Thursday, Oct. 17, 2002 | 11:06 a.m.
CARSON CITY -- Gov. Kenny Guinn is coasting to a second term.
Five candidates have challenged Guinn, 66, who has spent most of the last seven months in Las Vegas dealing with such problems as medical malpractice, a proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain and the declining economy.
There is no doubt that Guinn, or whoever is elected, will have to sign the biggest tax increase in Nevada history to balance the budget or be prepared to make massive cuts in state spending.
Guinn's most formidable challenger is Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, the first black elected to the Nevada Senate and the first to receive a party's nomination for governor.
Neal has long advocated raising casino taxes, saying they have the lowest tax rate among the states that permit gambling. His bills to boost the rate from 6 1/4 percent on gross income to 10 1/4 in the past two legislative sessions have failed to get out of the Senate.
Guinn first called attention in 2000 to the state's declining revenues, but he didn't present any plan for curing that to the 2001 Legislature. Instead he pushed for a tax study, which should be completed 10 days after the election.
Guinn, as have the governors before him, opposes the proposed nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain. He vetoed President Bush's selection, but Congress overrode the veto.
The state is embroiled in a legal battle to stop the Energy Department from going forward with the repository at Yucca.
Neal supports negotiating with the federal government to gain benefits from the dump-site selection for the state.
He also backs the purchase of Nevada Power Co. by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, a position on which Guinn has been silent.
Other challengers to Guinn include Dick Geyer, a Las Vegas Libertarian who opposes any tax increase and suggests elimination of the Millennium Scholarship program started by Guinn.
David Holmgren, a rancher from Mineral County, is the Independent American candidate and has been a leader in the fight against the Bureau of Land Management, saying federal regulations are running the ranching industry into the ground.
Charles Laws, a retired environmental engineer who has lived in Nevada since 1997, is the Green Party candidate. He says he's committed to keeping nuclear waste out of Nevada. Laws and other protesters were detained on Mother's Day at the Nevada Test Site and charged with trespassing. He has never been notified of a court date, he said.
He ran unsuccessfully for Congress two years ago against Rep. Jim Gibbon.
Jerry Norton of Las Vegas, an independent candidate for governor, could not be reached for comment.