By SAM METZ, AP / Report for America
RENO, Nevada (AP) – Hundreds of exuberant Republicans booed and taunted former US Senator Dean Heller on Thursday night as he tried to brandish his conservative credentials and position himself as close as possible to former President Donald Trump during from the first debate leading to Republican Primary for governor of Nevada in June.
Unlike the other seven Republican primary hopefuls who took the stage on Tuesday night in Reno, Heller’s remarks about crime, schools and virus warrants did little to appease the maskless public, who have laughed when the veteran politician claimed he was “the only proven Tory” in the race to face Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak in November.
Like many Republicans who ran across the country in the 2022 midterm election, Heller has swung right on issues such as electoral politics and immigration. He opened the debate by attributing what he called unprecedented voter enthusiasm to the “Trump effect.” And amid the boos, he repeatedly told the audience that he had only spoken to the former president a few hours before.
Heller ignored the heckling and said after the debate that it was likely from supporters of Joey Gilbert, a Reno lawyer who opposes vaccines and was outside the United States Capitol when it was under siege one year ago.
âThey know who is leading in this race and they will boo the leader whenever they get the chance,â he said.
Four years after losing the 2018 Nevada Senate race to Democrat Jacky Rosen by five percentage points, Heller has come closer to Trump and highlighted their work on the 2017 Tax Cuts Act. and employment. But Republican activists continue to remember his opposition to Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the resulting enmity between the two men.
Conservative brands like Gilbert and Las Vegas City Councilor Michele Fiore received warmer receptions from worshipers on Thursday night at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno.
Their claims about “critical race theory” taught in schools, about electoral fraud, and Gilbert’s arguments that politicians should “take the handcuffs off our (police) officers and let them do their jobs” been applauded.
The same goes for their lines and searches in Sisolak and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, the only Republican candidate who did not attend Thursday’s debate.
Critical Race Theory is an academic framework that links the country’s history, including the legacy of slavery, to contemporary laws and racism. Administrators in Nevada have repeatedly denied that this is taught, but it is frequently used as a shorthand by parents opposed to incorporating concepts such as equity and multiculturalism into school curricula.
Fiore, Gilbert, Heller and Lombardo are among a long list of Republicans who hope to topple Sisolak, a first-term Democrat who won 5.1 percentage points in 2018. Republicans hope national discontent with President Joe Biden’s economic and social agenda, coupled with pandemic frustrations, boost voter turnout and bring them back to power in Washington, DC and the Swing States.
“Considering the disaster that the Sisolak administration has experienced in the state, people are paying attention,” said Guy Nohra, another candidate, the venture capitalist. âI know our team is going to be really excited. I could see him tonight. I could feel it tonight.
Nevada’s economy lives and dies depending on industries like tourism and live entertainment that cannot easily transition to working remotely. The state’s 6.8% unemployment rate ranks 50th in the country, and 66,200 fewer workers are employed in casinos and hotels than before the pandemic.
The candidates have tied the mandates in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to the state’s slow recovery. An indoor mask requirement is in effect in 14 of Nevada’s 17 counties. The state is also imposing masks for K-12 schools in the two most populous counties, which are home to Las Vegas and Reno, while letting smaller counties set their own policies.
âWhen I say ban vaccines understand that it comes with economic growth. Because when you ban vaccination warrants, we put our teachers, hospitals and all our staff back to work. We have people who have been forced to quit because they refuse the vaccine, âFiore said.
Republicans also previewed how policing and education will likely be central campaign issues.
Gilbert, Reno’s lawyer, said the next governor should not only ban “critical race theory,” but also consider funneling education dollars into vouchers that parents who wish to enroll their children in. apart from traditional public schools could use.
â’Read before grade 3â, charter schools, school choice – all of that makes no sense. In the end, it’s just another bad option for these kids. I want coupons. Until these public schools are in competition, there is no incentive. Just saying get rid of CRT, âsaid Gilbert, referring to Critical Race Theory,â that doesn’t go far enough. “
Metz is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative body. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.
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