Challenger: Health fight was AG’s duty |

Challenger: Health fight was AG’s duty

Associated Press Writer

PAHRUMP – Democratic state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto should have added Nevada to the list of states suing over federal health care reform, Republican challenger Travis Barrick said Saturday.

But Masto responded that her analysis of the merits of the case, along with her assessment of the costs and benefits to the state, made her decide to keep Nevada on the sidelines.

“We didn’t have anything unique to argue that (other) states weren’t arguing already,” Masto told a conference of journalists at the Nevada Press Association annual convention in Pahrump.

The issue was the main difference between the two attorney general candidates during a rare but collegial joint appearance in the campaign for election Nov. 2.

“I respect the magnitude of the office and I respect my opponent,” Barrick said.

The 55-year-old former carpenter who went to law school as a 45-year-old introduces himself as a fan of beer, pool, cigarettes, guns and motorcycles. He acknowledges he’s the underdog in a race where he is spending time instead of money.

Masto, 46, said she’s comfortable running on her record as she seeks her second term. She said she has focused her first term on fighting methamphetamine and drug abuse, domestic violence, and the abuse, neglect and exploitation of children and the elderly.

A recent poll for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and KLAS-TV has Masto leading by 17 percentage points, with 18 percent of voters undecided. Early voting begins Oct. 16.

Masto and Barrick endorsed government openness and public access to records, and agreed that elected boards and commissions should take comment during deliberations and not after issues of public interest are decided.

But they differed on Masto’s decision to resist Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons’ effort to add Nevada to the 20-state fight against what Barrick termed “ObamaCare.”

Barrick termed the decision “a little bizarre.”

“I can’t imagine a case where the attorney general has the authority to ignore a directive from the governor,” he said.

Masto said that as an independently elected public official and an attorney who is an officer of the court, she had a responsibility to gauge whether she would be wasting taxpayer resources fighting a battle she believes the state would lose.

States in the lawsuit argue the Obama administration can’t require people to have health insurance, and can’t impose on states additional costs not covered by the federal government.

The government maintains it has the right to create an insurance mandate under the commerce and general welfare clauses of the Constitution.

Masto said other states were making the same argument Nevada would make, and whether Nevada joins or not, it would benefit if the other states win.