Legislative, congressional candidates debate at Carson City forum

Assemblyman Al Kramer, R-Carson City, faced a crowd sympathetic to his Democratic opponent Tuesday night, vocally pushing back on his stands against the clean energy initiative and barring corporate contributions to political campaigns as well as his rejection of family leave and other mandates on employers

Kramer said he opposes mandating that half of Nevada’s electric power come from renewables by 2030 because, “I’m not willing to make power bills more expensive for people on fixed incomes here in Carson City.” He drew more objections when he rejected the idea of mandating family leave, sick days for workers and other requirements on businesses.

“Family leave is part of a total compensation package,” he said. “If you start mandating benefits, salaries start to get reduced.”

He said the market place is best left to handle those issues.

“I’m really hard pressed to tell one business or another business how they should design their compensation program,” he told the audience at the candidate forum in the Brewery Arts Center.

His Democratic opponent Autumn Zemke said she supports mandating paid family leave and sick days. She also said she supports the clean energy initiative on the ballot, drawing applause on both those issues.

On the subject of Planned Parenthood, Zemke said she strongly supports women’s reproductive rights. Kramer pointed out that Nevadans voted to support a woman’s right to abortion. He added that he supports providing women’s healthcare.

Both said they support expansion of efforts to train people for jobs that don’t necessarily require a college degree.

Zemke said she supports free community college for students.

But on wage equity between men and women, he drew a strongly negative crowd reaction when he argued that some of the problem is that women, “often gravitate toward jobs that don’t have as high a salary.”

Zemke wrapped up her comments saying politicians “need to find the moral courage to help families with the skyrocketing cost of healthcare.”

Kramer said one of his goals in the coming legislature will be to address to high cost of healthcare. He said one of the biggest issues is mental health and he wants to move more money into that battle.

State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, had an easier time in his presentation Tuesday. When Democrat Tina Davis-Hersey called for more funding for vocational schools, he pointed out that in his time in the state Senate, he worked to expand trade and technical training in community colleges and passed legislation creating a need-based scholarship program to help students through community college by covering the total cost of attendance.

“The most important thing we can do is elevate the skill level of employees so they are in jobs that pay the wages needed,” he said.

Hersey said she would keep the commerce tax that helps fund education and Kieckhefer pointed out he voted for it.

But she said she opposes the Educational Savings Accounts legislation that he said he supports.

She also called for increases in minimum wages saying some one making $7.25 to $8.25 an hour can’t afford the $1,000 or more monthly rental for a one-bedroom apartment.

They differed on the energy ballot questions with Kieckhefer saying he supports energy choice but opposes the clean energy mandate. Hersey was just the opposite saying she opposes energy choice and backs clean energy.

She said deregulating the electric market is a bad idea while he said monopolies such as NV Energy “hinder the marketplace.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., and Democrat Clint Coble found a number of areas where they actually seemed to basically agree. And Amodei pointed out at the start that, “this is one of the few races where no one is out there running ads saying what an awful bugger the other guy is.”

Both men said the really big issues are immigration and healthcare.

Amodei pointed out he was one of about 30 Republicans who voted with Democrats to force an immigration vote on the House floor.

Both men said a great wall along the southern border isn’t the answer.

“Show me a 50-foot wall and I’ll show you a 52-foot ladder,” said Koble.

Koble said he supports full funding for Planned Parenthood and believes in a woman’s right to choose. Amodei said he has supported funding for the Planned Parenthood facility in Reno he said provides healthcare to some 2,500 women.

On immigration, Amodei said fixing DACA for immigrant children is “low hanging fruit.” Koble said he, too, supports DACA.

Both men decried the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, saying Congress should fix the problems with it, not repeal it.

Amodei said wiping the slate clean and starting over makes no sense, that Congress should focus on problem areas and fix them.

Koble said the tax act of 2017 was “not balanced and not fair.”

“I don’t believe in Trumpconomics where the middle class and poor get theirs after the rich get theirs,” he said.

He said that tax bill will drive up the national debt dramatically.

But Amodei said basically the jury is still out because revenues are “way ahead” of what the Congressional Budget Office projected and GDP is growing faster than projected.

But both men said they would protect Medicare and Social Security into the future.

This was the last of four candidate forums organized by the League of Women Voters and a half dozen allied organizations including the American Association of University Women.


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