Our choice for Nevada governor: Steve Sisolak

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak thanks supporters during an election watch party at the Aria convention center Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Having made it through the darkest days of the recession, Nevada has started to undergo a remarkable transformation.

The state reorganized our public schools and injected new money into the K-12 system statewide, recognizing that improvements were a key not only to serving Nevadans but drawing in new residents and businesses. Las Vegas became a major-league city, adding an exciting new element to the Entertainment Capital of the World. Northern Nevada’s economy is bristling thanks to the addition of such companies as Tesla, Amazon and Ebay. The state created the UNLV School of Medicine to help improve the quality of health care in Southern Nevada and address a shortage of doctors in the region.

In the race for governor this year, the central question is which candidate is best suited to continue leading that transformation?

The answer is Steve Sisolak.

As a political moderate with a long history of serving Nevadans and working with all sides on issues, Sisolak embodies the kind of progressive yet pragmatic thinking that’s driven progress in Southern Nevada and across the state in recent years.

He’s the ideal candidate to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has done an extraordinary job of prioritizing the best interests of Nevadans over petty partisan politics during his eight years in office.

Sisolak’s background gives him a keen understanding of Southern Nevada’s needs, and also makes him the strongest candidate for the state at large.

In Sandoval, we have benefited from one of the finest governors in any state. Without question, Sisolak will continue that tradition and passionately represent the interests of all Nevadans.

As Clark County Commission chairman, Sisolak supported public funding for the Raiders stadium when finding a politician to speak in favor of it was a difficult job. He also backed funding for the much-needed expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center, recognizing both that project and the stadium as integral to maintaining Las Vegas’ standing as one of the world’s leading destinations for tourists and convention-goers.

He has said he would uphold one of Sandoval’s signature accomplishments, the $1.4 billion tax package for public schools in 2015, which not only protected funding for schools but enhanced it. He also has defended Sandoval’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage in Nevada and said he would oppose any effort to dial it back. He’s positioned himself as a strong supporter of women’s reproductive rights and access to health care, saying he supports both a woman’s right to choose and funding health clinics specializing in women’s care.

On immigration, Sisolak lines up favorably with Sandoval. When the Trump administration announced it was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Sisolak criticized the move as “a rare combination of stark cruelty and profoundly irresponsible policy.” He further expressed concern for the 13,000 immigrants living in Nevada who would be affected.

That response brings to mind Sandoval’s opposition to Trump on immigration issues, including on DACA and on a proposal to use state National Guard forces to round up and deport undocumented immigrants.

Sisolak’s strengths also include his experience as a 10-year member of the Nevada Board of Regents, a position in which he advocated for the UNLV medical school. His effort was ahead of its time, and it unfortunately failed. But others picked up the torch and succeeded in establishing the school, proving that his vision was the correct one.

Sisolak also has expressed support for such sensible gun-safety measures as a ban on bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

As for other statewide issues, Sisolak said he would differ from Sandoval in his approach to the kind of economic development efforts that attracted Tesla and other major companies to Northern Nevada. Sisolak said he would be less likely to offer large incentives or abatements to individual companies, but instead would focus on expansion of entire industries. He also said he would work to make it easier for small businesses to take root or expand in the state.

So for the breadth and depth of his experience, and for his potential to pick up where Sandoval will leave off, Sisolak is the right candidate.

Conversely, Laxalt is an extremist who would undercut public schools, erode women’s reproductive health and rights, weaken gun safety and embrace anti-immigrant policies.

To voters who are assessing Sisolak and Laxalt, perhaps nothing is as telling as the fact that Sandoval is not endorsing Laxalt despite being in the same party.

The two Republicans have been at odds on issues including environmental protections and immigration since Laxalt was elected as Nevada’s attorney general in 2014, but the boiling point appears to have occurred when Laxalt pledged to repeal the commerce tax that funded one of Sandoval’s signature accomplishments—the $1.4 billion tax increase for K-12 schools in 2015.

As Sandoval has pointed out, eliminating the tax and reducing funding for schools would not only hurt Nevada children but would weaken the state’s economic development as well. Out-of-state businesses have long cited the state’s underperforming schools as a reason not to expand to Nevada, preferring instead to locate in states where their employees’ children can get a better education.

Simply put, Laxalt has proven himself to be contemptuous of the will of the voters, the Legislature and the governor’s office. Instead, he panders to a narrow group of special interests who own him.

Laxalt, who is heavily supported by the NRA, also would take the state in the wrong direction on gun safety. He showed his stripes most clearly on the 2016 ballot question establishing universal background checks on gun purchases, which he campaigned against. Then, when complications arose in implementing the new checks, Laxalt did nothing to implement the will of the people.

Then there’s his experience as a government leader, where he’s a neophyte compared with Sisolak.

At a time when Nevada is moving steadily upward, Laxalt threatens to disrupt its trajectory by focusing on extremist ideology instead of what’s best for the state’s residents.

Sisolak, on the other hand, is perfectly positioned to help the state continue its progress.

Nevada needs Sisolak’s leadership.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.
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