By VERNON ROBISON
The Mesquite Chamber of Commerce hosted seven of the Republican candidates for Governor in the upcoming primary election at a membership luncheon held on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at the Casablanca Resort.
In attendance were Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michelle Fiore, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Tom Heck, former U.S. Senator Dean Heller, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, venture capitalist Guy Nohra and retired surgeon Dr. Fred Simon.
During the nearly 3 hour event, the candidates each had about 15 minutes to speak, introduce themselves and discuss positions important to them.
“All of the declared candidates were invited to come today; several times, over several different formats,” said Chamber President/CEO Carol Kolson in some introductory remarks. “So if the candidate you were expecting to see is not here, I apologize. But we did reach out to everyone.”
Kolson began by introducing Michelle Fiore as having over 31 years of business and entrpreneurial experience. She spent two terms in the State Legislature between 2012 and 2016 and has served on the Las Vegas City Council representing Ward 6 since July 2017.
Fiore said that she was a “proven America-first conservative candidate.”
She made a particular point of her “boots-on-the-ground” experience in standing with Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy during the 2014 standoff against federal government agents.
“When you elect a Governor, you need to make sure that that Governor has your back,” Fiore said. “When you go into battle, you want to make sure that person will stand with you. I’ve been serving you for a decade, fighting for you, truly.”
Fiore said she is not afraid to face the tough issues and fight the hard battles. “My entire political career has been driven on the stupidity of the elected officials in the state legislature,” she said.
Fiore emphasized that 2nd Amendments rights are imporant to her. She touts an A+ rating from the NRA and the highest rating from Gun Owners of America Club.
“Your second amendment rights, it ain’t for hunting,” she said. “Let’s be clear. It is for tyranny.”
Kolson introduced candidate Tom Heck as having served his country for 22 years active duty in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as lieutenant colonel in 1998. He has since taken on challenging jobs in various communities after his retirement.
Heck said that he had decided to run for Governor because career politicians had continued to fail the state in the role. “I am not the perfect politician,” Heck admitted. “But what I do bring to the table is a proven history of producing successful outcomes and results.”
Heck said that he was running on three pillars.
The first was safety. “If we aren’t safe to walk our streets, everything else that we talk about is moot,” he said.
The second pillar was education. “Education is not a money problem,” Heck said. “Nevada has spent 40 percent more over the last eight years on education and we are still 50th in the nation.”
Heck’s third pillar was bringing diverse jobs to the economy. He said this was also dependent upon education. But business taxes are also a factor, he said.
“We have the Commerce Tax here that nearly 80 percent of Nevadans voted against,” Heck said. “I’m going to see that it is repealed.”
`Candidate Dean Heller said that he had decided to run for Governor because he felt that the state of Nevada has a lot of problems. “In fact, I think Nevada is in crisis,” he said.
He pointed out that the state is near the top of every “bad list” in America. “Whether it is unemployment, graduation rates, crime rates, even suicide rates, we are at or near the top of the list,” Heller said. “It is time for that to change.”
Heller decried the recent trend toward socialism in America and the toll that record-high budget deficits, the national debt and inflation are taking on the country.
“Nobody in Washington DC is going to save this country,” Heller said. “If we are going to save America, it is through our Governors.”
Heck said that he would model his time as Governor on three very successful role models: Gov. Pete DeSantis of Florida, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, and Governor Kristie Noem of South Dakota.
“These three are saving their states,” Heller said. “They are pushing policies that is forcing Washington DC to react.”
Heller said that in the first 24 hours of his administration he would eliminate all remaining COVID mandates, require identification to vote, and deem Nevada as a Constitutional carry state for gun owners.
“If you ever wonder where I am going to stand, I believe in Faith, I believe in Family and I believe in Freedom,” Heller said. “I think that is where the Republican Party needs to return and stay.”
North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee said that when he took office in 2013, the city was on the brink of bankruptcy with $156 million in debt and a $6 million hole in the budget. The city’s bonds were rated as junk. And the state was threatening to dissolve the city and divide it up among other surrounding municipalities.
Since that time, Lee said that he has turned the city around to become an economic powerhouse. “In just seven years, I now have bond companies coming to see me and ask ‘How are you doing this?’,” Lee said.
“We are diversifying the economy and the whole of southern Nevada benefits, millions and millions of dollars, because of what we have done,” Lee added.
Lee said that, as mayor, he likes to fix problems. And he sees a lot of problems at the state level that he would like to work on fixing as Governor.
One of these problems is education. Lee said that fixing education in Nevada is one of the Governor’s responsibilities.
“Our schools are failing because of a lack of leadership at the state level,” Lee said. “We have a State Superintendent, we have a State Board of Trustees; none of them are doing their jobs. They are hiding and ducking. We have to fix our education to prepare kids for the 21st century jobs that are coming here.”
Lee pledged that he would restore bold leadership to the state. “I can do for you in eight years as Governor more than I did for the City of North Las Vegas if you give me the opportunity,” Lee said.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said that Nevada and the nation is currently at a crossroads. And he believes it is going in the wrong direction.
“I’d call it a welfare state,” Lombardo said. “We are looking to the federal government and inside the beltway for the solution to our problems.”
Lombardo said that he is an “avid supporter of the 2nd Amendment.”
“As Sheriff, I see the results in the ability for you, the citizens, to protect yourselves and make a force multiplier for law enforcement,” Lombardo said. “In that capacity you have the ability to help us because we can’t be everywhere all the time.”
But Lombardo also said that he supports background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. “That is not cumbersome,” he said. “And if you talk to the NRA, they are on the same sheet of music.”
On the subject of immigration, Lombardo touted himself as the “only candidate that supports removal of (immigrant) individuals who have committed crimes in our communities.”
“I have done that to several thousands of individuals since I got on the police department,” he added.
Lombardo said that his campaign was polling at the top of the ticket with a strong financial position. “A vote for anybody but me is a vote for Steve Sisolak,” he concluded.
Candidate Guy Nohra told his experience of growing up in Lebanon. He experienced civil war in his home country in 1975 when he was 15 years old. His family immigrated to the U.S. shortly after that, where he had to assimilate into an unfamiliar culture.
“I did that by asking questions,” he said.
As he learned about people around him, and how their families had all come to America from other cultures, he said that he developed a feeling of belonging.
“When I was 23 years old, I became a citizen of the United States,” Nohra said. “It was one of the proudest days of my life.”
Nohra said that he spent his life following the American Dream. He received an MBA from University of Chicago and went into venture capital investing in biotech and medical technology companies.
“I learned how to solve and work on very complex problems,” Nohra said. “States are very complex. The position of Governor is one where you need somebody who knows business and who understands how to fire, how to hire and how to solve big problems.”
Nohra said that a post-COVID healing was needed for both the state’s economy and its people. He observed that school kids were left behind, there were spikes in domestic abuse and a lot of mental health issues still linger.
“This state is going to need someone who will be competent and compassionate,” he said. “And that is what I’m going to bring to the Governor’s office.”
Kolson introduced Dr. Fred Simon as a “trauma surgeon, businessman and Constitutional conservative.”
During the height of COVID, Simon said that he gave up his clinical practice to help meet the high demand for intensivists across the country treating the disease. He worked for a time in a Denver hospital where he was shocked at the number of people who were suffering and dying each day.
“There were people dying all around with no ability to verbalize before their death and no family allowed,” Simon said. “I got there and said, ‘This is not going to happen!’”
Simon said that he snuck family members of dying patients up to their rooms at night so that they could visit.
“This is a country of personal rights, freedom and liberty,” he said. “Those families were willing to take the risk and at 69 years old, unvaccinated and my own family not real happy about it, I was willing to take the risk, too.”
Simon said that he is an anti-Federalist and almost an “anti-State-ist.”
“I’m all about local government,” he said. “You know your community and you don’t need the federal or state government telling you what to do.”
Simon encouraged the audience to look closely at the candidates and note what special interests fund them. “What does that money do to your vote?” he asked. “It marginalizes it.”
Simon said that his campaign is entirely self funded. “I will not take special interest money,” he said.
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