Gun Reform, Education Highlight First Democratic Governor's Debate

May 22, 2018

With just three weeks until the primary, Nevada’s top Democratic candidates for governor met in Las Vegas Monday night for the first gubernatorial debate of the 2018 midterm elections. Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani sparred over several issues, including gun control, taxes, economic development, and raising the state’s minimum wage.

We have KUNR’s Senior Political Reporter Paul Boger here with us to break it all down.

So, tell us about the debate.

Alright, last night’s hour-long debate was hosted by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas and is the first of two debates between Sisolak and Giunchigliani ahead of the June 12th primary.

Throughout the debate, Mr. Sisolak worked hard to come across as a moderate voice that will be able to work to get things done in the state, whereas Commissioner Giunchigliani continued to take on the mantle of the progressive candidate.

Overall, it was pretty emblematic of the campaigns so far. Over the course of the hour, the two Democrats really went after each other. They traded barbs and criticized each other’s records much like they’ve done throughout this primary.

One of the biggest debates this election is sure to be gun control. After the October 1st shooting in Las Vegas, and the most recent school shootings in Florida and Texas, both campaigns have been outspoken in their desire for more gun control, right?

Yeah, if you’re looking for these two to be friends of the NRA, then you’re likely to be disappointed.

Sisolak and Giunchigliani have been outspoken in criticism for the organization and are calling for more restrictions. Commissioner Giunchigliani expressed support of Governor Sandoval’s plan to convene a task force to look at school safety, but also that it needed to be expanded to increase its scope.

In post-debate interviews posted by the Nevada Independent, Giunchigliani went into more depth saying she would support bans on bump stocks, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. During those interviews she also attacked Sisolak’s “A-” rating from the NRA in 2012 – something Sisolak says was based on questionnaires he filled out in the 90’s.

During the debate though, Commissioner Sisolak laid out an agenda that I think would lower that rating considerably.

"I am in total support. We need to ban bump stocks, ban assault rifles, ban expanded cartridges. We need to do more to assure that these type of actions cannot continue. We need to immediately enforce background checks. The citizens of the state of Nevada wanted background checks. We need to do everything we can to get background checks implemented. Donald Trump is supporting the NRA. Adam Laxalt refuses to implement background checks and we need to fix that."

He also said he would work to eliminate the state’s supremacy clause on guns and allow counties more power over gun laws in their own jurisdictions.

Switching gears, Nevada’s economy has grown considerably since the recession. What do the two candidates see as the best way to continue that growth?

As for economic development, Commissioner Sisolak says he would maintain a lot of what Governor Sandoval has done over the last several year by essentially working to create large tax breaks to incentivize major companies that move here – namely projects like Tesla where the state offered more than a billion dollars in tax breaks to the battery manufacturer. He even went so far as to say he would try to expand that work using his support of the new Raider’s stadium and Las Vegas Convention Center as proof.

Giunchigliani, on the other hand, took a different tact. She, of course, noted that she would have opposed the tax package to now-defunct electric car manufacturer Faraday Future, but she’s also been an outspoken critic of using the $750 million generated by room taxes for the new Raider’s Stadium. She, instead, says the state should offer more help to small businesses already here in the state. 

"We should be promoting the mom's and pop's that are in this state and growing them. They don't take a lot of money, but they absolutely are key to our economic development. More importantly, we should be recruiting veteran-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, Hispanic, Asian, black. Why are we not growing our own in the long-run? They don't even ask for a lot of incentives."

And just because we’re running out of time, let’s look at one of your favorite topics to cover: education. What are the plans to improve outcomes in the state?

You know, I think I would personally be befuddled if I went through an election cycle and I didn’t hear a politician say education was a top priority, and this one is no different.

Both have presented themselves as strong advocates of public education. Both have acknowledged that there are problems with the state’s funding mechanism. That being said, both have laid out an agenda that would look to put more money into schools in Southern Nevada while keeping funding levels for Northern and rural counties at current levels at the very least. Both candidates also backed plans to increase teacher salaries.

It’s important to note that Paul has sat down for one-on-one conversations with Nevada’s top gubernatorial candidates ahead of the primary, and KUNR will be airing those interviews in the coming days.