ELKO – Business growth and employment were the main talking points of Republican candidates attending the Lincoln Day Dinner, including U.S. Sen. Dean Heller.
About 215 ticket holders arrived at the Boys and Girls Club on Feb. 9 to meet candidates running for state and local offices. The fundraising event for the Elko County Republican Party included dinner followed by a candidate forum and an auction.
Most candidates pointed to bolstering the economy through job creation as part of their goals for rural Nevada, while voters said they were anxious to hear what their local officials had to say.
Running for re-election, Heller pointed to the 3 percent unemployment rate in Elko County compared with the state’s 5 percent unemployment rate as a result of the tax package approved in the Senate, crediting President Donald Trump for the passage of the bill.
“That’s the number one thing Trump has done for Nevada,” Heller said. “We’re second to none in job growth.”
Candidate for lieutenant governor “Scott “ Anthony Lafata said he saw Trump’s effectiveness in the economy in the state, and said it had “improved” but now it was up to the state to keep the momentum going.
“It’s our role now to attract, retain and grow new business,” he said.
Lafata said as lieutenant governor he would bring new companies into rural Nevada and support small business owners because of his career as a business management consultant for 35 years.
“I would eliminate the Commerce Tax and simplify regulations and fees for small business,” Lafata said.
Recently announcing his candidacy for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket, Eugene Hoover also pointed to Trump’s tax cut bill as a reason for Nevada’s low unemployment numbers, but said there is still a need for affordable housing and work needed to be done with counties to mitigate the issue.
Hoover also said he would look at economic development and tourism, not just for rural Nevada, but for the entire state if elected.
“To prosper in Elko, we all need additional tourism dollars,” Hoover said. “What can we do to work together with Elko to make that happen?”
Jared Fisher of Las Vegas is running for governor. He looked at economic development through additional means, and said one of his goals if elected would be to get rural Nevada “connected to the rest of the world,” such as through tourism and stronger broadband service.
Fisher said one way would be to utilize the public lands as a draw for tourism, pointing to a partnership between Caliente, the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service as an example, but he also said he felt strongly about getting rural areas faster online service.
“If you can connect the world in the rurals, you can run any business you want near the interstate or the highways,” Fisher said. “It opens up all kinds of opportunities.”
Reaching back to his work on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Board through the Nevada Department of Transportation, Fisher said he wants to look at increasing the amount of passing lanes on two-lane highways in rural areas for safer travel.
“We have more money that can be spent on that,” Fisher said. “Those roads are scary.”
Republican candidates for state treasurer Bob Beers and Derek Uehara expressed their desire to improve economic growth in rural Nevada’s different sectors.
Beers said that as treasurer, he would encourage short-term investments by local governments in rural Nevada and pointed to his experience as debt manager for Clark County, a five-time elected state senator, and a certified public accountant, making him a qualified candidate.
Uehara said one of his goals if elected would be to promote the 529 college savings plans that would send more high school students to Nevada colleges and tech schools, preparing the youth of Nevada to be competitive in the workforce with other states.
The topic of business is also a factor that Assemblyman John Ellison said was his motivation for returning to the lower chamber of the Legislature in his bid for re-election.
He and other Republicans are “100 percent pro business. I’ve made sure business stays in business,” said Ellison, who is also the owner of Ellison Electric.
Mayor Chris Johnson is challenging him for the seat in the primary.
At the dinner were people looking to see what the candidates had to say going into the 2018 primaries.
Gratton Miller, who is intending to run for Elko City Council, said he attended the event as an “opportunity to see the local and regional candidates.”
Realtor Lee Gurr called the 2018 election an “interesting” one to watch and said she was “thrilled with the turnout” at this year’s dinner compared with the previous year that was “not as well attended.”
“I wanted to hear what other Republicans in the county are thinking right now,” Gurr said. “Let’s hear what the people are saying.”
State Sen. Pete Goicoechea attended the dinner for similar purposes, although he is not up for election this year. He said he had mixed feelings about Trump’s first year in office.
“He’s trying with immigration and tax cuts. He’s getting something done, more than in the last 20 years,” Goicoechea said. “But I’m concerned for the BLM proposal to have the regional office in Salt Lake City and there’s some stuff in the Interior I’m not tickled with.”
Not in attendance were Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is running for governor, and U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei who is seeking re-election.