Jim Hartman: Duncan is my pick for AG
The race for Nevada Attorney General pits two ambitious young lawyers , Democrat Aaron Ford and Republican Wes Duncan, against one another in a contest where the candidates have very different backgrounds and priorities for the office.
Both Ford, 46, and Duncan, 37, graduated from the same law school, Ohio State University. Both Ford and Duncan were first elected to the Nevada Legislature in the same year, 2012, Ford serving in the State Senate and Duncan in the State Assembly. After their first legislative session in 2013, Duncan was named “Freshman Legislator of the Year” and Ford “Freshman Senator of the Year” by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Yet it is their differences rather than their similarities that define the choice for Attorney General.
After law school, Republican Duncan served 4 1/2 years on active duty as an Air Force judge advocate, including deployment to Iraq. He’s currently a major in the Air Force reserves. Duncan has served as a prosecutor in the Clark County District Attorney’s office.
Elected to the State Assembly in 2012 and re-elected in 2014, Duncan resigned in December, 2014 to become First Assistant Attorney General, chief deputy to Attorney General Adam Laxalt. In that capacity , he helped lead an office with nearly 400 personnel across the state, until leaving in 2017.
After law school, Democrat Ford’s legal experience was in civil law working for two law firms in Texas and one in Las Vegas. He acknowledges having no experience with criminal law — either as a prosecutor or defense attorney. In 2016, Ford joined the personal injury law firm of Eglet Prince, headed by Robert Eglet, former president of the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association.
Having been elected to the State Senate in 2012, Ford was Democratic Senate leader in 2015. Re-elected in 2016, Ford became Senate Majority Leader in 2017. In the 2017 Legislature, Ford’s concerns over police shootings resulted in legislation requiring Nevada Highway Patrol officers to wear body cameras.
Duncan carries the endorsement of Nevada law enforcement — all 17 county sheriffs have endorsed his candidacy for Attorney General. Criticized by Democrats, he removed his endorsement by Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro, accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.
In his campaign, Duncan notes that the number one issue identified by law enforcement officials in Nevada was a lack of mental health services. He advocates the establishment of “psychiatric ERs” and touts the Mallory Behavioral Crisis Center in Carson City as a model for the state.
Ford has the endorsement of former President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder. He has vowed to use the Nevada Attorney General’s office to challenge the Trump administration’s policy decisions and executive orders on issues like health care, immigration and the environment.
In July, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Ford was arrested four times in Texas in the 1990s for public intoxication, stealing tires and twice for failing to appear in court. He was also investigated for trespassing into his now ex-girlfriend’s home. These legal troubles occurred over several years while he was in his early 20s.
One week earlier, the Review-Journal reported that Ford has a history of failing to fully pay his taxes. The IRS filed three liens against Ford for more than $185,000 in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. The federal government released the three liens against him in 2016.
Beyond the governorship, the office of attorney general is the most important state constitutional office — and offers a clear contrast between the two major candidates.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa