The governor of Nevada and the sheriff of Las Vegas face off in the first debate
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and his Republican challenger, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, are meeting Sunday for their only scheduled debate of this election year, where they met after a botched run of an inmate will face the State Department of Corrections and resolve their long-simmering rivalry that has pitted Las Vegas’ chief law enforcement officer against his incumbent.
Lombardo, who has spent his career in Las Vegas law enforcement and has served as a sheriff since 2015, has often feuded with Sisolak, who began his political career with a 10-year stint on the Nevada Board of Regents, which regulates higher education in the state oversaw statewide, and later became chairman of the Clark County board of directors.
Many of the issues that animate the race also define midterm races across the country, from abortion rights to inflation and education.
Sisolak has pointed to “two economies” – one with low unemployment and “full hotels” but high gas and real estate prices. Although he has said he cannot control inflation, he is trying to ease the burden on families by investing in childcare, affordable housing and tuition-free community colleges. He is supported by the Nevada Chamber of Commerce.
Like many Republican challengers this election cycle, Lombardo has sought to blame rising inflation and gas prices on Sisolak and Democratic Party policies. And he has frequently criticized Sisolak’s closure of non-essential businesses and mandates during the pandemic as damaging to small businesses.
Lombardo said he would seek to diversify Nevada’s economy, which relies heavily on tourism, especially in southern Nevada, by working with private sector employers on training in welding, robotics and coding.
Even in Nevada, where abortion rights had been codified by voters into state law within 24 weeks of 1990, Sisolak has overturned Roe v. Wade has been made a key talking point by the US Supreme Court, as have other Democratic candidates across the country. Sisolak is a staunch supporter of abortion rights and has worked to make Nevada a safe haven for abortion patients as neighboring states of Utah, Arizona and Idaho have restricted abortion access.
Sisolak has tried to portray Lombardo as an anti-abortion extremist who has rambled throughout the campaign about his stance on other abortion policies. Lombardo told KRNV-TV that he will repeal Sisolak’s June executive order that protects out-of-state abortion patients who receive abortion treatment in Nevada and the providers who provide care to them. Days later, he only told The Associated Press that he was seeing it through a “pro-life lens,” but didn’t name any specific actions. In a letter published on his website last week, he said he would uphold the order.
Earlier this month he said he would oppose a national abortion ban proposed by South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham.
At a main GOP debate in May, Lombardo said he would “absolutely consider” it if asked if he might consider measures including parent notification laws, waiting times for abortions or restricting contraceptives as well “everything that has to do with life view”, however, declined to name specific measures. More recently, he has stressed on his website that he “will ensure contraception remains accessible to Nevadans,” part of a 106-word statement for his abortion stance that included three words during the primary race: “Joe is pro-life.” .”
Lombardo and Sisolak have both said they want to be known as “education governors,” though their vision for schools is radically different.
The sheriff has criticized Nevada’s low test scores and distance learning during the pandemic. He said he would restore parts of Nevada’s Read by Grade 3 program, possibly including a provision holding back third-graders who don’t read to grade level and supporting an expansion of charter schools that oppose teachers’ unions.
Sisolak has committed $200 million to address the learning loss caused by the pandemic, and while test scores have improved, they have not been restored to pre-pandemic levels. He has earned the honor of signing the largest education budget in state history and providing teachers with the first pay raises in a decade.
Crime plays out in Nevada as elsewhere in the country as a top issue. For months, the two have pointed fingers at each other over crime rates in Clark County, home of Las Vegas, where Lombardo claims Sisolak’s policies have hampered his crime-fighting ability, and Sisolak said Lombardo has been neglecting his job as he focuses on concentrate on higher offices.
Lombardo wants to tighten the penalties for crimes. He said he would repeal a law that would increase the trigger for a felony theft charge from $650 to $1,200 and increase the amount of drugs a suspect must be carrying to be eligible for felony trafficking charges.
During his first term, Sisolak banned burst stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire faster, and advocated “healthy background checks”.
Both agree that the state should hire more police officers.
Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit program that places journalists in newsrooms to cover undercover topics.
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