LAS VEGAS (AP) — Democrat Steven Horsford and Republican Danny Tarkanian traded verbal jabs in a testy first debate for Nevada’s newest congressional seat. Horsford, the state Senate majority leader, used the Thursday night contest, staged on the show of political commentator Jon Ralston, to paint his opponent as extreme and link him to GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s controversial national budget proposal.“What I am not going to do is do what my opponent is proposing, which is to support a Ryan budget which would turn Medicare into a voucher program, all to give a tax break to wealthy people, or to maintain corporate subsidies for big banks and big oil companies,” Horsford said. “I’m not going to do that. I’m going to fight for the middle class.”Tarkanian, son of a legendary UNLV basketball coach, countered by saying he supports Medicare benefits for people 55 and older, and allowing younger people the option of vouchers.The Republican challenged Horsford’s statement that jobs and the economy are his No. 1 priority. “The problem with his statement is he has a record in Carson City that just doesn’t fit that,” Tarkanian said. “As a state legislator, all he did when faced with the worst economic crisis in our generation as a majority leader, all he did was propose additional taxes on the middle class.”Horsford responded by saying the tax extension that passed in the Legislature was the result of bipartisan cooperation.Both candidates sidestepped some of moderator Ralston’s direct policy questions during their short debate, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But they did echo their campaign ads, with Horsford calling his opponent a “self-proclaimed crazy radical,” and Tarkanian linking the state lawmaker with Nevada’s high unemployment rate.A new Horsford ad says Tarkanian lines up with a tea party agenda of ending Medicare and abolishing the federal Department of Education. In the debate, Tarkanian explained his education plan as preserving college financial aid and early childhood education while cutting waste.The debate is the first of three scheduled in the race for Congressional District 4, which stretches across Clark, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Lyon, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties. The 4th District has a Democratic voter registration advantage and is about 27 percent Hispanic and 16 percent black. Those demographics could favor Horsford, Nevada’s first black majority leader.Tarkanian is a former University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball player and the son of former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. He previously ran and lost in statewide races for Nevada secretary of state, the U.S. Senate, and state Senate.
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