LAS VEGAS — Republican Mark Hutchison touted his endorsement from Gov. Brian Sandoval and said he’d be a great teammate for the popular leader if he’s elected as lieutenant governor, while Democrat Lucy Flores said she’ll ask questions, hold people accountable and be “more than a rubber stamp.”
The comments came Wednesday, during a taping of a debate set to air Friday evening on Vegas PBS. Polls suggest a relatively close race for the part-time post, which would lead to the top job in the state if the governor lives up to speculation and leaves his position midterm.
“I’ve got the experience, having owned my own law firm, my own small business, to understand what’s needed to bring small businesses to Nevada,” said Hutchison, a state senator and Las Vegas-based attorney who has raised nearly four times the campaign money of his opponent.
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Flores said she grew up “pretty low-income” and had trouble with the law as a teen before she turned her life around, earned a law degree and became a state assemblywoman.
“I believe there’s an incredible opportunity for someone … to really bring the perspective of the everyday Nevadan to the top leadership positions in Nevada,” Flores said.
The candidates fielded questions about growing tourism in Nevada, which is one of the primary tasks of the office. The lieutenant governor chairs the state Commission on Tourism.
Hutchison said he would work with airlines to bring in more international customers, then work to lengthen tourists’ stays in Nevada.
Flores said she wouldn’t take the approach of Hutchison, who recently suggested building a satellite tourism office in India. The focus should instead be on close neighbors in Mexico, Canada and Hawaii, she said.
The two also faced questions about their records on taxes and education policy in the Nevada Legislature.
Hutchison supported a tax on mining as a way to fund education, but it died during the 2013 session. He said at a debate last month that the measure was meant to start a conversation about revenue.
“The first and best way is through growth and economic opportunities,” he said, adding that the next step would be having “a big discussion” about how to broaden the tax base and lower rates.
Flores, who said she opposes the margins tax initiative on the November ballot as well as single-industry taxes like the mining proposal, criticized Republican legislators for blocking past Democratic plans to raise revenue. She pointed to a failed plan in 2011 to tax services.
“We’re not going to grow our way out of our problems,” she said. “We’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work.”
On education, Hutchison said Flores was the candidate of the status quo. He criticized her for blocking a $2 million plan that would have brought 100 recent college graduates to Nevada through Teach for America, a program that places young teachers in low-achieving schools, and said she didn’t back a plan that would allow low-performing schools to morph into charter schools if parents supported the move.
“You need someone who not only supports more revenue, but also reform,” he said.
Flores said the Teach for America bill came up on the last day of the session and was not properly vetted. She said $2 million would be better spent developing existing teachers, and said the proposals Hutchison touted didn’t address the underlying issues in Nevada schools.
“I don’t support Band-Aid solutions. We need to adequately fund education,” she said.