Meet Our 2018 Labor Candidates: Michelle Gorelow for Assembly District 35

Fast Facts:

 In 2012, Michelle was recognized as one 100 Women of Purpose in Nevada by U.S. Senator Harry Reid
★ She's been a leader in the Girl Scouts for ten years.
★ Before earning a master's degree in education, Michelle earned her bachelor's degree in biology and was on her way to becoming an optometrist when she was selected to participate in the Gift of Sight program, and went to the Philippines give new eyeglasses to 13,000 people there. That sparked an interest in non-profit and civic work that took her in a new direction.

Listening to her talk about the issues that are important to her, it's clear that Michelle Gorelow, candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 35, came to the decision to run for office after more than 15 years of experience with the alternating triumphs and fustrations of community and organizational leadership. Michelle graciously made time to chat with us about how those experiences culminated in a run for office, and what she plans to do with that seat once she's there.

You've been a long-time community advocate and leader in various capacities, including your current role as the Vice President of Business Development and Community Outreach for the Southern Nevada non-profit Foundation for Positively Kids. How did that experience translate into interest in a political career? 

I'd been considering running for several years. I had gone in and talked to the Nevada Caucus about it, but at the time I thought James Healy was going to run again, so I was going to wait. But it ended up being a great time to run—for many of us running now. For my part, I'd been an advocate for women's and children's healthcare issues for 15 years, and the legislature just was not listening to me when I went to them with those issues. So I decided I was going to do it myself. 

In your opinion, what are the issues most critical to Nevadans right now, and how do you plan to tackle them?

First and foremost, healthcare. We need to protect the Affordable Care Act. We especially need to protect people with pre-existing conditions. Those are the big issues.

But there are underlying things happening, too, that need advocacy. One of the things I'm very passionate about is something called presumptive eligibility—a process by which a low-income woman who isn't already receiving Medicaid finds out she's pregnant, and can go through a quick application process for Medicaid and be presumed eligible so that she can begin to receive prenatal care right away, rather than waiting the normal 45 days to get approved. So many women weren't getting critical prenatal care for that reason. A lot of doctors weren't taking these women at 20+ weeks after they got eligibility, because they hadn't received that early care, and now they were considered high-risk. So a lot of these women were getting their first pregnancy-related treatment in the emergency room. 

Transportation is another—traffic. That's probably the biggest frustration I've heard at the doors in this district. We have a lot of development here right now, which we love, and it's necessary. But we don't yet have the infrastructure to support that kind of growth. We have roads in need of widening, we have a lot of traffic confusion. We need our road and school construction to keep pace with that growth in development.

Education is of course another big issue. It's such a mess, and yes, it's going to take time to undo that knot. But there are things we can be doing right now that we're not doing. We can break this huge issue up into steps, like building schools to relieve the classroom sizes. We've got missing schools in my district. Ten years ago we were promised new elementary, middle, and high schools—we got the elementary school but still don't have those middle and high schools. Desert Oasis and Sierra Vista are badly overcrowded. One of my biggest goals is to make sure that Nevada gets the schools it needs.

We also need to increase teacher pay to keep and to attract the kinds of teachers our kids deserve. There's this ugly cycle around teacher shortages in Nevada—the budgets get cut, so they cut the teachers, and then soon after we have to scramble to get more teachers, and end up using a lot of long-term substitutes instead. That cycle needs to stop.

Related to that, I'd like to see more possible outcomes for our kids. It's important they know what's available to them. Not everybody wants to go to college, and especially with the nature of our job market right now, we need other kinds of training. I want to see more introduction to the trades and apprenticeship programs in the high school setting, and more adult continuing education and training. I want to see us upskill our workers to prepare for a changing workforce. 

The unions bring a lot to the table, there, with skills training and making sure our employers provide for workers. We need to continue to strengthen and improve that. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Learn more about Michelle Gorelow at her campaign website, michellegorelow.com.