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Nevada Millennials Push Candidates To Address Issues Beyond College Debt


So far this campaign season, the political conversation with millennials has centered mostly around college debt. But think about this. About two-thirds of people between the ages of 25 and 34 do not have a bachelor's degree. In Nevada, which holds its Democratic caucuses Saturday, that number is even higher. So what issues matter most to those voters? NPR's Asma Khalid reports from Las Vegas.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Let's meet 23-year-old Andrea Perkins. She works at a daycare.

ANDREA PERKINS: I make $8 an hour.

KHALID: She says that's not enough.

PERKINS: Reasonable to me would probably be 10, $11.

KHALID: Perkins is in a rush when we're talking because she's got to get home to her 3-year-old son, and like many other millennials who have kids, affordable childcare is a top priority. But she's worried about more than her son's life as a toddler. She's worried about his future.

PERKINS: Black women shouldn't be scared for their son's life. I'm scared that when my son gets older, he may not make it back home to me because of the color of his skin.

KHALID: And she wants a president to focus on improving race relations and policing. Las Vegas is a city where minorities are the majority. There are a mix of African Americans, Latinos and Asians. Many, like 28-year-old Jose Renteria, are the children of immigrants.

JOSE RENTERIA: I'm a Mexican-American, and my parents are from Durango. It's down by - kind of by the Texas border.

KHALID: Renteria's a union carpenter, and I meet him as he's getting off work - a bottle of water in one hand, a lunch cooler in the other. He stops for a few minutes to explain that his top issue this election season is immigration.

RENTERIA: I mean, just open up the doors. I mean, open up the doors. Do more background checks. Let people that really want to be here be here.

KHALID: For Renteria, this is personal. He's still got plenty of relatives in Mexico

RENTERIA: I get phone calls from them all the time. They want to be out here. You know, they would love to be out here. They would love to be making the wages that we make. To them, somebody getting paid good is $80 a week out there.

KHALID: He wants the next president to focus on immigration reform. He's also concerned about the high cost of health care, and he thinks Hillary Clinton ought to be that next president. Though he won't actually be caucusing for her or anybody Saturday because he has to work. But one of his fellow carpenters, Amanda Durio, says she will definitely be there.

AMANDA DURIO: I'm going in for Bernie.

KHALID: She likes his focus on economic inequality.

DURIO: There are very dramatic differences between a lower class and middle class now.

KHALID: And Durio has actually lived between those lines. She says she's making good money now - almost $29 an hour. But before she joined a union, she was struggling financially.

DURIO: There were plenty of weeks and months where bills were coming, and I wasn't sure if I - if my paycheck was going to cover it. And there were times when it didn't, you know? And I had to just kind of juggle, like, OK, which bill is more important to pay right now?

KHALID: Higher wages is hands down the most common concern I hear again and again from young working people in Nevada. At an upscale shopping mall on the Las Vegas Strip just across the street from the gilded Trump Tower, I meet Alma Gonzalez.

ALMA GONZALEZ: Today, I actually picked up a shift in the back where we package everything that people order online, so that's what I've been doing all day.

KHALID: She works at Macy's making 9.50 an hour. She's living at home with her mom.

GONZALEZ: My mom makes about, like, 32,000 or 34,000 a year, and she, like, has nothing for herself. That's all the groceries, like, mortgage, bills, everything, and she's, like, scraping it.

KHALID: Gonzalez voted in the 2014 midterms and wants to caucus Saturday.

GONZALEZ: It's not that I don't want to go. It's that I can't. I would love to. I really would.

KHALID: But she's working from noon to seven and says she cannot afford to take the day off. Asma Khalid, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.

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