Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 | 4:52 p.m.
What began as a civil debate between U.S. congressional candidates Danny Tarkanian and Steven Horsford devolved into less-structured verbal warfare as questions were posed about the environment, taxes and Medicare.
The candidates met about 11 a.m. Sunday for the second time in less than a week to debate in the race for the newly formed 4th Congressional District seat. The debate was at the Sinai Temple Men’s Club brunch in Summerlin.
The crowd of about 80 people represented a range of ages and was largely quiet, although Howard Beckerman, second vice president of the club and the moderator of the debate — had to quiet the audience several times.
Both candidates indicated their support of Israel, but President Barack Obama’s health care bill created disagreement among the two.
“I think there are some good provisions,” said Tarkanian, a Republican. “But when you balance the positives with the negatives, it’s not even close.”
He said the bill would decrease jobs, raise taxes on the middle class and decrease the number of U.S. doctors.
Horsford, a Democrat and the majority leader of the Nevada Senate, emphasized his record as a job creator who has been able to help the state cut the budget. One of Tarkanian’s prevailing themes was what he’d do to help protect the American taxpayer.
Neither candidate delved too deeply into social issues, although Beckerman asked them about their stances on birth control and the morning-after pill.
Horsford said he supported a woman’s right to choose; Tarkanian said he respected people who had opposite opinions on the topic.
When Beckerman asked about Medicare, both candidates said they would defend the services the program provides.
“I don’t believe that we should allow our parents and grandparents to be out on their own,” Horsford said. "A voucher says, ‘Here’s a set amount of money for you to go out and meet your health care needs. Above that, you’re on your own,’ ”
Tarkanian said he would not cut benefits to seniors but has advocated GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s plan.
“Paul Ryan’s plan is not just a voucher plan; it’s an option,” he said, adding that it would allow people to use the voucher program or Medicare.
“Isn’t that a great way to get started?” Tarkanian said.
A scattering of dissent echoed through the crowd, prompting Beckerman to say, “My show, my rules.”
The candidates again disagreed when education was brought up.
Tarkanian said he didn't believe higher education should be a right. He said new provisions to subsidize colleges would not be wise because of the economic problems facing the country.
As the debate closed in on 50 minutes, the candidates began to argue with each other more often outside of their allotted time. During one verbal scuffle, Beckerman told the candidates to “knock it off.”
Tarkanian said he would not support initiatives to raise taxes. He said he would prefer to increase revenue in other ways, including tax-law reform that would allow everyone the same deductions while cutting down on the number of rules in the code.
Beckerman then steered the candidates to questions about Iran and Afghanistan. Both candidates agreed that strong economic sanctions must be taken against Iran, which is enriching uranium – a key step in the development of a nuclear bomb – and neither was willing to send troops.
The opinions differed more on Afghanistan. Horsford said the United States must remain vigilant in protecting itself, while Tarkanian attacked the Obama administration for not withdrawing troops sooner.