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Contentious Nevada Debate Anticipated After Last-Minute Entry

Candidates were surprisingly vocal about housing during the Democratic debate in New Hampshire in early February. The term “housing” was used seven times during the nearly one-and-a-half-hour broadcast, as compared to twice during the Iowa debate less than a month prior. However, the elevated use of the word did not necessarily connote that the candidates would use the rest of their comments to argue the severity of America’s housing affordability crisis and its solutions. The candidates who referenced housing primarily used in in reference to the inequities felt by historically oppressed communities, then quickly urged the need for change.

Voters can expect greater group-driven rhetoric in the Nevada debate, as candidates attempt to drive turnout of Black, Latino and LGBQT voters in their favor, in advance of Saturday’s Nevada caucus and South Carolina’s primary at the end of the month. Latino and Hispanic voters comprise nearly 30 percent of Nevada’s electorate, as compared to New Hampshire’s 3.9 percent, while Black voters make up more than a quarter of South Carolina’s electorate, as compared to Iowa’s 3.8 percent. If housing is discussed in tonight’s debate, it will certainly focus on the impact felt by these demographics. Nevada and South Carolina must build 8,000 and 5,000 new apartments per year, respectively, to meet current demand.

Yet, housing may not get the attention it deserves with the recent qualification of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the debate stage. The Nevada debate will mark his first public appearance at a debate forum since he announced his presidential run in November. While Bloomberg recently released his housing plan to capture the attention of delegate-rich California, Candidates are likely to focus on his checkered past of race-relations in an effort to prop up their own plans for racial justice. Bloomberg has come under heavy scrutiny after separate remarks have surfaced where he openly defends racially motivated “stop-and-frisk” policing and blames the lack of “redlining,” a practice meant to discourage lending to poor communities, for the 2008 financial crisis.

Bloomberg will surely be on the defensive in the debate, a position normally reserved for the race’s front runner, in this case Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Strangely enough, Bloomberg will not be on Nevada’s ballot. Instead, his campaign decided to focus its attention and coffers on the 40 percent of the United States population voting in the 14 Super Tuesday states on March 3.

Despite efforts to push through the noise of debates, the topic of housing has been consistently shut out by the headlines of the week. The media has been priming America for a showdown between the campaigns that have been pounding the pavement for more than a year and the mayoral newcomer who just finished his first quarter. We hope that candidates will refrain from weaponizing the issue of housing and, instead, implore moderators to guide constructive and comprehensive discussion on the housing affordability challenges faced by America’s housing providers and renters.