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NV-Gov: The Second Democratic Debate

With less than 48 hours left until early voting begins, the two leading Democrats running for Governor face off once more. And with this being the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, I’ve decided to try something new. Tonight, I’m going full stream of consciousness and posting my thoughts on the debate as it happens.

Are we ready for this? Let’s get ready to talk policies and governance!

And so, it begins.

In case you missed it, here’s my full review of the first Gubernatorial debate. This time around, The Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston and KTNV/Action News’ Todd Quinones are asking Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani the questions.

Ralston begins by asking Chris Giunchigliani, “Why are you more qualified to hold this job?” Giunchigliani kicks off with her years of experience as a teacher and legislator, and saying she’s “taken time to listen to people”.

He then asked Sisolak the same question. He replied, “I’m a person who gets things done. I don’t just talk about getting things done.” He then threw some not-so-subtle shade at Giunchigliani as he described his mission as “getting to yes”, then tying Nevada’s struggles on public education and mental health care to her service in Carson City.

She countered by noting how much she’s gotten done, from solar energy promotion to “I got more legislation passed under Democratic and Republican Governors. […] I did it by reaching across the aisle.” “I’m the Education Governor. I know how to get it done.”

Health, safety, and guns

Sisolak then pivoted to an issue they’ve both had to tackle on the Clark County Commission: University Medical Center (UMC). He talked about his plan to fix it when the public hospital was in dire straits, then Giunchigliani reminded him of what actually fixed it: “What made UMC whole was Obamacare […] 200,000 Nevadans now have access to Medicaid.”

Quinones now asks about school safety, and specifically why not have more armed CCSD police officers on campuses. Sisolak countered that the smarter solutions are to implement background checks, ban assault weapons, and generally keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Strangely, Giunchigliani again pivots away from gun violence and back to Governor Sandoval’s task force. She also talks about mental health and bullying. And now, she finally gets back to the background checks initiative that Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) refuses to implement.

She also clocks the legislation passed in 2015 to stop municipal governments from enacting stronger gun safety laws: “The preemption bill that [Senator] Michael Roberson [R-Henderson] passed, that was a preemption that needs to be overturned.” Giunchigliani later described an incident at Valley High School in 1982 as she gave Quinones a thorough explanation of why armed guards in schools won’t solve this problem.

The gun violence conversation continues.

Ralston then asked Sisolak about the “A- NRA rating” that Giunchigliani has pounded him with. He says his views have evolved, as many other Nevadans’ since Sandy Hook, and especially since 1 October.

Giunchigliani countered, “I’ve never needed to evolve. I’ve always been for common sense gun reform.” Later on, she added, “I didn’t need to evolve. I’ve stood against the NRA every day.”

And when Ralston tried to defend Laxalt’s refusal to allow for background checks implementation to move forward, Giunchigliani fired back, “Can’t was a swear word in my classroom, Jon!” That was smooth.

Are the Raiders raiding our coffers?

And now, Raiders Stadium. Giunchigliani explained her opposition to the subsidy deal: “The average tax subsidy is $262 million. They got over $750 million.” She then recounted a conversation with the owner of the now famous Golden Knights, when he asked, “Why are we giving $750 million to the Raiders? We could have used the money for police, fire, and teachers.” She added, “I voted no. I voted my conscience.”

Sisolak countered by saying it will result in 13,000 permanent jobs and 160,000 hotel rooms filled, all from a mere 0.88% room tax increase: “These are all good things. […] It’s funding education. To vote against it is irresponsible.”

Giunchigliani fired back, saying the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion could have happened without subsidizing Raiders Stadium, but Sisolak and others caved when Sheldon Adelson threatened to take the convention center hostage. She then added that Sisolak rejected education funding for Northern Nevada, just so room tax money can be diverted to a “private” NFL stadium.

The attack ads

After a brief commercial break, Quinones welcomes us back with a montage of recent campaign ads. Sisolak denounced the EMILY’s List (“Women Vote”) ad accusing him of taking money from a gun range owner after 1 October: “No, the ad is simply not true.” Sisolak then said he’s donated far more of his own money

Ralston then presented a recent attack ad that accuses Chris Giunchigliani of “voting pay raises for herself”. She debunked it as she explained how they’ve distorted her support for annual legislative sessions and a public servant pay bill that she didn’t even benefit from: “No one was gouging anyone in any shape or form. It was about annual sessions.”

Ralston then asked Sisolak why he’s attacking Giunchigliani for a bill she supported to regulate gifts from lobbyists. He continues to counter that she supports “wining and dining with lobbyists”, even after Ralston noted how then State Senator Dina Titus (D) also voted for it.

More on those attack ads

Here we go. Ralston asks about the Reno Gazette-Journal article on Giunchigliani’s late husband, Gary Gray, and his political consulting business that Sisolak has since accused her of benefiting from. Giunchigliani said his finances were kept separate from hers: “I even had to set appointments to meet with him, like Steve did.”

Sisolak countered, “I’ve had my kids work on my campaigns. I wouldn’t ever pay them.” He also claimed he never knew about the house that Gray and Giunchigliani bought together, the house that played front and center in the RGJ story.

Who’s paying for what?

Quinones brings forth a viewer question on how Sisolak and Giunchigliani will pay for their respective education plans, including teacher pay raises. Sisolak says room tax and marijuana tax revenue must actually be spent in classrooms, not filling other budget holes. He also says the funding formula must be fixed to direct money where it’s needed, and that schools in urban working-poor communities deserve just as much investment as wealthier suburban schools.

Giunchigliani agrees on the room tax, marijuana tax, and the funding formula. She adds that she understands how the bond rollover program for school construction works, as she wrote the bill to start it. And speaking of the room tax, she added, “I didn’t block money for schools [to give it to] Raiders Stadium.”

Quinones demanded a one-word answer to this question: “Are you willing to raise taxes to raise teacher pay?” Oddly, both suggested no, after both said they wouldn’t rule out new taxes on Monday.

Minimum wage and economic justice

Ralston asks about minimum wage, and about something Sisolak said on Monday suggesting he supports “tip credits” to count against the set minimum wage. He backed away, saying he was mistaken at the time and didn’t realize the constitutional issues involved. He also stated he supports an eventual $15 per hour minimum wage, but that it must be gradually phased in.

Next up is Giunchigliani: “We need a living minimum wage, as too many people are living in poverty. […] I want a Nevada that works for everyone, not just the rich few”. She again says she knows how to work across the aisle to get things done, even #FightFor15.

Red Rock Canyon

Next up is the controversial Jim Rhodes proposal to develop near Red Rock Canyon, just west of Las Vegas. As Giunchigliani framed it, “I sided with the environment and the public […] He sided with the developer.” She defends the attack ads that claim Sisolak wants houses at the edge of Red Rock Canyon,

Sisolak then claimed Clark County had to give Rhodes proper due process, as legal counsel recommended. He decried Giunchigliani’s opposition as a mere “protest vote”. She later countered, “Sometimes you stand for what is right: win, lose, or draw. […] I stand with environmentalists.”

Sisolak later fired back, “I did not support the developer’s plan,” as he claimed he didn’t vote to approve all the homes Jim Rhodes wanted in the area, despite Rhodes contributing to past campaigns.

Closing words, making nice

And finally, Sisolak and Giunchigliani say nice things about each other. He credits her tenacity in the public sphere, and she credits his devotion to his family.

Both promise to support each other, whoever wins the Democratic primary, in the general election. As Giunchigliani put it, “I don’t want Adam Laxalt there in any way, shape, or form.”

As Ralston asked about criminal justice reform, both of them agreed to end the practice of cash bail. And then, they all had to wrap it up.

This time around, Giunchigliani seemed far more prepared. Though her opening was a bit wobbly again, she quickly recovered tonight, then put Sisolak on defense on several occasions. I still wonder whether it’s enough to change the trajectory of this race, but at the very least tonight’s debate might keep hope alive for Giunchigliani. We shall see soon enough.

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