Republican businessman Danny Tarkanian repeatedly accused his congressional opponent, Democratic state Sen. Steven Horsford, of “misrepresenting my position” in a debate taped for broadcast later this evening on Vegas PBS Channel 10.
The Congressional District 4 candidates butted heads over immigration, taxes, health care, Social Security, Yucca Mountain and gay marriage, just 26 days before the November election. (At one point, Horsford declared Tarkanian had run four times and been rejected by the voters each one; in fact, this is Tarkanian’s fourth bid, but it won’t be decided until November.)
Horsford accused his opponent of saying he “loved” Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 law and thought it should be imported to Nevada. But Tarkanian denied that charge, saying he’d only defended Arizona’s right to secure its borders. Whether a similar law should be passed in Nevada was up to state leaders, Tarkanian said.
Horsford said adoption of a similar law in Nevada was opposed by business leaders and would have cost jobs and future conventions.
Moderator Mitch Fox had to press Horsford with a follow-up question about President Barack Obama‘s responsibility for Nevada’s economic problems. “We all share in the responsibility to do everything we can to create jobs for everyone who needs them,” Horsford finally said.
Tarkanian repeatedly accused Horsford of voting for every tax increase that had come before the Legislature in his tenure, and even of proposing a $1.2 billion margins tax in 2011. But Horsford reminded the audience that he’d eliminated payroll taxes for businesses earning $250,000 or less in a bipartisan deal to extend temporary taxes that had been set to expire that was approved by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
But Tarkanian sought to tie that package of taxes — including sales, payroll, car registration and business license fees — to Nevada’s nation-leading unemployment rate. “The end result was the unemployment rate doubled under my opponent’s leadership in the state Senate,” Tarkanian said.
But Nevada’s unemployment rate was already on the rise in early 2009, when the tax package originally passed. (It was 10 percent when the Legislature convened that year, 11.7 percent when lawmakers adjourned and hit 14 percent in October 2010. But — notwithstanding the fact that the tax package has continuously been in effect, the rate fell to 12 percent in July.
Horsford and Tarkanian clashed on Social Security, with Horsford saying he opposes privatizing the program and Tarkanian saying he believes Americans should have the freedom to decide where they should invest their retirement money.
“Just imagine what that [privatization] would have caused for people under Social Security” after the economic collapse ” Horsford said.
Tarkanian tossed out several creative uses for Yucca Mountain, including a military training center, a data storage center or a facility to reprocess nuclear waste. (That would still require transportation of waste to Yucca, a key reason that many Nevada leaders opposed using the site as a waste repository in the first place.)
“My opponent just talked about using nuclear waste as economic diversification,” Horsford replied.
Horsford said he supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but Tarkanian derided it, saying it raises taxes on employers, which will discourage job creation, and imposes a tax on people if they fail to buy insurance.
Asked by Fox about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, Tarkanian said “military brass” should decide policies on sexual orientation. (Of course, the Constitution provides for civilian control of the military in the United States, and those leaders have already repealed the old policy, making the issue moot.) On DOMA, he said marriage should be a state issue under the 10th Amendment. (That position puts him at odds with the Republican Party, which affirms states’ rights in some cases but specifically prefers federal policy on gay marriage.)
The nastiest back and forth came at the end of the debate, after Horsford mentioned a $17 million judgment against Tarkanian stemming from a failed California land deal. “Can we really trust someone to represent us who can’t handle his own personal affairs?” Horsford asked.
Tarkanian shot back to remind voters that Horsford has been sued for failing to pay his bills and for skipping court hearings, a reference to a series of legal problems that plagued the majority leader after a long-ago car accident in Reno left him with unpaid medical bills. (Horsford referred to that incident earlier in the debate, admitting he’d struggled but finally repaid all his debts.) At one point, Horsford donated $500 to then-Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera, who was later convicted on political corruption charges.
“Talk about not handling your personal affairs,” Tarkanian said.