AP Photo/Danny Johnston
Friday, July 24, 2015 | 11:53 a.m.
Proclaiming himself the only Republican presidential candidate to have taken on the Clinton political machine and lived to tell about it, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Thursday night made the first of what he said will be many visits to Las Vegas.
“In Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Arkansas, there was no accountability. They owned the place and nobody thought a guy like me could get elected,” Huckabee, who served as Arkansas governor from 1996 to 2007, said.
Addressing a crowd of more than 100 people who had crowded into the red leather couches of the Bootlegger Italian Bistro near Las Vegas Boulevard to hear the Southern Baptist minister and TV commentator, Huckabee said his governing experience and “moral compass” set him apart from the crowded field vying for the Republican nomination.
“This is no time for on the job training,” he said.
Huckabee spent much of his speech promoting what he called the “fair tax,” a tax on consumption that would replace the income tax.
“When you work hard in this country, you shouldn’t be punished,” said Huckabee, who criticized the current system for double- and triple-taxing workers’ earnings, drawing big cheers from the crowd. “Today, we penalize productivity and subsidize irresponsibility.”
Huckabee said reforming the tax code could even help curb illegal immigration. “Take the economic advantage out of illegal immigration and you basically will start fixing it,” he said.
After answering questions from the crowd on subjects ranging from the recent nuclear deal with Iran to the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, Huckabee addressed several topics specific to Nevada.
On Yucca Mountain, Huckabee said a safe, long-term solution for storing nuclear waste needs to be found, but local residents “need to have buy-in. You can’t just force something upon people.”
Huckabee said he favored greater economic use of publicly owned lands. “One of the real challenges in the western states is that the energy in those areas is often not able to be explored,” he said.
Huckabee said he planned to be in Nevada many more times ahead of the February nominating caucus. “We’re taking Nevada seriously,” he said.