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Asian Journal - Aiding Asian-American voters

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Continuing its question and answer series with electoral candidates, the Asian Journal this week presents candidates vying for seats in the US House of Representatives.

Competing to represent Nevada's first congressional district -which encompasses most of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and parts of unincorporated Clark County- are Democrat Dina Titus and Republican Chris Edwards. The Asian business corridor which spans Spring Mountain road is also in this district.

Meanwhile, contenders for the state's third congressional district -- which occupy the suburbs of Las Vegas, including Henderson, Summerlin, parts of North Las Vegas, and parts of unincoporated Clark County- are Democrat John Oceguera and Republican Joe Heck.

Asian Journal (AJ): How do you plan to reach out continuously to the Asian-American community and encourage them to be more involved in the electoral process?

Dina Titus

Titus: The Asian-American community is a vibrant part of the business, cultural and social communities in Congressional District 1, encompassing the central Las Vegas Valley. In representing this ethnically diverse district, I intend to have liaisons within my congressional district office who will reach out to the groups and individuals who are representative of their communities, meeting with them to gather their thoughts and concerns about issues uniquely affecting them -- and then to communicate those views to me. Additionally, when I am in the congressional district, I personally will meet with groups and individuals in the Asian-American community to hear their concerns. I also hope to recruit Asian student interns to work in both my local and D.C. offices while earning college credit. I also intend to communicate regularly with my constituents through the mail about issues I foresee in Congress that I believe will affect them, and encourage them to respond by email and regular mail to give me the input I need to make fully informed decisions. As a longtime political science professor at UNLV, I know that the best way to encourage people to become involved in the electoral and political process is to ensure their voices are heard through their representatives. That is why I will keep my door and the lines of communication open to the Asian-American community.

AJ: Will you support the DREAM Act or any legislation that will aid undocumented youth in getting a path to citizenship?

Titus: I have always been a strong supporter of the DREAM Act and voted for it as a member of the 111th Congress. I believed then, and I believe now, that we should recognize the aspirations of young people who have committed themselves to getting a college education or serving in our military forces. Many of these young people have spent their entire lives in the US, working hard to achieve academic success or to protect our nation through their service in the military. They deserve the recognition and the opportunities that the DREAM Act gives them. These young people also are the individuals who will help us rebuild our economy, filling the new jobs requiring a college education or by starting their own businesses. I intend to work in Congress to establish a real path to citizenship for these young people through immigration reform. In the meantime, I wholeheartedly support President Obama's deferred action directive that grants work permits and suspends deportation for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as minor children. This action will give these young people the assurance and confidence they need to pursue their educations, their careers and entrepreneurial endeavors. I want to give them the opportunity to be an integral part of the new economy we want to build in Southern Nevada.

AJ: How will you hasten the process of getting recognition and compensation for Filipino World War II veterans?

Titus: As a member of Congress in 2009-2010, I supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which set aside $198 million for the World War II Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund. The fund allows Filipino veterans an opportunity to apply for lump-sum payments for their service that was not previously recognized by the Veterans Administration. It is my understanding, however, that many Filipino veterans have been denied this compensation, because of difficulty within the Veterans Administration to locate their service records. I will work in Congress to ensure these benefits are fully and fairly distributed to deserving Filipino veterans -- citizens or non-citizens -- to recognize the service they gave our country. To that end, I will support H.R. 210, the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, which requires the Veterans Administration to consider alternative forms of documentation of military service in determining benefits under the World War II Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.

AJ: The US Census Bureau last year released data that showed Asian-owned businesses increased at more than twice the national rate, making it one of the strongest segments of the US economy. How will you entice more Asian-owned businesses to invest in Las Vegas/Clark County?

Titus: As a member of Congress in 2009-2010, I worked to provide small businesses with tax credits and greater access to capital as a means of stimulating their growth. In doing so, I recognized that Asian-American-owned businesses Clark County, which were already growing, could be further stimulated as a key element to our economic recovery in Southern Nevada.

I supported the Small Business Financing and Investment Act, which marked the first major overhaul in a decade of Small Business Administration loan programs -- expanding and improving these programs to make it easier and more affordable for small businesses to get access to the capital they need to start or grow their businesses. The legislation expanded the SBA's microloan program, providing small businesses with short-term loans of up to $35,000 for working capital and the purchase of supplies, inventory, and equipment. I also supported legislation increasing the deduction for start-up expenditures in new businesses, and I backed the HIRE Act, which provided tax breaks on payroll taxes for small businesses that hire recently unemployed people.

As a member of the 113th Congress, I will support similar incentives and tax credits to continue strong business growth in the Asian community. The real solution to the revenue crisis facing the federal government is the start-up and expansion of businesses within our communities that will put people back to work. I will work hard in Washington, D.C., to help Asian-owned and other businesses in Clark County access the capital and other opportunities available to them to start and expand their businesses.

FAST FACTS on DINA TITUS

former US Rep. for NV's third congressional district (111th Congress); professor of Political Science at UNLV for 34 years
native of Tifton, GA
graduate of College of William and Mary (Political Science)
graduate of University of Georgia (Masters degree in Political Science)
graduate of Florida State University (Doctorate in Political Science)

Chris Edwards

Edwards: Asian-Americans are an integral part of the CD-1 community that deserve to have a representative in Congress that will work with them all year, every year. I have reached out to the Asian-American community from the very start of my campaign and continue to do so all the way through the election cycle. Should you elect me, I plan to meet with you in person in Washington or here at home, over the phone and possibly even via video-teleconference to keep them informed and me engaged with them. I seek to help those who have not participated in the democratic process to understand the benefits of doing so and inspire them to start participating.

AJ: Will you support the DREAM Act or any legislation that will aid undocumented youth in getting a path to citizenship?

Edwards: Immigration done correctly, is a good thing for all involved. Sadly, we have not handled our immigration programs well for a long time. We need people in Congress that will ensure programs are properly funded, staffed, managed and operated. This must be done for all people involved. We must insist that our programs are operated effectively, or those responsible must be removed so that the job gets done. I have discovered that not all undocumented people desire citizenship and would be satisfied with a variety of other legal statuses such as legal worker, resident alien, permanent resident and the like. These options are often overlooked, but would offer faster solutions to the challenges we face and would achieve greater bi-partisan support.

AJ: How will you hasten the process of getting recognition and compensation for Filipino World War II veterans?

Edwards: I will co-sponsor, advocate and vote for legislation that provides recognition and compensation for Filipino WW II veterans. It is the right thing to do and is long overdue.

AJ: The US Census Bureau last year released data that showed Asian-owned businesses increased at more than twice the national rate, making it one of the strongest segments of the US economy. How will you entice more Asian-owned businesses to invest in Las Vegas/Clark County?

Edwards: The best way to encourage businesses to come to Las Vegas is to have pro-business, pro-growth, smart tax policies implemented at the national level that will complement efforts at the state and local levels. We must stop demonizing businesses and instead become a strong ally of them. We must extend the Bush-era tax cuts, prevent the taxes on businesses included in Obamacare, drive down energy costs, eliminate costly and excessive regulations, restore sensible lending policies to open up credit to businesses and stabilize business rules so everyone knows what the future business environment will be.

In addition, the federal government must get its financial house in order, establish mutually beneficial trade policies and promote stable monetary policy. These will further help growth that will enable more business opportunities. I would readily support these efforts. I am completely confident that the Asian community would lead the way to taking advantage of so many opportunities.

FAST FACTS on CHRIS EDWARDS

* Recently retired as a commander after 25 years in the US Navy

* Native of Sleepy Hollow, NY

* Graduated from University of Notre Dame in 1987 (Bachelor of Arts major in Government)

* Graduated from George Washington University in 1996 (Master of Public Administration)

Joe Heck

Heck: Reaching out the Asian-American community of southern Nevada was a major focus of my first campaign and has remained a priority during my first two years as your Member of Congress. I have met regularly with members of the Asian-American community and have convened a number of Asian-American business leader round table discussions to talk about the issues facing Asian-American families, the community, and businesses. The needs and concerns of the Asian-American community are similar to ones I hear from folks all around the valley - how will I be able to find a job or keep a job? How can I stay in my home? What are we going to do to get the economy back on track? I am working to address all of these challenges to ensure that the Asian-American community will continue to thrive as the vibrant, diverse population it is and continue to make a positive impact on the entire Las Vegas valley.

AJ: Will you support the DREAM Act or any legislation that will aid undocumented youth in getting a path to citizenship?

Heck: The idea that young children who were brought to America illegally should be given access to opportunities in this country is a noble one. However, I believe that there are problems with the DREAM Act as it is currently written that prohibit it from positively affecting its intended demographic. First, in its current form, the DREAM Act would extend benefits to individuals who are up to 35 years old. If the bill is designed to help young students, then young students should be the focus of the bill. It also only requires two years of college or military service for individuals to benefit. However, it does not state that the individuals must obtain a degree or certificate or receive an honorable discharge from the military after a full enlistment, which lasts three to four years. If we are going to be giving individuals the benefits of legal residency, the goal must be that we ensure they are fully prepared for the competitive global job market or civilian life after college or military service. In its current form, I believe that the DREAM Act falls short of that goal.

AJ: How will you hasten the process of getting recognition and compensation for Filipino World War II veterans?

Heck: Recognition and compensation of the Filipino American World War II veterans, including the Mighty Five who reside here in Las Vegas, has been one of my priorities since taking office. Far too many Filipino-American veterans have passed without being properly recognized for their service to the United States and I am committed to seeing them recognized as long as I hold this office. I was the first member of the Nevada delegation and only second Republican to co-sponsor HR 210. I have spoken out on the House Floor several times on this issue and recognized the passing of Francisco Cedula and Augusto Oppus in the Congressional Record to draw attention to this travesty of justice. Because there were so many questions concerning what was valid documentation of service, I sent my military legislative aide to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis to actually look at the files. After examining the cases of the Filipino veterans and the reasons for their repeated denials, I introduced legislation, HR 6464, that will "direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to accept certain documents as proof of service in determining the eligibility of an individual to receive amounts from the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund." This bill clearly defines the types of documents the Secretary must accept as proof of service so that our denied veterans will be recognized. These brave men deserve to live out their final years knowing that the sacrifices they made all those years ago have been recognized and H.R. 6464 will finally make their dreams of recognition a reality.

AJ: The US Census Bureau last year released data that showed Asian-owned businesses increased at more than twice the national rate, making it one of the strongest segments of the US economy. How will you entice more Asian-owned businesses to invest in Las Vegas/Clark County?

Heck: The best thing we can do to entice more Asian-American business investment in Clark County is create an environment that fosters small business growth and makes is cheaper and easier for business to open, expand, or hire workers. I have supported policies that would give business the certainty they need to go out and hire but that agenda has been blocked at every turn by the Senate. I have voted for a bill to prevent a tax hike on all American families and businesses as well as legislation that creates a path to comprehensive tax reform which would lower rates for businesses by reducing special interest loopholes and make our companies more competitive in the global marketplace. In addition, I have voted to eliminate harmful, burdensome regulations that Washington imposes on American businesses. While we need some regulations to protect consumers, workers and the environment, Washington has gone too far in imposing its hyper-regulatory agenda on businesses. A more common sense approach to regulation will give business more certainty about how to run their business which will lead to growth and investment. I have voted to repeal the health care reform law which we know will drive up health care costs for businesses and fine them if they fail to provide coverage to employees, both of which will drive up the cost of doing business and could lead to layoffs or a lack of business expansion. Finally, legislation I introduced, the Hoover Power Allocation Act, was signed into law and authorizes the continued allocation of electricity from Hoover Dam for the next 50 years, until 2067. Extending Nevada's access to low cost, clean hydro power is key to Nevada's economic recovery because it will help create certainty over future electricity prices. Energy cost certainty means businesses can plan for their future.

FAST FACTS on JOE HECK

* Currently US Representative of NV's third congressional district; former NV state senator

* Native of Pennsylvania

* Graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1984 (Health Education)

* Graduated from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1988 (Doctor of Osteopathy) and completed residency in Emergency Medicine at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in 1992

* Married to Lisa Heck with three children

John Oceguera

Oceguera: I think it is critically important for citizens in the Asian-American community to be involved in the electoral process and make their voices heard. In Congress, I will hold regular meetings with an advisory group from the Asian-American community so I stay updated on what is happening and better serve my constituents. I have held many roundtable discussions with constituency groups to better understand the issues each face, and in Congress I will continue to reach out and listen to those who know best--our community leaders.

AJ: Will you support the DREAM Act or any legislation that will aid undocumented youth in getting a path to citizenship?

Oceguera: I support the DREAM Act because it is consistent with a policy reflecting we're a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. If someone wants to serve in our military or go to school and become part of our educated workforce, we should help find a way for them to stay here legally.

AJ: How will you hasten the process of getting recognition and compensation for Filipino World War II veterans?

Oceguera: In Congress, I will work together to cut the red tape and help expedite the process of getting Filipino World War II veterans the benefits they deserve. We need to build off the successes of the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation provision signed by President Obama in 2009, and work to find practical solutions to honor the sacrifices of these American Heroes.

AJ: The US Census Bureau last year released data that showed Asian-owned businesses increased at more than twice the national rate, making it one of the strongest segments of the US economy. How will you entice more Asian-owned businesses to invest in Las Vegas/Clark County?

Oceguera: There are three things we can do to help grow our economy and attract more Asian-owned businesses to invest in our community. First, we must invest in infrastructure. Every time this country has struggled it was investment in infrastructure that helped us recover. We have seen this impact in our community, as the 215 connected Henderson and Las Vegas in a way that allowed people and commerce to move back and forth, and encouraged businesses and housing to crop up. On the flip side, we don't have a freeway between Las Vegas and Phoenix, two major hubs in the Southwest. Infrastructure helps us create jobs now, and future generations can use it. Next, the majority of jobs are created by small businesses, and many small businesses start in someone's home. That's why I would like to see a simplified Standard Home Office Deduction to help people turn their ideas into businesses that create jobs here in Southern Nevada. Finally, I think investing in our education system is crucial to growing our economy. I know the difference education made in my life, and I know how important it is to the economic future of our state. As Speaker of the Assembly, I brought a number of businesses to Nevada, and they told me they loved our state, our business climate and our lifestyle, but we didn't have the educated workforce they required. Nevada needs those jobs. We should invest in education, from early childhood to higher education, to help our economy and attract more businesses to our community, including more Asian-owned businesses.

FAST FACTS on JOHN OCEGUERA

* Currently speaker of the NV State Assembly where he is representative of Clark County District 16 since 2000

* Native of Fallon, NV

* Graduated from Cogswell College in 1995 (Fire Administration)

* Graduated from UNLV in 1998 (Masters in Public Administration)

* Graduated from UNLV in 2003 (Law)

* Married to Janie Oceguera with two children


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