The race for Carson City's seat in the Nevada Assembly is already shaping up to be between the incumbent and his predecessor.
Bonnie Parnell said Wednesday she will try to unseat Ron Knecht for the Assembly District 40 seat representing Carson City and part of Washoe Valley.
Parnell, a Democrat, served two terms before retiring from the post in 2002. She was replaced in that year's election by Knecht, a Republican, who has already said he will seek a second term of office.
"There has been an outpouring of local and statewide support," Parnell said. "I've had just a tremendous number of people asking me if I would come back."
Parnell has been under pressure to run again by fellow Democrats both statewide and in the capital city. Democrats have reportedly targeted polls in District 40 to assess the chances of reclaiming a district which lists about 3,500 more Republican voters than Democrats. Parnell is their favorite option because her two elections proved she can draw support from Republican s in the capital.
Knecht gained attention as one of a group of Republican Assembly members who tried through the 2003 Legislature and two special sessions to reduce the size of state tax increases. He also drew fire for a flippant request for a bill draft to rename the state "East California," designate the state song as "Taxman" and the new state animal the "RINO" - an acronym for "Republican In Name Only" and a slap at Gov. Kenny Guinn.
Parnell said she was brought back to politics by her concern over issues important to Carson City and her desire to help constituents.
She said if elected, she would again treat the job as though it was a year-round commitment rather than "just four months every other year."
"For me, the biggest compliment I had from anyone was that I really worked throughout the two-year term to represent my constituents," she said.
In fact, even out of office, she has been a regular attendee at legislative committee hearings ranging from taxes to education, health care and benefits for seniors and public workers.
Knecht, 54, welcomed her to the race, saying it wasn't unexpected.
"We'll make it a clean, honorable and spirited race on the issues," he said. "I think we present a very good contrast."
Parnell, 57, agreed: "We present voters a very clear choice."
She said this session she believes lawmakers need to revise and adjust what was approved last time, fix loopholes and remedy inequities. She said she expects that will mean tax reductions to some businesses which were hit hard by the 2003 tax package.
She said in 2005 she expects Medicaid to be a major issue.
"In the state and in Carson City, the doctors and dentists who see Medicaid clients have got to be assured they will get timely reimbursement for serving the Medicaid population," she said. "We're losing providers right and left. We're hurting the providers. We're hurting the patients and that's unacceptable."
She said another big issue will be finding some relief for small businesses that want to offer health care coverage to their workers.
"It's tough for big business but even more difficult for small businesses," she said. "I think the price of health insurance is really affecting businesses more than taxes. It's the most costly thing to companies that want to offer insurance to their employees."
Parnell, a Carson City School District teacher for 23 years, said she is also concerned about education - including the effects of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
"It concerns me that we've lost local control," she said.
Knecht, an economist for the Public Utilities Commission, also said taxes will be an issue. He argued throughout the last session spending should be cut rather than raising taxes to balance Nevada's budget, saying raising both taxes and spending is exactly the wrong thing to do.
He supports the efforts to get voters to repeal the tax package imposed by the 20th special session of the Legislature last July and he said that issue would be a key difference between himself and Parnell.
"When you look at what would have happened if she had been there in my place last time, the radicals like Chris G. (Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas,) and (Majority Leader) Barbara Buckley (D-Las Vegas) would have run through another half billion in tax increases," he said.
Knecht said that would have driven out Harley-Davidson Finance and cost Carson City 400 jobs.
"The question is do you want (Speaker) Richard Perkins and Barbara Buckley or the likes of Lynn Hettrick (R-Gardnerville) and David Brown (R-Boulder City) organizing the house," said Knecht.
He also said he believes he is in a better position to take a dispassionate look at how to best improve public education, since Parnell was a teacher in the existing system.
"I have a 21Ú2 year old daughter, and I'm concerned we get some meaningful education reform going so the educational system is up to snuff when she gets there," he said. "I'm in a position to do that."
Contact Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.