Nevada GOP gubernatorial candidates tackle gun control, education in debate
Five Republican candidates for governor of Nevada debated Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
The top five out of 15 candidates, determined by a poll, were invited, including former U.S. Senator Dean Heller, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, businessman Guy Nohra and attorney Joey Gilbert.
Lombardo is leading in the polls after receiving an endorsement from former President Donald Trump last month. Lombardo did not receive the Nevada Republican Party’s endorsement, however, which went to Gilbert.
Gilbert rose to prominence after filing lawsuits against the state of Nevada over COVID-19 lockdown regulations. The Reno-based former boxer is the far right of the candidate group and said he was proud to have stood on the steps of the US Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Heller is the only primary candidate to have previously won statewide election. He was elected a senator in 2012 after serving three terms in the House and three terms as Nevada’s secretary of state. Heller lost his 2018 Senate re-election campaign to Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen.
Lee, who was a registered Democrat until last year, has been mayor of North Las Vegas since 2013 after being ousted from the state Senate by a progressive Democrat. He is eligible for re-election as mayor but has decided to run for governor instead.
The debate was moderated by KLAS-TV, Channel 8 presenter Denise Valdez and journalist Vanessa Murphy as well as Las Vegas Review-Journal political and government editor Steve Sebelius.
After the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 students and 2 adults were killed on Tuesday, all the candidates expressed their condolences. All also pointed out that the problem of mass shootings in this country is a mental health issue, not a gun control issue. No candidate said gun control would be a good idea. To prevent mass shootings, Gilbert and Nohra said they wanted more security on school campuses and better access to firearms. Lombardo said he supports public-private partnerships to increase mental health resources in education and law enforcement.
Gilbert, Heller, and Lee each supported dividing the Clark County School District into smaller districts to give school leaders and residents more control over their schools. Lee wants North Las Vegas to have its own neighborhood. It also encouraged competition between school districts and private schools with school choice voucher programs. Gilbert also lamented the amount of trash he says is present in Nevada public schools and said as governor he would privatize some public school services to free up funds to better support teachers.
inflation and the economy
Faced with rising costs due to inflation, the candidates agreed that as governor they would pressure federal leaders to rein in stimulus measures they believe are causing inflation. Gilbert wants to fight Washington, DC, economically, calling himself “the Ron DeSantis of the West,” referring to the governor of Florida who has openly opposed the actions of President Joe Biden’s administration. Heller emphasized lowering taxes as part of his economic plan. He pledged to eliminate the gas tax after $4 a gallon and cut state sales tax equivalent to inflation by about 8%. Lombardo attacked Gov. Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 shutdowns, which he and other candidates blamed for rising costs.
“I was the author of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (of 2017) when I was back in Washington, DC, and the purpose was to stimulate economic growth, and it did” , Heller said. “We can do the same thing here in the state of Nevada, which has never been attempted… We’re going to drive economic growth like we’ve never seen before.”
right to abortion
While the Supreme Court is expected to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade, who guarantees access to abortion care in the country, all candidates affirmed their personal beliefs as being anti-abortion. However, Gilbert was clear that Nevada law is currently abortion rights and Nevadans should choose what the new state policy should be. Lombardo said he would consider more regulation of abortion providers in Nevada. Heller called Gilbert and Lombardo “pro-choice” because of their comments — which both denied — and said his record of voting for anti-abortion Supreme Court justices while on the bench Senate shows he is a “proven conservative.” Heller said he would do “whatever it takes” to overturn Nevada’s current abortion law, which prohibits the procedure after 24 weeks. Lee said he would push for a “heartbeat bill” to be passed in Nevada that would ban abortion as long as a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, which can be from six weeks.
“Nevada is a pro-choice state,” Gilbert said. “I wish there were no abortions. But at the end of the day, that’s not what a governor can do. … I would absolutely lead Nevada to a pro-life state.
When asked if they would send Nevada National Guardsmen to the border to help secure it, all of the candidates except Lombardo pledged to send the guard. Lombardo said the costs of such an operation would be excessive, citing his law enforcement experience. Heller and Gilbert attacked Lombardo’s immigration record, claiming that Lombardo had made Clark County a “sanctuary” jurisdiction, which Lombardo vehemently denied. Heller said Lombardo “brings illegal immigrants into the state and distributes them throughout the state.” Lombardo defended his case, saying an ACLU lawsuit has hampered his department’s ability to catch undocumented immigrants and that the federal government is largely responsible for them in Clark County.
As Lake Mead and Lake Powell face all-time low water levels, the candidates were asked how they would deal with the state’s water supply crisis. Heller and Lombardo want to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact, which regulates how much water each state along the Colorado River can use. They and other candidates say California is getting too much water and Nevada’s share needs to be increased. Candidates have also proposed investing in new water harvesting technologies and methods, such as desalination in California. Nohra half-jokingly suggested transporting Mississippi floodwaters to the state. “Let’s give it a try. We have nothing to lose,” he said. For Gilbert, water conservation focuses on irrigation and rural Nevada, which can take advantage of new technologies to use less water. water and save more for cities, he said.
Dealing with Scandals
During each candidate’s individual question section, Nohra’s inexperience in politics was questioned. He said it’s even harder to deal with venture capitalists than politicians, and he’s not concerned about working with a likely Democratic state legislature.
Lombardo doubled down on his defense of his former undersheriff, Kevin McMahill, whom he endorsed to replace him this year. McMahill was accused by a woman of sexual misconduct when he was early in his career, in 1995, with the woman claiming he asked her to partially undress for him at a traffic stop.
Gilbert was questioned about his claim that the October 1, 2017 shooting was something of a cover-up. Gilbert backed down from his claim of a cover-up, but said as governor he would try to bring more transparency to how the investigation was conducted. Lombardo, who was part of the investigation, fired back at Gilbert.
“For people to blame the integrity of my officers and the investigation associated with that is ridiculous,” Lombardo said. “I support them in all aspects of this investigation.”
Heller denied having flip-flopped on the issue of abortion rights during his political career. He was quoted saying he would support funding for Planned Parenthood in 2017, but later said he never would. He told the Review-Journal that he was pro-choice in 2006, but said he was “more libertarian at the time” and had changed his position. He clarified that he is now pro-life and that he believes the overturning of Roe v. Wade was a good thing.
Lee said he privately condemned the racist presentation of a concealed carry license trainer and never addressed the issue publicly because ‘it’s not my job to bankrupt him’ , did he declare.
During the hour-long debate, the focus was on attacking favorites Lombardo and Sisolak. Heller was the most offensive, arguing with Lombardo several times and claiming that Lombardo was “friends” with Sisolak. During his closing speech, Lombardo derided his opponents’ attacks.
“For all intents and purposes, this primary is over,” he said. “(These attacks) are all fake, they don’t work… because I’m leading in all the polls. I have the most money associated with a successful campaign, I have the endorsement of President Donald Trump, and I have the endorsement of 16 out of 17 sheriffs.
Lombardo declined to answer questions after the debate.
The Nevada primary takes place on June 14 and early voting begins on May 28. Read the Review-Journal’s 2022 Voter’s Guide here.
Contact Nick Robertson at [email protected] Follow @NickRobertsonSU on Twitter.