Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011 | 8:52 p.m.
Nevada congressional candidates offered contrasting visions for boosting the economy Thursday, with Democrat Kate Marshall saying she'd give tax breaks only to companies that create jobs in the United States and Republican Mark Amodei saying he'd emphasize freeing up more federal lands for ranching, mining and other development.
In a televised debate featuring two minor candidates as well, former state Sen. Amodei also suggested that one of the best reasons to elect him in the Sept. 13 special election for the 2nd District seat that never has been held by a Democrat is that he's not one of them.
"Here's what it comes down to," said Amodei, former chairman of the state Republican Party who also briefly served as executive director of the Nevada Mining Association.
"If you think we are on the right track in Washington, D.C., if you think another member of the Nancy Pelosi caucus is a good thing. ... that Barack Obama and Harry Reid are headed the right way, then I'm not your candidate," he said.
"I'm the person with 24 years experience in the private sector," Amodei said. "I am one of you."
Marshall, the state treasurer, said she breaks from fellow Democrats on some issues, including her support for extending tax breaks adopted under the Bush administration.
She said one of her biggest strengths is her ability to find middle ground between divergent interests. One example: A jobs bill that was backed by both the teacher's union and the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce that she helped get through the Legislature last year.
"One of the things the federal government can do is invest in the private sector to create jobs and make money," Marshall said, suggesting loans be made to private companies to build roads, bridges, transmission lines and other infrastructure.
"Let the private sector build them, pay back those loans with interest. Nevada gets money, the federal government gets money and we get jobs," she said. "Provide a tax cut where a business creates a job. In terms of offshore money, they can bring it here and pay taxes when and if they create a job. And I need to see the job before I give you a tax credit."
Amodei disagreed, saying "the solution to jobs is in the private sector, not the public sector."
"Job programs that take money from the private sector aimed at creating jobs in the public sector is something that has been tried the last few years and is not working," he said.
Amodei and Marshall had debated twice before but were joined Thursday night by the two other candidates on the ballot, Tim Fasano of the Independent American Party and Helmuth Lehmann, a non-partisan independent.
Fasano, a semi-retired former aerospace contractor, said it is wrong for the government to invest in private industry.
"I consider that to be socialized capitalism," he said. "Let the private industry do their job."
Lehman, who is unemployed after being laid off from Microsoft Licensing, countered that the construction of the Hoover Dam was a good example of the good that can be done through federal spending aimed at spurring the economy.
"There would be no Las Vegas without it," he said. "That was the right thing to do."
Amodei said the key to economic prosperity and creating jobs is to cut federal spending. He also said a federal hiring freeze should be considered and that environmental restrictions on federal lands should be relaxed, noting that about 85 percent of the land in Nevada belongs to the federal government.
Republicans have about a 30,000 voter registration advantage in the district but there also are about 60,000 non-partisans registered in the race, which has drawn the attention of the two major national parties.
House Speaker John Boehner helped raise money for Amodei in Reno last week and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has endorsed him, while former President Bill Clinton penned a fundraising pitch for Marshall.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval urged support for Amodei in a TV ad that began airing earlier Thursday in the sprawling district that covers most of the state outside of Las Vegas and most of Clark County.
Republican Dean Heller was serving his third term in the U.S. House when Sandoval appointed him to the Senate in May after John Ensign resigned amid a sex and ethics scandal.
Early voting begins on Saturday and runs through Sept. 9.
A regular election for the House seat will be held in November 2012 when a fourth seat will be added to the ones currently represented by Republican Joe Heck and Democrat Shelley Berkley, who is challenging Heller for his Senate seat next year.