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Having played an integral role in shaping the Nevada political landscape, Asha Jones, is widely recognized as a formidable political strategist and indefatigable community advocate amongst those in political circles. From the outset, she knew she wanted a career in politics, yet she wanted to remain out of the limelight. Her decision was made, Asha would play the critical role of support staff; thereby, allowing her to ensure the work would still be completed on behalf of the community without her being placed centerstage.
“I always wanted to change the world. As a kid, I always knew I could make things better. When I was in high school, I went to ‘Close Up,’ which took kids to Washington D.C. to introduce them to politics. It was then I realized, ‘I could do this.’ But I had also worked campaigns from the time I was eleven (11). My mother was a part of the teacher’s union, and they needed people to knock doors, like we do on campaigns now. Back then we used a note card and had specific questions we were told to ask each household. They were nothing like we have today with walk lists populated on tablets.”
“I have never really wanted to be in the front. I feel like people in the front need to have strong people behind the scenes and you don’t always get that. If everybody is trying to be seen, who is back there guarding your six. In my role, I can do more, I can ask more, than I would if I were the person in front. Often people feel they can be more candid in the conversations with me than with the person that is elected, which allows me to become even more invaluable to the campaign.”
“While I was in college, I interned for Congresswoman Shelly Berkley and then when I graduated from college, she offered me a job on the campaign. I ended up working her campaigns from 2000, 2002, and 2004. Piper (Piper Overstreet, Vice President of Government Relations for the Las Vegas Raiders) and I were just talking about how that was the best job. Working in politics you get bubble gum and toothpicks, and you have to build a building. When working on campaigns, you must move quick, you are constantly on the go, and you have to just get things done. If you can effectively work a campaign, you can work anywhere. And the same thing is true of a congressional office. The challenge is to meet the needs of a wide ranging and diverse group of constituents, while keeping the focus of your office at the forefront.”
Fast forward to 2017, coming off a successful bid to retake his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Steven Horsford solicited Asha to become his Chief of Staff. “At first, I turned him down, simply stating that I did not want to relocate to Washington (D.C.), but he said, ‘What if you don’t have to?’ And here we are five years later, after only agreeing to work for one (1).”
“I think what prepared me was that I had worked literally every job in the district office, so being a Chief of Staff with a true understanding of the district made me an anomaly. Most are from ‘inside the beltway’ and have spent little, if any, time in the district led by their representative. But my lack of familiarity also hurt me. However, I have an incredible team. My Deputy Chief is brilliant. That man, if I call him right now and ask him about any resolution on the floor, he will tell me its status and signers, so I am fortunate to have that support inside the Capitol. I believe I have the best of both worlds. Having a true understanding of how each respective office works and how our efforts can complement one another, makes the work easier.”
For those wanting to follow a similar path in a supportive role, Ms. Jones offers “The first thing you need to do, is volunteer on campaigns with the attitude that there is literally nothing you wouldn’t do. At any given event, I will clear a table, take the trash out, talk with the Governor, and help coordinate press interviews. I am a willing worker. Equally as important, you must be willing to listen to others. The more you know, the more valuable you are to a campaign.”
“Another thing you must consider is coming out of college, I was offered a job as a legal secretary, by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. At the same time, Shelly Berkley offered me a job on her campaign. Let’s compare the two, legal secretary, working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, guaranteed benefits, guaranteed longevity. Conversely, on a campaign, you have no benefits, no scheduled personal time, and at the end of six months you have no guaranteed employment. The only reason I was able to choose the path that I did is because of the support of my parents. I had a family that said, ‘follow your heart.’ I had to move back in at home, as a single parent. I literally had to do everything to survive. I was a substitute teacher, I worked at a daycare center overnight, I worked at the post office for three horrible weeks, I did what I had to do to pay my bills. But how many people are willing and able to take that position? In 2016 when I went to work for the Clinton campaign I traveled to New York for training and of approximately one hundred (100) people in the room there were three (3) African Americans. If you want to be successful, you must be willing and able to put in the work and have access.”
For women wanting to seek elected office, Ms. Jones offers “There is no ‘one right path.’ You must have your reason. Everyone’s reason is different. And it can’t be superficial, you must have a passion for service. Then you must drill down and become a subject matter expert on something, which is not to say you don’t know other stuff, but what are you here for? What are you trying to do? To be successful you need to have the community’s trust and in order to gain their trust, and if you don’t know what you are talking about, nobody is going to trust you.”
Regarding Congressman Horsford’s agenda for this session “For us, we understand housing dictates everything else. Housing dictates healthcare, housing dictates education, housing dictates food supply, and that is unique to Nevada because we are always a part of that list when it comes to housing. We understand housing costs too much. We understand a lack of affordable housing destabilizes the family. Affordable housing is at the top of our agenda. This is not exclusively a ‘federal’ issue, but for us, it is on our radar.”
“Moreover, the rising inflation resulting from the pandemic has caused food prices to soar. Unfortunately, the additional SNAP Relief money, which was initially brought about by the pandemic will revert to its ‘pre-pandemic’ levels in April. In real life that looks like a senior whose benefits totaled $35/per month prior to the pandemic, were raised to $250/per month because of the pandemic and will now return to $35/per month. What people need to understand is food stamp qualifiers have not changed since the 90’s. If you are a senior citizen, living on a fixed income, what groceries are you going to be able to buy with $35/per month? This is something that must be addressed, but will prove difficult, as we do not have the votes in the House of Representatives to address this.”
According to Deputy Chief of Staff LaVontae Brooks “The only way to bring this issue to the forefront is with the FY2024 Farm Bill that Congress has to pass this year. But it will definitely be difficult because Republicans already want to cut SNAP and make it more difficult for people to qualify.”
The challenges seem nonstop, but Asha eagerly sets about doing the work. When she is not working directly for Congressman Horsford, she provides counsel to a cadre of elected officials and candidates ensuring Democratic ideals are championed across the State at every level of government.