ELKO — “The citizenry here is just incredible. It’s a freedom-loving community,” Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said Monday evening just before the Fourth of July Freedom Celebration began at the Elko County Fairgrounds.
The new senator said he and his family come to Elko for the holiday for the fireworks and Basque food, too, and they were in Ely earlier in the day for the July 4 parade there.
“My routine hasn’t changed. I always go to Fallon, Ely and Elko,” Heller said, and he added that he will be back for Labor Day events in Elko.
Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, one of the lead organizers of the annual fireworks extravaganza, said the Monday night show would feature 32,000 aerials.
“You guys ready for a great show?” he asked the crowd at the fairgrounds, where he said the box seats and tables were sold out.
“Three weeks ago we thought there was no way in heck we would raise the money to put on this show,” Ellison said.
He said people have been calling in from all over the state with pledges, and if all the money comes in, plus the gate fees, “we will have enough for the down payment for next year” on the fireworks.
Ellison said he was $504 in the hole on Sunday for the $65,000 needed for the show.
Although many were at the fairgrounds to see the show, there also were hundreds of cars parked nearby and above Interstate 80.
The event featured patriotic music, special recognition of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of war in Afghanistan, with Les Brown, director of the POW/MIA Elko Awareness Association portraying Bergdahl.
Heller also spoke at the ceremony, and in an interview prior to the event.
The senator said he wasn’t campaigning in Elko, just following the routine he established while in Congress to visit rural Nevada during the holiday weekend.
He said he will be campaigning later, however, to hold the Senate seat he was appointed to from the U.S. House a couple of months ago. That seat is up for election in November 2012.
The Republican said he is waiting to see what the Nevada Supreme Court decides on the election to fill his House seat before supporting a Republican candidate to replace him, but he said former state Sen. Mark Amodei would make a good congressman.
The state GOP picked Amodei as the Republican candidate for the Sept. 13 election, but the court will decide whether each party will have one candidate or all 30 candidates from various parties will be on the ballot.
“There will be an election within 360 days to rectify any issues,” Heller said, commenting that this is the first time Nevada has had such a special election to fill a two-year House seat, so there are “growing pains.”
As for his Senate post, he said “it’s the same job, just on the other side of the Capitol, but I spend more hours in the Capitol.” And he said there is too much politics and not enough work on policy on both sides of the aisle.
On the issues, Heller said raising taxes would cut jobs, not make jobs, but he approves of seeing a company like GE pays taxes to bring in revenue.
“Raising taxes kills jobs. President Obama said that in December so why is he now saying we have to raise taxes? Heller asked.
On the latest court action against the gathering of wild horses in the Elko and Ely U.S. Bureau of Land Management districts due to start in July, Heller said he doesn’t always praise the BLM, but when it comes to managing wild horses he does.
“It’s critical we have a balance,” he said, adding that without that balance, there would be impact of the herds of antelope, deer and elk and problems for cattle ranchers.
“It’s a very emotional issue,” Heller said.
Horse advocates filed a lawsuit against the planned gathering, and U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben delayed the start of the roundup to July 16 to consider the case.
On Medicare, Heller said there is a lot of demagoguery that is taking away from what is proposed, fixing Medicare for the future while not changing it for those receiving it now.
Heller also said when he returns tonight he will finally have his own Senate office. He has been in a mobile office, and in limbo.
“I could write a book on how hard it is to go through a transitional period,” he said.
He also said he expects to work well with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Nevada issues in the next 18 months.