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Ensign makes Tahoe campaign stop

Former Whittell High School student John Ensign, now a Nevada congressman, brought his campaign for the U.S. Senate to Lake Tahoe Thursday, delivering an address at a lunchtime meeting of the Lake Tahoe Nevada Republican Women.

Ensign, who is running unopposed for the Republican nomination, will face off against incumbent U.S. Sen. Harry Reid in the fall.

Speaking to a packed room at Stateline’s Lakeside Inn, the veterinarian and former casino executive recalled his days in the Tahoe Basin before his family moved to Las Vegas.



“I was trained as a northern Nevadan to hate southern Nevada, but when my dad got a job at Circus Circus, my dad took me away in the middle of the night,” Ensign told the gathering. He described the move to Clark County from Lake Tahoe as a cultural shock.

“Living at Lake Tahoe, my only pants were 501 Levis and corduroys, and the only shirts I wore were white T-shirts,” Ensign said. “Going to high school in Las Vegas, I felt like it was a fashion show.”



After establishing his local roots, Ensign launched into a campaign speech that was his first at Lake Tahoe since he announced his candidacy in November. In his remarks, Ensign criticized President Clinton’s efforts to drum up enthusiasm for military action against Iraq, urged reform measures for the nation’s schools and health system, and took a hard line on crime and prison policies.

Ensign also described his accomplishments in Congress, especially welfare reform, and credited the Republican-led Congress for the nation’s current prosperity.

“We now run Congress for $200 million less a year than when I ran for Congress,” Ensign said, adding that no party should be in power for 40 years as the Democrats were. “Take ice deliveries. Even though refrigeration had been around since 1913, and Congress had refrigerators since 1930, each office received a delivery of ice twice a day. The reason is that it employed 14 people. It cost a half-million dollars a year. We need to ask the tough questions of every agency.”

Ensign urged alternative approaches to the nation’s school system, saying charter schools and vouchers should be tried in different school districts to see what works best. He criticized the opposition to vouchers by teacher unions, ascribing their opposition to an attempt to preserve their power.

“Competition breeds excellence; monopoly breeds mediocrity,” Ensign said.

Talking tough on crime, Ensign said he favors making prisoners work to pay for their own incarceration, and suggested that every prisoner should be tested for drugs before they are released.

“Nobody should get out of prison unless they are drug-free,” Ensign said.

Ensign said he would like to shift the health system’s emphasis on curing illnesses toward prevention, giving as an example his support for Medicare paying for annual mammograms for women over 65. He said Medicare should also pay dietitians to help reduce the nation’s incidence of diabetes and cardiac illness.

“We’re not very good at paying providers to keep you healthy through prevention,” Ensign said.

The two-term congressman said he will have to beat Reid by 10 percent in Nevada’s rural areas if he is to have a chance to unseat the Democratic incumbent. He said he hopes to make a visit to northern Nevada at least once a week until the November election.

Ensign was greeted by enthusiastic applause from the club’s members and local elected officials who attended the luncheon.

“I’m glad to see him up in our area,” said Louzel Rogers of Stateline.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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