In the third and final part of our interview series with Nevada Attorney General (AG) Aaron Ford, we talk about his top priorities for a potential second term, his defense of reproductive rights and Nevada’s 2020 election results, and what he’s done to ensure economic justice for his constituents.
You can read part one of our interview here, where Ford talks about his personal life and what drove him to get involved in public service. In part two, we spoke about his record as AG, his efforts on public safety and criminal justice, and his work with the Latino community.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Americano: You’ve been outspoken about your defense of reproductive rights, even as the right to abortion remains protected under existing statutes in Nevada. Why is this issue so important to you?
Ford: First and foremost, it’s an issue of freedom. It’s an issue of a fundamental liberty that existed and then one day did not. We have been taken back 50 years by the Supreme Court to a time where women did not have the freedom and bodily autonomy to decide whether to have an abortion or to begin a family or to risk their life or to make determinations in that regard.
That’s the first reason we need to be cognizant of this. But the second is yes, to be sure, the right to have an abortion up to 24 weeks is codified in our statutues, but the parameters around exercising that right are those that we should be concerned about because the person running against me can absolutely advocate things that would put up barriers to exercising that right: waiting periods, ultrasound laws, and things of that sort. So what we have to be concerned about is when someone says to you, in so many words, that she wants to prosecute and imprison people who seek abortions, you should have a lot of concern around that, because if she becomes the top law enforcement officer in the state, and she is that opposed to the exercising of that right under our statues, then she will seek to undermine that right, and we need to do all that we can to avoid that happening.
[Editor’s note: During a debate during the Republican primary, Chattah appeared to suggest that she would prosecute women who seek an abortion. “The way I look at it is the same way that we do sentencing enhancements on unborn children, victims of unborn children. I would marry it to that,” Chattah said.
Chattah has since claimed her view was misrepresented and said she doesn’t want to prosecute women. But she’s also said she’s “pro-life,” that “life begins at the time of the fetal heartbeat,” and that “If abortion is healthcare – murder must be population control.”]
Americano: You mentioned freedom. A lot of candidates across the country have said freedom is on the ballot this November, be it reproductive freedom, democratic freedom, and so on — do you agree with that perspective?
Ford: Absolutely, and I would couple that approach by indicating that justice is on the ballot, especially in this particular state, where I’m the attorney general who is fighting for justice, and the person running against me is not. And what I have said is that you could probably think of any word you want to, accrue it with the word justice, and that’s what my job does, that’s what my office does, so whether we’re talking about criminal justice, economic justice, environmental justice, gender justice, racial justice, reproductive justice—those are the things that are on the ballot as well, because you have someone running against me who will look to undermine all of that should she become the one who holds this particular seat. And again, it’s not just here in this state; it’s across the nation, and we must remain steadfast in opposition to those efforts.
Americano: You mentioned economic justice. The economy and inflation are obviously top of mind for a lot of voters. You’re not currently a lawmaker obviously, but what steps have you taken and can you take to try to ensure working class Nevadans have a fair shot, economically speaking?
Ford: COVID presented to us an opportunity to help Nevadans in ways that were not contemplated necessarily in my job description. At the end of the day, what we were able to do during COVID was to protect Nevadans from wrongful evictions during the time of a moratorium that had been set by our governor. That’s economic justice.
We were able to push back on price-gouging efforts that we saw happening. Even though we didn’t have a specific price-gouging law that addressed it, we used antitrust laws and other fair practices laws, but we’ve also now passed a price-gouging law that would kick in during a pandemic, for example. And during that same time period, we continued on our focus on the ‘c’ of consumer protection, where we have brought in over $330 million of settlement funds for opioids that are going to go into a state system that can help to rectify what we have seen happen at the hands of these unscrupulous companies.
In addition to that, we brought in tens of millions of dollars in settlement funds against other corporations that have been unscrupulous relative to the way they’ve interacted with our residents, and that too provides economic security because we’re able to recompense those who’ve been defrauded.
Americano: If you were to win, what would your top priorities be for a second term?
Ford: My priorities remain the same: justice. Again, you could probably rattle off any word you could think of, and that’s what our focus will be and has been and it’s going to be going forward. What we saw two years ago, for example, in the constitutional realm and defending our system of democracy was a trial run for what we will see, in my estimation, in two years, in 2024, when individuals come in who are touting the ‘Big Lie,’ some of whom have risen to the point where they’re even the Republican nominee for certain positions in our state.
They are going to try again, and we need someone in this office of attorney general who’s going to stand by the constitution, who’s going to push back on lies, and who’s going to ensure that the integrity of our elections goes unassailed and continues to thrive, so that’s one of the areas of focus that I’ll have, because we’ll be preparing for the 2024 election.
Americano: We’ve seen some Republicans in Nevada spend nearly two years now casting doubt on the 2020 election — what are the long-term consequences of those actions? What is the tangible impact on Nevadans’ lives if elections are not trusted and if politicians can just overturn their vote?
Ford: There have been efforts underway for a long time to undermine the franchise of voting, and it doesn’t just begin when you go show up at the ballot box. What I have learned over the course of my tenure in politics is that those who are opposed to our democratic process of voting will first begin by trying to say who can vote—which lawfully registered citizens can vote. They’ll try to limit that. Then they’ll try to limit when you can vote.
And if they can’t stop when you can vote, then they’ll try to limit whether your vote can be counted, and if it’s been counted, then they’re going to try to see whether it can be thrown out. And if they can’t see if it’s been thrown out, then they’re going to continue pursuing things to the point where we saw the January 6 insurrection take place, and so those are very tangible examples, because people experience that.
They experience it when they try to register, they experience it when they try to vote, they experience it when they try to see their vote counted, and they experience it as they try to exist in a democratic republic that is based on the premise of an electoral process that allows for a peaceful transition of power. So it seems to me that those of us who are true to the Constitution and true to the democratic republic are going to want people in office who are going to support it, not those who are going to try to lie about it and undermine it.
Americano: How would you as attorney general protect Nevadans’ right to vote and ensure their votes won’t be overturned?
Ford: I don’t have to tell you what I’d do, I can show you what I’d do. Look back at what we did two years ago. It was in my office that was in court pushing back on a minimum of six lawsuits that the last administration brought against our state, trying to stop votes from being counted or trying to have votes thrown out. We were the ones in court, pushing back and prevailing because people who were lying could not bring forth the evidence to support their lies.
Now, that said, when the instances of voter fraud take place, I prosecute those, as evidenced by the fact that a person who was lying about his wife’s ballot—god bless her soul, his deceased wife—being voted by someone else. It turns out it was him who voted it, and I prosecuted him and we took a guilty felony plea from him for voter fraud. Those are far and few between, but the point is, I’m going to defend the electoral process and the integrity of our elections by prosecuting voter fraud but also by pushing back on lies about voter fraud.
Americano: What do you think would happen in Nevada if Sigal Chattah were to win? What would that mean for Nevadans, in your mind?
Ford: Woe is Nevada if the person running against me becomes the attorney general. She’s already indicated that she intends to use the law in a vindictive matter. Those who did not support her will become the target—by her own words—of corruption investigations. There’s nothing, no evidence she can put forth that talks about why she would do it, but she’s already indicated how she’ll use the law.
She doesn’t appreciate or respect the dignity of every Nevadan. How do I know? Because she said that I should be hanging from a f***ing crane and then defended it by saying that really what she was doing was comparing me to a terrorist who is the head of Hamas. She doesn’t respect my dignity; she won’t respect the dignity of many others in this state as well.
We would not have a competent lawyer in the attorney general’s realm. How do I know that? She’s filed lawsuits that have led to attorney’s fees being awarded against her clients because of the shoddy work that she has done. She has missed deadlines. She has lied in pleadings and had to correct those pleadings because she is not an individual who is competent to be in court and that would not be a great service to our state. In fact, it would be a disservice.
Americano: Is there anything else you want to share?
Ford: I love this job. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some good jobs—teacher, I’ve been a lawyer for over 20 years, state Senate majority leader. But this is the best job I’ve ever had, and it’s one that I want to keep, which is why I’m working so hard to get reelected, to get the word out about what we do in this office and the importance of having someone in this office who appreciates, above all else, the humanity and dignity of every Nevadan.
I hope that I’m blessed to receive another term and an opportunity to continue serving the people of the state of Nevada.