Candidates square off in second debate |

Candidates square off in second debate

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS – Democrat Dina Titus accused Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons of running from his record Monday night while Gibbons portrayed Titus as a liberal primed to expand Nevada government.

In their second debate, Titus and Gibbons – who were given the questions in advance – recited well-practiced answers on senior citizen housing, water policy and budget priorities before a raucous audience of about 1,700 at Bally’s hotel-casino.

Titus said Gibbons, a five-term congressman from Reno, appeared to have forgotten votes in Congress that she claimed cut support for senior citizens and students.

“He may have forgotten, but I believe Nevada remembers,” she said repeatedly. “Ignore the rhetoric and look at the record.”

But Gibbons, repeating a charge in his ads dubbing his opponent “Dina Taxes,” painted the state Senate minority leader as a tax-and-spender planning to squander the state’s expected surplus.

After Titus outlined her education agenda, Gibbons retorted, “Well, you just heard it. She’s going to spend every penny with those costs.

The debate, sponsored by Harrah’s Entertainment and 20 business and advocacy groups, was the second of four in the race to fill the open seat being vacated by term-limited Republican Kenny Guinn.

The event got off to a lively start when Independent American candidate Christopher Hansen jumped on stage to protest his exclusion from the major party debate.

“I’m running for governor, too! I should be allowed to speak,” Hansen said, as he was pulled from the stage.

Both Gibbons and Titus cited education as their top budget priority.

Titus said she’d push to fund full-day kindergarten for all students and more vocational training for high school students.

She said she believed the next Legislature would see enough of a surplus to help pay for her proposals.

Gibbons promised “more dollars for our classrooms, for our teachers,” but was vague about the source of that funding. He stressed that a state surplus could only be used on one-time expenditures.

“We cannot expect to allocate dollars that we do not have yet in our hands,” he said.

Titus promised to keep taxes “reasonable” and noted that surpluses would likely keep lawmakers from considering hikes in the near future.

Gibbons said Titus would usher in an era of “government the California way,” with higher taxes, burdensome regulation and “creativity buried under mountains of red tape.”

When asked about their approach to water policy, Gibbons, a former geologist, stopped short of saying he opposed a $2 billion plan to pump water from rural counties to Las Vegas. The proposal is unpopular among the congressman’s rural base, but viewed as key to growth in Las Vegas.

Before a pipeline could be built, he said, he would call for an inventory of all water resources in the state.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for any county to steal water from another county, but I do think its appropriate to balance the resources,” he said.

Titus said she would support smart growth initiatives to reduce sprawl and push for conservation.

“We have to be very careful that we keep sustainability at the forefront,” she said.