Republican candidates for mayor, supervisor and state assembly made their case to voters Saturday at an event hosted by the Carson City Republican Party.
Chris Carver and Jerry Cinani, running for Carson City Mayor; Maurice White and Jim Shirk, in the race for Carson City Supervisor in Ward 2 and Ward 4, respectively; and Sam England, Chris Forbush and Al Kramer, all Republicans vying for State Assembly, District 40, took part.
Each candidate had 20 minutes to speak and answer questions from an audience of about 45 people at Silver State Middle School.
Brad Bonkowski, the incumbent supervisor in Ward 2, was out of town, and the CCRP didn’t invite Assemblyman P.K. O’Neil, the incumbent, whom the party censured for voting for the commerce tax on businesses during the 2015 legislative session.
Absent O’Neil took a lot of heat from his three opponents.
“The biggest reason I am running against him is not because of the commerce tax,” said Forbush, an attorney. “I’m tired of politicians lying. He ran again and again promising that he would never support raising taxes.”
He said he’d work to reduce the impact of the commerce tax, such as sponsoring a bill to ensure it never applied to smaller businesses or to reduce the rate, if it couldn’t be overturned.
England, a physician’s assistant who served in the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the commerce tax isn’t going to deliver the $200 million it’s projected to raise because some businesses are going to be forced to close their doors. The tax is actually expected is to raise $121 million over two years.
“Another issue that is big to me is the Second Amendment. It’s a wonderful amendment that in my opinion that says it all,” said England.
And in an apparent reference to the campus carry law that failed in the last legislative session, England said he wanted his daughter to be able to protect herself with more than mace when she went to college.
“My 4 year-old girl is not that great with a BB gun yet, but we’re working on it,” he said.
Kramer, who served as Carson City treasurer for 20 years, said there was always ways to save money in government and better ways to spend it.
“A lot of Carson City public works projects are full employment acts for engineers,” he said.
As an example of better spending, he said the education budget should allocate more to community colleges, which provide job training, and less to new professors at University of Nevada, Reno or a new medical school at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Most attendees were impressed by the presentations, but some remained undecided.
“I would love to merge all these bodies into one,” said Peter Hennessey. “I wish we could have Sam’s youthful enthusiasm, Chris’ expertise with the law and Al’s experience.”
The mayoral candidates focused on what they considered wasteful city spending. The mayor’s race along with the board of supervisors are nonpartisan races.
“We cannot continue to write blank checks for growth,” said Carver, a retired U.S. Army major who also worked for the Department of Homeland Security, and who withdrew from the race then quickly rescinded. “We need to vote in real leadership with conservative Republican values.”
He said the city was in a “fiscal death by a thousand cuts,” and cited programs and projects such as the V&T Railway, which he called a “financial black hole,” and the multi-purpose athletic center.
Carver also talked about the downtown corridor project, which he said was being paid for mostly by residents, through the 1/8 of a cent sales tax hike, rather than by visitors.
“Downtown needs help, let’s be clear,” he said. “But we want to fix what’s broken, not replace it.”
Ciani echoed his opponent’s comments.
“I think (the project) is a mistake. We’re spending $11 million to dress up sidewalks,” said Ciani, who worked for the state before retiring. “We have better places to put that money.”
Ciani said the city needs to focus on attracting new businesses who bring jobs and stability, not visitors.
“To think you can build economic growth on tourism is misguided at best,” he said. “It’s nice to have events, but as a means of economic growth, they have very limited value.”
Mayor Robert Crowell, a registered Democrat was not invited. Kurt Meyer, also running for mayor said he was invited but declined the invitation.
“I felt that I wanted to stand on my own,” Meyer said. “I don’t want to stand with the Republican party or the Democratic party.”
White, who’s running for supervisor in Ward 2 against incumbent Bonkowski, spelled out four ways in which he would work to change the way the city is run.
He said the city needs to restructure its maintenance and capital improvement programs, retire its debt more quickly, diversify the Board of Supervisors and build trust with its citizens.
“I’m a blue-collar guy and right now all we have on the board are businesspeople,” White said. “There is a place for businesspeople, but now that’s all we have.”
And there’s a reason people don’t trust the city government, White said.
“You’ve been lied to,” he said. “I won’t beat around the bush. I’ll tell you the truth because that’s what you need to hear.”
Shirk, the incumbent supervisor in Ward 4 spoke of his struggle to be “the voice of reason,” on the existing board.
Shirk declined to sign the party’s pledge to not raise taxes, or other pledges, saying his vote speaks for itself.
“I voted against the 1/8 of cent sales tax, I voted against the downtown project, I voted against the sewer and water rate hike,” he said. “I’m proud of my vote.”
Ward 4 candidate John Barrette, a registered independent, also was not invited to speak.
“It’s disappointing the local Republican party process for evaluating candidates for Carson City supervisor, a non-partisan office, excludes people running for the position who are registered as non-partisan candidates.”
The CCRP posts scores for each candidate based on previous interviews, a survey and a number of pledges it asked them to sign, including pledges to not raise taxes, to protect the second amendment and to reform education and healthcare.
The scores, rendered as percentages, were England, 87.31; Forbush 95; Kramer 83.08; Carver 94.92; Cinani, 81.35; Bonkowski, 67.17; White, 75.08; and Shirk, 76.27.