his 20s, he made several mistakes. He was arrested for public intoxication while walking back to his dormitory after drinking at a friend’s house. Later, he was cited for speeding, and compounded the problem when he failed to pay his fine. He also got in trouble for stealing tires.

But he kept moving forward, settling his legal issues. He started his career as a middle school math teacher while his wife, Berna, finished her law degree. Later, Ford would obtain a law degree of his own and become a career attorney.

Now, in his campaign for attorney general, his opponents have made an issue of his run-ins with the law to question his character. They also revealed that Ford accumulated more than $185,000 in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

But Ford made restitution on the youthful run-ins with the law and paid the IRS for his errors. He took responsibility. Read that again and think about it. He took responsibility. Sadly, that is all too rare in politics these days. More than responsibility, he used his errors to grow and become a better person.

It’s well worth noting that the same people who dredged up Ford’s legal slip-ups didn’t do the same for the current attorney general, Adam Laxalt, who also got into legal trouble as a young man. Rather, they’re backing Laxalt in his bid for governor.

It would have served Ford better to get out in front on the matters instead of reacting after his record was revealed, but the exact same could be said for Laxalt. What’s at play here is a classic double-standard.

Ford says he’s running because he’s tired of seeing the AG’s staff put “ideological extremes” ahead of family values through such actions as signing the state into a lawsuit challenging DACA.

It’s clear that Ford’s opponent, Wes Duncan, would continue to press Laxalt’s anti-immigrant, pro-NRA, anti-abortion agenda. Duncan is Laxalt’s former lead assistant in the AG’s office, and before that was a conservative legislator.

An extremist in the AG position can wield substantial power in thwarting the will of the people, as proven by Laxalt’s failure to fight for implementation of the universal background checks ballot question approved by voters in 2016. Duncan’s presence in the office would put him at odds with—and likely trying to stop—moves by a centrist Legislature or governor. And as he’s already shown by siding with Laxalt on background checks that he’s comfortable ignoring voters.

Ford, conversely, is a gun safety proponent who would work to implement the state law requiring universal background checks on firearms, a measure that Laxalt campaigned against and then walked away from when complications arose in implementing the new checks.

In the Legislature, Ford was a champion for justice reforms to address the grossly disproportionate incarceration of blacks and other minorities. He’s been a strong proponent of body cameras for law enforcement officers, and helped pass consumer-protection legislation to crack down on payday lenders.

He also brings an understanding of what life is like for those who have little but their families—and the compassion that comes with that understanding.

He’s an exceptional candidate. By sending him to the attorney general’s office, Nevadans would be well-served.

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