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Commentary: Lombardo dropping out of Elko debate: A missed opportunity

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Republican candidate for governor Joe Lombardo’s decision to not participate in the January 21 debate in Elko is disappointing, but not surprising. As the currently top-polling candidate in most surveys, Mr. Lombardo would have risked jeopardizing that lead if he’d had to answer the tough debate questions that candidates can avoid when they limit their public appearances to small, crowd-friendly meet-and-greets.

Every candidate in the January 21 debate will face tough, specific questions about their past record of accomplishments, as well as their current positions and solutions for Nevada’s many challenging problems. Some of the difficult questions the Elko-resident moderators might have asked Lombardo to answer include the following.

  • Why is the Republican Lombardo currently trashing Democrat Steve Sisolak, when he endorsed Sisolak for governor in 2018?
  • Why did Lombardo donate more money to Democrat candidates than to Republican hopefuls in 2018?
  • Why does Lombardo claim to have reduced crime in Las Vegas, when DOJ statistics show that all categories of violent crime have increased exponentially under his tenure as Clark County Sheriff?
  • Why has Lombardo never provided a full accounting for how the $31 million donated to the Las Vegas shooting fund in 2017 was spent?

Face-to-face political debates have been an important part of American elections since 1858, when Senate candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas faced off in seven 3-hour debates, speaking to crowds of 20,000 people. Including the people who will watch the Elko debate via live-stream, we expect a total listening audience approximating that number on January 21.

Like all debates, Elko’s gubernatorial face-off will offer the audience a chance to compare candidates shoulder-to-shoulder — observing firsthand how they respond to tough questions — and to each other, in a high-pressure situation.

Elko’s debate on January 21 will play an important role in helping voters decide which gubernatorial candidate is the best choice to lead Nevada into the future, and which one will best promote the special needs and interests of the rural counties.

Mr. Lombardo’s participation in the debate would have given him the opportunity to answer many questions about his candidacy.

His refusal to be involved will quite likely raise some serious concerns with voters.

Paul D. White is the independent coordinator for the Nevada Republican Governor Candidates Debate Series 2022, the first of which will be held at the Elko Convention Center.


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