Not a single ballot has been counted in the Republican primary for governor, but Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo declared during a debate on KLAS-TV Wednesday the race is over, citing his lead in the polls, his multi-million dollar campaign war chest ($2.9 million remaining at the end of March), the blessing of former President Donald Trump, “and the endorsement of 16 of 17 sheriffs.”
“But we need to come together. We need to go after Sisolak. Sisolak is the problem,” Lombardo said of Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat. “He has ruined our economy. He has ruined our schools. He’s ruined our safety. And I’m the only one that has the leadership and experience that Nevadans can trust.”
The Nevada GOP, however, did not endorse Lombardo, but rather Reno attorney Joey Gilbert, the only candidate to attend the Jan. 6 uprising in Washington, D.C.
Lombardo reiterated his confidence in Clark County sheriff candidate Kevin McMahill, who denies allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with a woman during a 1995 traffic stop. Lombardo questioned the credibility of McMahill’s accuser and balked at being asked about the incident.
“The one female accuser has been impeached for lack of integrity in another case that I’ve become aware of,” Lombardo said. “First of all, I think this is a ridiculous question. It has nothing to do with running or is pertinent to the state of Nevada for the governor’s position.”
Against the backdrop of a nation stunned by preliminary reports that police waited before entering a Uvalde, Texas elementary school where an 18-year-old killed 19 children and two teachers, the five candidates failed to offer solutions beyond improving access to mental health treatment and increasing school security.
Lombardo said the “commonality” of mass shootings is “the nexus between mental health and the lack of resources to address the individuals who have been identified to have deficiencies who may cause harm in the future.” He also said he’d “address school safety on a more robust level.”
Gilbert noted Nevada is “last in the nation for mental health” and said COVID federal relief funds should be used to address the scarcity of treatment.
“The teachers are the ones that are being targeted now with clubs, with knives, with sexual assault, even students raping teachers,” said former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, citing a Washington Post story. “This has to change. It’s time to break up the school district.”
North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee referred to the shooting as “this accident, this incident that happened in this country. We have things they’re called soft targets where people could just walk in and do whatever they want with a gun.”
None of the candidates said they would support restrictions on guns, though Lombardo added he supports background checks.
Heller said as governor he would cut taxes “by the level of inflation.” He would suspend the gas tax, which would save consumers “65 cents in the south and 95 cents in the north.” Heller also said he would eliminate the commerce tax, a tax imposed on businesses with annual gross revenue of more than $4 million.
Guy Nohra, a venture capitalist, offered no ideas for stemming inflation other than suspending the gas tax.
Lee, a longtime Democrat who recently switched parties, said he would take a “no-tax pledge.”
Lombardo said he’d “reach out to the president and tell him to stop printing money.” He said Nevada’s economy can grow by providing companies a stable tax base, and advocated “wages commensurate to the inflation increases so they can have a quality of life associated with that.”
The annual inflation rate is 8.3% for the period ending in April.
Lombardo, who previously refused to rule out rent control, said he’d address affordable housing by paying tax credits to builders of low-income housing.
Asked whether Southern Nevada can continue to grow, given the federal designation of a water shortage at Lake Mead, Heller said Clark County has “done a great job” conserving water and has “banked 10 to 20 years of water.” He said desalinization is part of the solution to sustaining growth.
Gilbert noted that 70% of the state’s water is used for irrigation. He advocates for more efficient use of water by Nevada’s agricultural industry and for desalination.
Lee said North Las Vegas is addressing water waste through building codes.
The Biden administration’s plan to lift pandemic-era restrictions on border crossings from Mexico is on hold because of a judge’s ruling. All of the candidates except Lombardo said should the restrictions be lifted, and that as governor, they would send Nevada’s National Guard troops to the country’s southern border.
Lombardo said the funds for such a deployment “would dry up quickly.” Instead, he says undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes must be deported.
Gilbert blamed Lombardo for “out of control” immigration and an escalating crime rate of “500 percent.”
“That’s a fictitious number,” Lombardo replied, defending his record and asserting the Legislature has not designated any city in Nevada as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
“Joe’s not telling the truth here. He made Southern Nevada a sanctuary city. If you want to live in danger, have a sanctuary city,” Heller said. “Elko now has drugs and gangs because this guy is spreading them across the state.”
Lombardo responded that the increase in crime is not related to immigration.
The candidates all confirmed they oppose abortion, with Heller admitting he was once pro-choice.
“I was probably more libertarian at the time,” he said. “When I got to Congress, I had to make a decision.” He took credit for voting to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch, who he predicted will vote to overturn the nation’s longstanding abortion precedent, Roe v. Wade.
Heller said he’d “do whatever it takes” to outlaw abortion. “I’ll raise the money to overturn the abortion statute we have in Nevada.”
Lombardo said restrictions on abortion such as parental notification or waiting periods would be “under consideration” by his administration. “I would look at it with a pro-life lens.”
Gilbert said he’d like to see Nevada’s current 24-week limit on abortion “rolled back to 20 weeks.”
Lee said he “believes in the heartbeat bill. At the moment there’s a heartbeat, that’s a baby.” But he says cases of rape, incest, or risk to mother’s life “is a family issue.”
Nohra noted any change to abortion law “is going to have to come through the people and the Legislature and I’ll decide then. But you know my bias.”
Gilbert vowed to “remove restorative justice” from Nevada schools and said it’s to blame for absenteeism and drug use. He said unions need to back teachers “or we’ll decertify the unions.”
Lombardo agreed, saying restorative justice is a “failed program brought forth by the Legislature, the current superintendent, and the governor hasn’t acted on it.”
Restorative justice is the practice of connecting the responsible party with the harmed party in an effort to build community while responding to conflict, according to Annie E. Casey Foundation, a children’s advocacy organization.
Heller blamed the state of education on Sisolak “for shutting the schools down.”
Early voting in the primary begins Saturday. Election day is June 14.
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