Nevada’s top five Republican candidates for governor on Wednesday debated on a number of issues impacting Americans, including inflation, abortion rights, illegal immigration, and this week’s school shooting in Texas.
Candidates attending the Las Vegas debate were former Senator Dean Heller, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, venture capitalist Guy Nohra, and businessman, ex-boxer, and attorney Joey Gilbert.
The five candidates are running in what is widely anticipated to be one of the most tightly-contested state elections in the United States. In total, 15 Republican candidates have filed to run against Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak, who has been governor of Nevada since 2019.
During the hour-long televised debate, the candidates were asked to share their thoughts on the recent shooting at a Texas elementary school in which 19 students and two adults were killed by shooter Salvador Ramos, 18. The attacker shot his grandmother on May 24 before driving toward Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and opening fire on the students.
Each candidate cited mental health as a common denominator in recent mass shootings across the United States while noting that more needs to be done to ramp up safety efforts at schools across the nation.
Heller pointed out that the latest Texas elementary school incident marks the 27th school shooting in the country this year alone while pointing to rising violence in Clark County schools. He suggested breaking up the nation’s fifth-largest school district could help address the problem,
“We are fortunate we haven’t had this kind of tragedy occur at our school district here in Las Vegas, said Heller, who is against any restrictions on firearm access.
“I don’t want to stand here in front of this studio and negotiate away our Second Amendment rights,” he said.
Lombardo, who is widely seen as the frontrunner in the race based on polling, said he does not support constitutional carry without mandatory training.
The former police officer, who has built much of his campaign around restoring law and order, said: “I also support background checks, not universal, but regular background checks, associated with removing an individual who is prohibited and may or not possess a gun.”
Immigration at the southern border was another key issue discussed by the candidates, and the five were asked whether they would send Nevada National Guards members to the border.
Lombardo, who also previously served in the Nevada National Guard, said he would not send troops to the border, adding that this is the responsibility of the federal government.
“What we need to do is force the hand of the federal government,” he said.
The other candidates, in contrast, said they would make sending troops to the border a priority amid an influx of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the country; a situation that border patrol agents had expected to worsen with the lifting of Title 42 restrictions. But a federal judge last week blocked the Biden administration from removing the border policy, which allowed Border Patrol agents to turn illegal immigrants back to Mexico immediately on public health grounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Migrants are going to overwhelm us,” Lee said. “I would put my National Guardsmen at the border to slow down the surge of immigration. We need to make sure they are coming here legally.”
Elsewhere, the candidates also expressed their thoughts on abortion rights in the United States, in the wake of the leaked majority draft opinion suggesting that the Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed the right to abortion across the entire United States would be struck down.
All five candidates described themselves as “pro-life,” while Heller said he was “proud of the fact that we have two Supreme Court justices back in Washington, D.C. who are going to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade–Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.”
North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee argued in favor of a “heartbeat bill,” saying that “at the moment there’s a heartbeat, that’s a baby and I would fight to get us back to that point.”
However, he noted that “if it’s rape, the life of the mother or incest, that is a family issue.”
Lombardo, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, maintains a significant lead over his fellow GOP candidates, according to a recent Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights poll released earlier this month.
Nevada’s primary election will take place on June 14, and early voting begins on May 28. The midterm election will take place on Nov. 8.