Two candidates seeking the Assembly District 38 seat squared off on May 17 at Candidates Night, and although many of their responses mirrored each other, they also pointed out their differences on a number of issues that could face the Legislature in its next session.
Vida Keller, a real estate broker/owner of Priceless Realty in Silver Springs, and Fallon optometrist Greg Koenig are vying for the Assembly seat currently held by Dr. Robin Titus, a Lyon County physician. Titus is running for State Senate District 17. The district covers about half of Lyon County, all of Churchill and Mineral counties, and a precinct in the Tonopah area.
The forum held at the Fallon Convention Center also featured the races for Churchill County Commission and Senate District 17. The event was sponsored by the Churchill County Republican Central Committee, Lahontan Valley News, The Fallon Post and Lahontan Broadcasting.
Keller is the first vice president of the Fernley Republican women, delegate to the Nevada GOP, and president of the Lyon County Library foundation. She currently served as the chair of the Lyon County Commission and is now vice-chair. She was vice president of the Nevada Association of State Counties executive board.
Koenig, a fifth-generation Nevadan and Fallonite, said he loves rural Nevada and has a practice in Fallon, Yerington and Fernley, the largest communities in District 38.
“My slogan is conservative common-sense leadership,” he said.
Koenig was elected to the Churchill County Commission in 2020.
Panelists representing local media asked each candidate the same questions during the 50-minute session. Most of the questions were asked by the public.
Both Keller and Koenig were asked if they listen to the squeaky wheel or consider the views of all voters.
Koenig said he’s elected to represent the people, and when he compiles all the information, he and the commission make the best decision possible.
“Sometimes, it’s hard not to listen to the squeaky wheel,” Koenig said, but added he receives emails and concerns from both sides.
“I try to do my best for the constituents in Churchill County.”
“I listen to everybody,” she said.
When dealing with an issue, and she used property rights as an example, she takes into consideration other concerns such as the laws and ordinances.
“I take absolutely into consideration and listen to everyone no matter what side of the aisle they’re on,” she said.
Both candidates showed common ground in discussing election integrity.
They said the state must eliminate mail-in ballots and ballot harvesting and require identification.
“We all want to fix the election process,” Keller said. “Get out the vote and hope we can get it all done.”
Koenig said voters must be able to show proof of citizenship.
Koenig also said voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles must be abolished. He told a story of how his son registered with the DMV, and his voter registration was listed as nonpartisan.
“He’s not the only one I have heard more stories of that happening,” Koenig said.
Both candidates were asked about mining and its contributions to Nevada.
Koenig said the State of Nevada must be careful not to use mining as a convenient taxing tool.
“We need to be careful not to tax out mines out of business,” he said.
Keller said mining is a lifeblood for the state like gaming.
During the last special session and then at the Legislature, Keller said mining accepted a reasonable tax increase.
“As a conservative, I never vote to raise taxes, but the mines approved it,” she said.
Both candidates discussed issues that would require some type of bipartisanship support.
Keller said she will vote what the citizens want.
“I am willing to sit down with any reasonable person at any time an listen to their reasons and arguments and hopefully (they’ll) listen to mine,” she said. “I don’t work for compromises. I work for a meeting of the minds.”
Koenig said he’s being a realist because more than likely, the majority in the lower house will be Democrats.
“I won’t compromise my values,” he said. “There is a place to work together. I could vote for something I agree.”
Koenig added he would expect for the other side to support a bill he champions.
The candidates then discussed education.
Koenig, who spent 12 years on the Churchill County School Board, said the state has done a fairly decent job during the past several years of trying to increase funding, but he said the state’s test scores are still low.
“Just because you throw a ton of money at something isn’t going to solve a problem,” he said.
Koenig bristled at an idea coming out of Carson City that school-board members should be appointed, not elected. He said trustees will do a much better job if elected by the people.
“Smaller the government and closer to the people is better,” he said.
Keller agreed but also stressed an audit should be done to see where the money is going.
In 28 years, Keller said the Legislature raises more taxes for education.
“It’s for the children, and the children never see it,” she said.
Keller said school districts and the state must use the money properly.
“I have a budget. I have to live by it. Make schools live within their budget, she said.
A proposed plan endorsed by Gov. Steve Sisolack in 2021 called for the construction of an innovational city in the desert between Reno and Fernley.
Any action on that proposal stalled in the Legislature.
A blockchain technology firm has proposed an Innovation Zone and smart city that would be financed by private investment.
Innovation Zone would be developed on its own property and provide its own government.
Keller said she received a copy of the proposal before state legislators had an opportunity to see the plan. Not only would the proposal affect Storey County, but Keller said it also involved a part of Lyon County.
Keller vowed not to allow anything like an Innovation one pop up like the one proposed by Jeffrey Berns, founder and CEO of Blockchains, LLC.
“I am glad it died,” she said of the plan. “It’s an absolute no.”
Keller also said water usage would present a problem if a plan like the Innovation Zone went forward.
Koenig also touched on the water issues and said upstream communities should only take the water to which they have rights.
“As new developments come into the area, we require xeriscape to help use less water,” he said.
Keller added that both agriculture and farming must be protected in addition to rural Nevada.
Articles from the May 17 Candidates Night are the result of a community endeavor conducted by The Fallon Post, the Lahontan Valley News, Lahontan Broadcasting and the Churchill County Central Republican committee.