Nevada GOP gubernatorial hopefuls debate gun violence, southern border

From left, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, Joey Gilbert, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, former U.S. senator Dean Heller and Guy Nohra stand before a Republican primary debate for Nevada governor Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, Pool)

Five of Nevada’s Republican gubernatorial candidates came face-to-face on the debate stage in Las Vegas on Wednesday touching on issues ranging from this week’s school shooting in Texas to migrants crossing the southern border.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, former Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada), North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee (R), former professional boxer Joey Gilbert, and venture capitalist Guy Norah addressed a number of issues including border security, inflation, population growth, water conservation, and crime.

The candidates were asked to react to the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 children and two adults dead.

All five of the candidates pointed to mental health as a common denominator in recent mass shootings and cited school safety as a priority in the effort to combat school safety.

“This is the 27th school shooting this year,” Heller said, pointing to rising violence in Clark County schools. 

“We are fortunate we haven’t had this kind of tragedy occur at our school district here in Las Vegas,” Heller said.

Lombardo differentiated himself from the other candidates, saying he did not support constitutional carry without mandatory training. 

“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,” Lombardo said.

The flow of migrants over the southern border was also a top issue for the candidates, who were asked whether they would send Nevada National Guards members to the border.

Lombardo, whose campaign is zeroing in on a law and order message, said he would not send troops to the border, arguing it was the federal government’s responsibility.

“What we need to do is force the hand of the federal government,” he said.

However, other candidates said they would make sending troops to the border a priority.

“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.”

The candidates were also questioned about their views on abortion ahead of the impending Supreme Court decision surrounding Roe v. Wade.  All five candidates called themselves “pro-life.”

“I am proud of the fact that we have two Supreme Court justices back in Washington, DC who are going to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade–Kavanaugh and Gorsuch,” Heller said, noting that he voted for them to be confirmed when he was in the Senate.

Heller’s position on the procedure has changed over the years, but the former senator has recently voiced a conservative, anti-abortion view. While abortion is written into Nevada law, Heller said he would work to make it a pro-life state.

Gilbert said he would like to see abortion laws pushed back to 20 weeks in the state, while Lee said there is not a system in place in Nevada to give expectant mothers another option besides the procedure.

The debate was hosted by Nextsar affiliate 8 News Now in Las Vegas.

A total of 15 Republican candidates have filed to run against incumbent Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) in November. Nevada’s gubernatorial election will be one of the more closely watched in the country. The non-partisan Cook Political Report rates the race as a “toss-up.”

Lombardo is seen as the frontrunner in the race, based on fundraising and polling. An 8 News Now/The Hill/Emerson College poll released earlier this month showed Lombardo with 32.5 percent support of likely GOP voters, while Gilbert received 14.2 percent of the vote. Heller came in third with 11 percent support, while Lee received 9.5 percent support.

The Clark County Sheriff has also received former President Trump’s endorsement in the race, which Lombardo touted on Wednesday.

“For all practical purposes this primary is over,” Lombardo said. “I’m leading in all the polls. I have the endorsement of President Donald Trump.”

Tags abortion rights Dean Heller Dean Heller gun violence Joe Lombardo Joey Gilbert jOhn Lee John Lee nevada gubernatorial race southern border
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