Nonprofit community founder Erica Mosca takes on paratransit driver and college student James Fennell in Assembly District 14’s Democratic primary for the limited-time Assembly seat Maggie Carlton.
Mosca came to Las Vegas in 2008 to teach fifth grade. After earning a master’s degree in education and politics at Harvard, she started a nonprofit to prepare teens for college and return to the community as leaders, which she has led for a decade.
The daughter of an immigrant from the Philippines and parents who work by the hour, she became the first in her family to graduate from college. (Mosca’s father is press officer at the Review-Journal.)
“I think I have a unique perspective in that I understand what workers really need and experience, but I also know how politics work,” said Mosca, 35, who lost to the incumbent Richard Carillo during the Assembly District 18 primary in 2016.
Mosca said she and her husband, a Nellis Air Force Base Airman, moved to District 14 in January to be closer to their parents.
James Fennell, who ran unsuccessfully against Carlton in 2020, said continuing concerns about crime, school safety and the need for better-paying jobs in the district prompted him to try again.
“There are people here who struggle every day, myself included,” said Fennell, 36, who is studying social work at the College of Southern Nevada. “I feel like I’ll be this champion of the middle class, people who live paycheck to paycheck.”
Both candidates cited improving the education system as a top priority.
Mosca said she wants to research ways to address the teacher shortage, such as removing barriers to teaching in Nevada for teachers from other states and those considering teaching as a second career.
Fennell is in favor of teacher salary increases.
Fennell, whose father was a bystander killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, said he also wants to see more prison prevention and rehabilitation programs. He said that before moving to Las Vegas, he was briefly imprisoned and served a year of probation after being pulled over in a car driven by a friend he did not know had been stolen.
Mosca said she used her own savings to launch her nonprofit Leaders in Training, which today has a budget of half a million dollars.
“I really have a strong business sense, but I also consider myself an advocate for social justice,” said Mosca, who has been endorsed by the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus and unions. Fennell said he has yet to receive an endorsement, which he attributes to the fact that he ran against a popular starter two years ago.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Shawn Stamper in the general election.