Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2015

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The governor’s race:

No ‘knockout blow’ in Las Vegas debate hurts Rory Reid

Sandoval, aided by a passive foe, likely to maintain lead in race


Justin M. Bowen

Nevada Governor candidates Rory Reid (left) and Brian Sandoval debate during their last and final debate at the PBS building in Las Vegas Thursday, October 7, 2010.

Reid-Sandoval Debate

Nevada gubernatorial candidates Rory Reid (left) and Brian Sandoval meet after finishing their debate at the PBS building in Las Vegas Thursday, October 7, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Democrat Rory Reid had two goals for Thursday night’s gubernatorial debate: explain what needs to be done to move Nevada forward and convince voters he’s enough of a leader to do it.

Republican Brian Sandoval’s purpose was singular: hammer home to Nevadans that he will not raise taxes.

Each appeared to accomplish his goal, meaning it’s unlikely their final debate will bring a dramatic shift in the dynamics of the race that most polls have Sandoval leading.

Neither candidate broke new policy ground. Sandoval argued his lack of a budget plan is better than Reid’s flawed one. Reid, obviously, disagreed and used it as an example of why Sandoval is a “weak leader.”

The candidates mostly wanted to criticize the other’s plan instead of answering questions, seemingly to the frustration of moderator Mitch Fox, the Vegas PBS host.

Reid described his budget plan as “the size of a short novel” — actually more a long college essay, at 14 pages.

But Sandoval dismissed that plan as being filled with “fantasy money.” Sandoval, as he has for months, refused to outline how he would cut more than $2 billion from Nevada’s budget, instead talking in generalities about shared pain.

“I have experience and a plan,” Reid said several times. “Brian has neither.”

Sandoval accused his opponent of telling people what they wanted to hear and that Reid would increase taxes, leading businesses to lay off workers, further hurting the state’s economy.

But he continued to avoid providing details about the programs he would end to balance the budget.

When asked by the Sun after the debate to name three specific cuts he would make to balance spending with the state’s dwindling revenue, Sandoval wouldn’t answer.

In an effort to elicit answers instead of talking points, Fox went through a list of taxes, asking if the candidates would consider raising them — mining, alcohol and cigarettes, fuel, sales tax on services. Both candidates answered no instantly.

Then, some daylight between the candidates, just 25 minutes into the debate.

When the concept of a state lottery arose, Sandoval was a quick no. Reid, however, said he would consider it, although he quickly noted that it’s far from an instant solution because it would require changing the state constitution — a four-year undertaking.

Reid, who briefly last month suggested he could sign a budget with a tax increase, stuck to the position that he wouldn’t raise taxes.

Reid surprised some observers by not being more aggressive.

He repeated familiar attacks: Sandoval doesn’t have a budget plan and is too tied to lobbyists. But unlike their previous debates there was no yellow legal pad, on which Reid could write $533 million — the amount he accuses Sandoval of wanting to cut from education — and no cardboard cutout of Sandoval like Reid carried to events to highlight his frustration over his opponent’s refusal to engage.

Reid instead tried to project a more serious image as a leader.

The debate ended with observers concluding there was “no knockout blow.”

Eric Herzik, a UNR political science professor, said, “that’s bad for Rory Reid. He needed one.”

Early voting starts Oct. 16, less than two weeks away.

“Sandoval was in the position to shoot holes in Reid’s budget plan and he didn’t have to address much,” said David Damore, a UNLV political science professor. “That’s the luxury of having the lead.”

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