State Dem hopefuls begin rural tour | NevadaAppeal.com

State Dem hopefuls begin rural tour

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

Former Nevada governor and U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan stressed the importance of visiting the state's rural counties to meet the people and listen to their concerns about the issues.

In taking a page from the playbook, four candidates running for state constitutional offices kicked off a rural Nevada tour Friday with their first two stops in Fernley and Fallon.

"I've been planting the seed for the longest time," said Kimi Cole, chairwoman of Rural Nevada Democratic Caucus, who was also in Fallon Friday night. "Clark County issues are different than Washoe County issues and are different from Churchill County. The only way to truly represent (the state) is to come out."

The four candidates — Zach Conine treasurer; Nelson Araujo Jr., secretary of state; Kate Marshall, lieutenant governor; and Aaron Ford, attorney general — informally met with local Democrats and guests at Nyla Howell's house before giving a 5-10-minute speech on their ideas for the state moving forward.

Cole, who lives in Douglas County, said people living outside Reno and Las Vegas must be heard so the candidates know of their challenges and different needs.

Conine, who grew up in a small town in New York state's farm country and attended Cornell University, first came to Nevada after college graduation in 2003 and worked in the Bullhead City, Arizona-Laughlin, Nevada area. He began managing money and investments professionally and also started his own business in Las Vegas.

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According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "He was the chief business development officer for Fifth Street Gaming and helped oversee the redevelopment of the Downtown Grand as it left its Lady Luck Casino roots behind in 2013." Currently, Conine said he helps small businesses get off the ground and find employees for them. He started Joseph Beare and Co. in 2014, a consultant company that helps startup companies.

Conine, who unsuccessfully ran for Assembly in 2016, is running unopposed for treasurer. Republicans Bob Beers and Derek Uehara are running in the primary for treasurer.

Before arriving in Fallon, Conine met with several small business owners in Fernley and felt energized with what they're doing to build their ventures. He also said he will continue to invest and find new investors for the Nevada College Kick Start Program and 529 College Savings Plans. One attendee said he's upset people want "to get their hands on our retirement," a reference to the state's Public Employees' Retirement System.

Conine replied he's into investment which would help PERS.

Araujo gave a brief biographical sketch. Born in Las Vegas, 1987, he was the son of parents who were refugees from the Salvadoran Civil War. His mother worked as a hotel housekeeper in a hotel. Araujo received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

According to Arajuo, who has served in the Nevada Assembly since 2015, the secretary of state's race is crucial.

"The stakes for secretary of state are too high not to challenge the incumbent," he said, referring to current SOC Barbara Cegavske. "The race is steep, but we know we can win."

Arajuo said voters care about voter integrity, and he claims there's a lack of safeguards in place to protect business. He also referred to a website, FiveThirtyEight, or 538, that focuses on opinion polls and their analysis, politics, economics and sports blogging. He said an article released Thursday challenges the security measures that are in place by the secretary of state. Another article, he said, indicates Nevadans are falling prey to scam drives because of faulty business practices from the Secretary of State's office.

Arajuo said Nevada needs a secretary of state who is aware of election security and will fight for the public.

Kate Marshall has been one of the most popular Democrat office holders who visits Churchill County. As state treasurer for eight years, Marshall made numerous trips to Fallon to talk to organizations and attended events and parades. Because of her numerous trips to sparsely populated rural Nevada, she sees the importance of knowing the Silver State.

"We believe all of Nevada matters," she said. "This includes all of rural areas … Fallon and Churchill County."

Marshall said newspaper accounts paint a rosy economic picture of Nevada with the Tesla and Panasonic plants, but for the average Nevadans, she said they're not be reaping the benefits of the recent boom.

"We need an economy that makes your life affordable," she said of families who are still struggling. "We need to make life better."

The candidate for lieutenant governor, who also serves as the chair of the Nevada Commission on Tourism and the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, discussed average incomes affecting individuals. She said prior to the recession in 2008, the average income was higher than the national average. Now, said Marshall, it's lower than the national average despite a stronger economy.

Furthermore, Marshall would like to see more affordable college and technical schools.

"Anyone who puts kids in college know it's not affordable," she pointed out.

Marshall said she would like to see relief for people on their medical expenditures and examine some way workers can save a portion of their paychecks in an IRA plan for their retirement.

"It would be setting up an IRA plan like the Nevada 529," she said about the voluntary program. "You would have money taken from paychecks, and if you wanted to opt out, you can."

She cited a study from AARP that shows if retirees had an extra $1,000 coming in a year, then the state could save $28 million in Medicaid costs.

Ford, first elected to the Nevada State Senate in 2012, became Democratic leader in 2014. He holds a bachelor's degree from Texas & M, a master's degree from George Washington University, and a master's, juris doctor and doctorate degree from The Ohio State University.

Ford's centerpiece centers on the family, which he says is why he entered politics. He descried growing up In Dallas, Texas, and said his mother and father worked hard to get by.

"My mom told me to hit the books and study," he recalled. "You have to get a degree. I'm the first-generation college student in our family."

Ford says the next attorney general must be willing to put families first. He said residents must be safe when using the Internet, and consumer protection is of utmost importance, not only with individuals but with businesses doing transactions with other businesses.

An attendee expressed disappointment current Attorney General Adam Laxalt will not enforce Question 1, which was approved by the voters in November 2016. A plurality voted for the measure, and Clark County was the only county that voted in favor of it. Unfortunately, a margin of 100,000 votes from the Southern Nevada cast votes in favor. Question 1 could be a hot potato during the next legislative session.

As for the 15 rural counties, Question 1 went down in flames, 79-21 percent and in Washoe, 54-45 percent. Because of the manner in which it was written, Laxalt said the ballot measure called for the federal government — not the state — to perform the background checks.

"He should've begun with the position yes, not with the position no," Ford said.

Ford said the interpretation of the law by the FBI confuses him because the federal agency treated New York state and Delaware differently than it did Nevada.

"We need a bill to fix the loopholes," said Ford, who said he was prepared to sue the federal government if elected.

Ford doesn't believe the state can financially take care of public land if the Bureau of Land Management was forced to return it to the states.

"We cannot afford to pay for forest fires," Ford said, citing one example where the state would struggle.

Ford said the push to return land to the federal government is moot. He said the state constitution of July 1864 outlawed slavery, provided for freedom of religion and all "undistributed land would be retained by the federal government and could not be taxed by the state."

Several people chimed in, saying the federal government's one of the largest employers in several of the rural counties and any withdrawl could have a devastating effect. Also, the cost of revenue sharing associated with the land could fall to 7 cents an acre from 75 cents on the dollar, said another attendee.