Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

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Election Guide:

Candidates for state and local offices share their stances on the issues

Laxalt vs. Sisolak

Steve Marcus

Democrat Steve Sisolak, left, and Republican Adam Laxalt, right, are running for Nevada governor.

Candidates for a selection of influential statewide offices were asked to respond to a set of key issues relevant to their office. Those who responded were included, with editing for space and clarity where needed, and previous statements and affiliations were used for those who did not. This package includes excerpts of what they had to say:


Steve Sisolak vs. Adam Laxalt

Sisolak is running for governor after spending a decade as a Clark County commissioner, with 10 years as a Nevada System of Higher Education regent before that. Sisolak has been a supporter of efforts to bring the NFL and NHL to Nevada, as well as the $750 million in public money going toward the Raiders stadium.

Laxalt, the state’s attorney general, is looking to win the office held by his grandfather, Paul Laxalt. President Donald Trump has campaigned alongside Laxalt in Nevada, where Laxalt said he would not raise taxes. Laxalt has come out against the Commerce Tax, a bipartisan, Sandoval-era law passed in an effort to better fund education. Laxalt’s campaign has not provided responses to repeated requests for some of his policy positions.

On sanctuary cities:

Sisolak says: “That’s not something that we are advocating. Not something as we’ve defined — there is no definition of what a sanctuary state or city is, and this is just the opponent again trying to fabricate and come up with issues.

Laxalt's stance: As Attorney General, Laxalt added the state to two amicus briefs in related cases, saying sanctuary policies undermine safety. “Sanctuary jurisdictions can cause harm to neighboring states by making it easier for people who are not lawfully in this country and have committed civil or criminal offenses to evade law enforcement and travel out-of-state,” one brief says.

On Obamacare and Nevada's Medicaid expansion:

Sisolak said: “I am a big believer in expanding our health care coverage. I have had the opportunity of sitting down with Gov. Sandoval and talking about his situation with expanded Medicaid. It provided health care for 200,000 Nevadans,” Sisolak said during an Oct. 5 visit with a group of Liberty High School seniors.

Laxalt's stance is unclear. Laxalt’s attorney general’s office has not stepped in on any cases to defend Obamacare in court.

On Yucca Mountain:

Sisolak said: “As governor, I will do everything in my power to stop this irresponsible project. It is unfair, unreasonable and is unsafe for future generations,” Sisolak said in a May letter to President Donald Trump.

Laxalt said: “In the coming years, I will continue to battle the poster-child for federal overreach — a battle over an unwanted nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in our beloved Nevada,” Laxalt said in an Attorney General’s Office statement.

On Education Savings Accounts:

Sisolak said: “We cannot take one dollar out of the public school system,” Sisolak said in response to a student’s question about whether he supports the program. “We have to put every dollar we can into the system.”

Laxalt said: “I also support Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) as one of the best ways to provide more educational options to parents and students,” Laxalt says on his campaign website.

On the Energy Choice Initiative:

Sisolak says: “After listening to the concerns of Nevadans across the state, I believe Question 3 is harmful to Nevada, and I cannot support it. I have long had concerns about the negative impact the initiative could have on consumers, labor, the environment and our economy. Question 3 risks the reliability of our electricity system, threatens the jobs of hardworking men and women and could slow our growing renewable energy sector. It provides too much risk without guaranteeing rewards of lower rates for consumers.

Laxalt said: “I supported the ballot initiative when it was on last year, and I support it this year as well. I hope choice will make our state dynamic and give people more options,” Laxalt said during a gubernatorial forum hosted by Las Vegas Now.

On the 50 Percent Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2030 Initiative:

Sisolak says: “I am a strong supporter of Question 6 and believe we can and must go further. Nevada has an opportunity, right now, to become the leader in clean, renewable energy — which is one of the country’s fastest-growing sectors.

Laxalt's stance is unclear. “I believe we can meet Nevada’s energy needs, while protecting our natural environment, by taking a sensible, balanced approach to public policy,” he says on his website. “Too often, the heavy hand of government is used to try to force particular energy solutions on the entire population.”

On background checks for private gun sales:

Sisolak says: “The citizens in the state of Nevada passed background checks. That means we should implement background checks.

Laxalt's stance is unclear. Laxalt’s campaign has taken money from the National Rifle Association. As Attorney General, Laxalt’s office has said the state cannot enforce its background check law without FBI cooperation. The agency balked at Nevada’s law and a state’s use of a federal agency’s resources. After a court ruled against a lawsuit targeting Laxalt and Sandoval over the state’s stalled law, Laxalt said in a statement released by his office that “the court’s 22-page decision reaffirms what my office has been saying all along — that the act ‘is unenforceable as written.’ This is not because of anything that I or other Nevada officials have failed to do; in the words of the court, we have ‘undertaken a real and substantial effort to implement the law.’ ”



Kate Marshall vs. Michael Roberson

Every so often, Nevada elects a lieutenant governor who is not of the same political party as the governor. This can influence the way the two interact, according to UNLV professor Michael Bowers, as well as any “casting votes” the lieutenant governor must make to break ties in the Nevada Senate.

If there is a slim majority in the state Senate, this could come into play on party-line issues, such as funding Education Savings Accounts. Public support for school choice was a central issue in the 2017 Legislature, when Democrats blocked funding.

Marshall, the former Democratic state treasurer, is a legal consultant in Reno. Her campaign emphasizes her support for adequately funding public schools.

Roberson, the former Republican state Senate majority leader, is a Kolesar & Leatham law firm attorney. He's a supporter of school choice, a central argument for Education Savings Accounts.



Aaron Ford vs. Wes Duncan

Ford, the state Senate majority leader, is endorsed by former President Barack Obama. Duncan, Nevada’s former deputy attorney general, has Laxalt’s endorsement. Duncan did not respond to our requests for comment.

On states’ rights to legalize marijuana:

Ford says: “I will defend our state’s voter-approved and regulated industry from attacks from the federal government. ... I would join other states calling on Congress to allow legalized marijuana businesses to open bank accounts. It makes financial sense for businesses and is a public safety measure.

Duncan has said he has “no comment on any possible future legal actions by the federal government.”

On states’ rights to limit abortion access:

Ford says: “I will defend a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions as is the law in Nevada. I will not spend taxpayer dollars to get involved in lawsuits that limit women’s health care access in other states.

Duncan's stance is unclear.

On states’ efforts to support Obamacare in court:

Ford says: “I would pursue any legal avenue to protect access to quality and affordable health care for Nevadans. Nearly 400,000 Nevadans could lose their health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. We cannot go back to the days of pre-existing conditions, when kids with asthma and pregnant women could be denied care.

Duncan's stance is unclear. Laxalt has been a vocal opponent of Obamacare, calling it “disastrous.”

Sanctuary policies on local efforts to aid in federal immigration enforcement:

Ford says: “No criminal will have sanctuary under my watch. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that Nevada does not have sanctuary cities, which is a term used to divide Nevadans and paints a target on the backs of immigrants living and working in Nevada.

Duncan has been outspoken against sanctuary policies, and said earlier this year at a pre-primary event that Nevada could avoid those policies by voting for Republicans. “We can make sure that our state doesn’t turn into our neighbor to the West,” he said. “We can make sure we don’t have sanctuary states. We can make sure that our constitutional rights are protected, and we do that by electing Republicans up and down the ticket.”

Immigration policies that separate immigrant families:

Ford says: “Tearing families apart is immoral and goes against our cherished values as a country.”

Duncan's stance is unclear. Duncan left Laxalt’s office in 2017 to campaign to replace the attorney general, who would announce his candidacy for governor a little over a month later. This year, after an immigration policy under President Donald Trump put children into federal custody without their parents or guardians, Laxalt’s office did not weigh in on a lawsuit by states challenging the separations.

Eliminating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals:

Ford says: “I will stand up for the 13,000 Dreamers in Nevada who are our friends and neighbors.

Duncan's stance is unclear. Laxalt's office has not weighed in to defend DACA in court.



Barbara Cegavske (incumbent) vs. Nelson Araujo

On automatic voter registration:

Cegavske says: “Due to the nature of the office I am seeking … for me to respond to the question relating to automatic voting would place me in a very compromising position, since the issue is the subject of a ballot initiative in this upcoming election. It is imperative that the office of Secretary of State remain neutral and impartial.”

Araujo says: “In a state like Nevada, where we have a lot of people moving from out of state, this makes sense. It modernizes the system, making it more secure through multiple layers of verification, and it makes the system more accurate by electronically transmitting voter information rather than manual data entry from paper forms.

On voter IDs:

Cegavske says: “Like the vast majority of Americans, I am in favor of it.”

Araujo says: “Voter ID laws have been consistently struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. With a thorough screening and vetting process for voter registration, it makes voting more secure on the front end. In Nevada, every voter is identified and verified through their signature before voting, and there are layers of verification in place throughout the voter registration process.

On access to polling places on tribal land:

Cegavske says: “My office stands ready to work with Nevada Tribes with election processes and polling location issues on tribal lands.”

Araujo says: “I think we need to make voting, for all those eligible to vote, open and accessible.

On the prevalence of voter fraud:

Under Cegavske, the Secretary of State’s Office launched a voter fraud investigation that is ongoing. Officials have declined to comment on the issue, citing the pending investigation.

Araujo says: “While we should be concerned and vigilant about voter fraud, I am more worried about voter suppression and hacking into our system by foreign entities.



Zach Conine vs. Bob Beers. From restaurants and hotels to his current business consulting company, Conine now wants to be Nevada’s treasurer. He has experience with private investments and hospitality, and helped with Elephant Bar’s restructuring so the restaurants could avoid bankruptcy. Conine said the treasurer’s job is an investment job, not an accounting job. He said rather than being a scorekeeper, treasurers are making and executing the plays. Beers, a former Las Vegas city councilman, said he has been in treasury functions for more than 30 years. A certified public accountant, he said his role is managing other people’s money, from investments to debt to cash flow. He said as treasurer, he’d work with a five-person finance committee that sets Nevada’s investment policy and follow their directions. The policy hasn’t changed much during the past six years, and tends toward conservative investments, Beers said.



Ron Knecht (incumbent) vs. Catherine Byrne. This office has a close relationship with the treasurer. The controller is Nevada’s bookkeeper and reports annually to the governor on the state’s spending, among other tasks. Knecht has held the role since 2015, and his campaign points to a 13 percent cut in his office’s expenses during his tenure. Byrne is a certified public accountant and has said she would emphasize limited, efficient government.



District E: “Tick” Segerblom vs. Trish Marsh. Currently served by term-limited Democrat Chris Giunchigliani, the district includes part of the Strip and Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, borders Fremont Street and extends to the east and west of Boulder Highway. Marsh, a Republican, supports limited government and opposes tax increases. Segerblom, a Democrat and former state senator, supported legalizing marijuana in Nevada and has proposed a 1 percent sales tax to support education.

District F: Justin Jones vs. Tisha Black. Democratic Commissioner Susan Brager is one of two term-limited commissioners this year. The rural district is west of Interstate 15 and includes the Red Rock area, extending west of Blue Diamond. Brager crossed party lines to endorse lawyer and small-business owner Tisha Black to fill her seat, citing the need to continue “smart growth” and “protect our citizens.” The move drew ire from environmental and progressive groups, such as Battle Born Progress, which support Democrat and former state Sen. Justin Jones, saying he would work to protect Red Rock Canyon, where development plans are progressing. Jones is a past president of Battle Born Progress.

District G: Jim Gibson (incumbent) vs. Cindy Lake. District G covers the southeast portion of the county and includes parts of Henderson and Green Valley. Gibson served as Henderson's mayor for three terms. Lake, a member of the Las Vegas Association of Realtors, advocates for reduced taxes and regulation.



District D: Kevin Child (incumbent) vs. Irene Cepeda. The district stretches diagonally from Nellis Boulevard and Cheyenne Avenue to Tropicana Avenue and Interstate 15, down to Eastern Avenue, south of Pebble Road and north of the 215 Beltway. The nonpartisan race has Child, the incumbent, running against Irene Cepeda, a project coordinator at Nevada State College. Child, who was banned from Clark County School District property after an outside complaint, was elected to the seat in 2014.

District F: Danielle Ford vs. Kali Fox Miller. Trustee Carolyn Edwards was voted into her seat in 2006 and is term-limited. The district is in the southwestern part of the Vegas Valley, extending west from I-15. Ford is a Las Vegas native and mother of two children in CCSD. Fox Miller is a lawyer who served Nevada as deputy attorney general for the mortgage lending division.

District G: Linda P. Cavazos vs. Ryan Scalia. The district extends west from Eastern Avenue, sandwiched between Districts A to the south and B to the north. The seat is held by appointee Linda P. Cavazos, who took over for Trustee Erin Cranor. Cavazos is a part-time family therapist who was a Basic High School teacher for 15 years. She faces Ryan Scalia, whose website says he is a Sunrise Children's Hospital volunteer.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.