Conservative credentials on display at NV debates
RENO, Nev. (AP) – Republican candidates hoping to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid touted their conservative credentials at a debate sponsored by a tea party-affiliated group.
GOP front-runners Sue Lowden, Danny Tarkanian and Sharron Angle joined three other hopefuls in pledging to fight for lower taxes and less spending. They also voiced support for a new Arizona law cracking down on illegal immigration.
Gov. Jim Gibbons, who trails in the polls like Reid, tried to make up ground against his Republican rivals in the June 8 primary during their debate before the crowd of about 400.
Senate candidates on Friday night largely agreed on the issues and reserved most of their criticism for Reid.
“Our senator has done nothing (to create jobs) and we should fire him,” Angle said, citing the state’s second-highest-in-the-nation unemployment rate of 13.4 percent. Nevada also leads the nation in the rate of foreclosures and bankruptcies.
Lowden, a casino executive and former Las Vegas television anchorwoman, enjoys a double-digit lead in the polls over Tarkanian and Angle. The three front-runners currently lead Reid in the polls. In all, 12 Republicans are vying for Reid’s seat.
Tarkanian, a businessman and son of former basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, went on the offensive by challenging Lowden’s claim that she had fought pork projects when she was a state senator.
“Her record is replete with pork,” Tarkanian said.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about. I voted against pork,” she replied.
Tarkanian also chided Lowden for saying she would support some earmarks that would bring federal dollars back to the state. He said taxes and spending should be cut instead.
Lowden said Nevada does not get its fair share of its federal tax dollars back from Washington and she would work to reverse that.
“I would have a junkyard dog on my staff and make sure every single dollar we put into Washington we get back in Nevada,” she said.
Lowden drew laughs when she brought up Reid’s plans to spend up to $25 million on the race. “It’ll be the biggest stimulus he’s ever given to the state of Nevada,” she said.
Angle, who has been endorsed by the Tea Party Express, cited her many votes against tax increases as a state assemblywoman. “You don’t have to read my lips. Read my record,” she said.
Lowden’s opponents made no mention of her recent suggestion that health care costs could be driven down if patients could barter with doctors. Lowden later said the idea stems from a time when people would bring a chicken to the doctor if they couldn’t afford to pay, prompting Democrats to launch a website called Chickens for Checkups.
Lowden made only a slight reference to the matter. “I have become an expert on health care in case you didn’t know,” she said.
Outside, a Reid supporter in a chicken outfit stood with several Lowden backers holding placards at a busy intersection. The Reid supporter held a sign reading “Please Don’t Barter Me.” Other Lowden supporters prepared chicken on an outside barbecue grill in jest.
Afterward, Joanne Mauseth, 50, a Reno Republican, said Tarkanian impressed her. “He gave very precise ideas and was clear what he would do as a senator,” she said.
Gary Nielsen, 65, a Reno Republican, said he was impressed with Angle. “I think she does well off the cuff and has a command of the issues,” he said.
Jennifer Baker, a Reno Republican, praised Lowden. “She has character, business sense, heart and a brain,” she said.
But others disapproved of Lowden, accusing her of allowing Nevada to become a blue state while she was state GOP chairwoman.
“She shouldn’t be running in this election. Harry Reid will nail her big time,” said Tom Morris, 58, a Reno Republican.
In the other debate, Sandoval accused Gibbons of submitting a budget earlier this year containing over $200 million in tax increases.
“In the special session there were fee increases on banks, on gaming and mining,” Sandoval said. “The budget wasn’t balanced without raising taxes.”
Gibbons criticized Sandoval’s budget for dealing with the state’s most recent budget shortfall, saying it relied on faulty numbers and did not cover the deficit.
“This is not the time to change horses in the middle of the stream,” Gibbons said. “I am the guy who has been there for you. I have fought to keep your taxes low.”
The crowd booed Sandoval when he expressed opposition to the proposed federal high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in southern Nevada.
“You’re wrong,” a man yelled to Sandoval.
Sandoval, a former federal judge, currently leads the first-term governor in the polls. Gibbons has suffered from a string of personal and public issues, including a divorce.
The event was sponsored by Action is Brewing, which is aligned with the tea party movement.
Candidates fielded questions from conservative bloggers and were allowed to address each other.
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