Assembly District 40 candidates Sam Toll, left, incumbent PK O’Neill and Gary Schmidt discuss their views on tax incentives, education and public union influence among other topics May 17, 2022 during a Chamber of Commerce Primary Candidates Forum at Western Nevada College.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.
Regaining confidence in Nevada’s officials, raising the level of transparency and conquering the state’s economic challenges were the key points Assembly District 40 Republican candidates PK O’Neill, Gary Schmidt and Libertarian candidate Sam Toll offered during Tuesday’s Carson City Primary Candidates Forum at Western Nevada College.
“I think there’s enough competition now that we should allow businesses to stand on their own,” O’Neill said. “And they’re taking away from local governments and taking away from the counties and the schools.”
O’Neill served during the 2015 Legislature before losing to Al Kramer in 2016. O’Neill was re-elected in November 2020.
O’Neill has lived in Carson City for 40 years and retired from a career in law enforcement. He serves on the board of directors for Carson Tahoe Hospital, is an advisory board member for the Salvation Army of Carson City and Douglas County and a member of the Knights of Columbus, among other law enforcement affiliations.
“I’m motivated to work toward solutions,” he said. “Many people see problems and complain. … I look forward to representing the capital with your support.”
O’Neill said Nevada’s challenges are in education, housing, labor, voting and reducing regulations. Educating the public on bail issues and solidifying Republican support to help communities equally is a challenge for legislators.
“You have to come in and say, ‘How does this deal with my community in Carson, Washoe, Storey?’ The people have to come in and raise those arguments when we raise that also,” O’Neill said.
Schmidt ran against former State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer in 2014 and 2018 and for a seat on the Washoe County Commission in 2008. Schmidt said he is running this year to combat “abusive, intrusive, arrogant politics” in Nevada government and referred to opponent Sam Toll as a friend and neighbor, a resident of Virginia City, pledging to remove O’Neill from office in part to his “yes” vote in the 2015 session on the commerce tax. Schmidt promised he would be opposed to any similar proposals.
“The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers,” Schmidt said. “It should get out of subsidizing businesses entirely and it should get out of the way of small businesses. … In October 2016, (O’Neill) voted for all of you to subsidize the stadium in Las Vegas (SB 1). … We’re all on the hook for $750 million that we have guaranteed on that loan. If they wanted the stadium, they should have put up the money.”
Toll, a fifth-generation Gold Hill native and business owner, previously ran for Storey County commissioner. He said as a student, he hitchhiked to high school in Carson City and in 1981, he left a job washing dishes at the Ormsby House and went to California. In 1986, he began a business that grew and had about 75 employees within 10 years earning about $8 million a year, and he said if elected, he looked forward to having more conversations about education, the Second Amendment and other topics.
Toll said one of the top issues facing Nevada today is union overreach.
“I’ve noticed in attending county commission meetings in Storey, it’s amazing the influence that the public unions have in the entire budget process and how your hard-earned tax dollars are spent,” Toll said. “Every time a new contract comes up for the fire department, all y’all got to leave. Negotiations come up in private. … They must have one heck of a contract.”
He said Nevada’s employees were in need of a tax abatement, sharing his experience going to San Francisco to enjoy season tickets to see the San Francisco Giants’ games and taking note of local efforts to fund their facilities.
“The Oakland A’s are looking into moving to Las Vegas,” Toll said. “Storey County is shouldering a very large portion of that burden. We’ve lost $37 million in revenue. We have officials making north of a $100 grand.”
Asked about education, the candidates said they thought school choice was important to offer families.
Toll said students in Storey County could be offered partnerships with community or school resources in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center. He also recommended placing technology in the high school to give students access to more financial literacy courses.
“Calculus is great, but so is balancing your checkbook,” he said.
“We can agree education needs parental involvement,” O’Neill said. “We need to get the state out of directing what needs to be taught. … We have a new funding formula problem that’s supposed to hold Carson City harmless, and that’s questionable, and we still need to keep an eye on that.”
Schmidt said the state does not have a funding problem for its schools.
“It’s a spending problem and we need to bring in as much competition as we can,” he said.
District 40 represents south Reno, Carson City and Washoe County.
Early voting begins May 28. Election Day is June 14.
Schmidt and O’Neill will be on the Republican ballot during the primary. The winner will advance to the November general election where Toll and Democrat Shannon McDaniel will also be on the ballot.