By KEN RITTER, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The consensus Republican front-runner for Nevada governor drew the attention and applause of a GOP lunchtime audience on Tuesday when he used an expletive to mock Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s decision. to enact a state-run public health insurance option.
Responding to a question about homelessness, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo expressed frustration with people who don’t or won’t accept help from public services. He said he wanted to keep Clark County Jail from being the “No. 1 facility” for mental health services in Nevada.
“A very small percentage are homeless due to circumstances beyond their control,” said Lombardo, who served two terms as the nonpartisan elected chief of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. “You have to hold them accountable and unfortunately society is turning a blind eye to this issue.”
“The governor can make it a priority,” Lombardo continued, referring to Sisolak. “He said his priority was health. And he talks about (bull –—) things like the public option.
Sisolak signed Nevada’s public health care option last year, with the prospect of a 15% reduction in insurance premiums for participants by 2026.
Sisolak’s campaign aide Reeves Oyster responded to Lombardo’s comment with a statement saying 350,000 Nevada residents will benefit from the law; pointing to the coronavirus pandemic; and accusing Lombardo of siding with “the big insurance against Nevada families in need of health care.”
The response concluded Lombardo’s time at a forum that drew more than 200 guests to lunch at the Dragon Ridge Country Club in Henderson. It was hosted by Nickie Diersen of the Southern Hills Republican Women’s Club and conservative KNXT-AM radio morning show host Alan Stock.
In a statement late Tuesday, Lombardo’s campaign aide Elizabeth Ray said, “The real benefit of this public option bill has not been demonstrated, and the people of Nevada don’t deserve to beta test this bad public policy, which was rushed through the legislature.”
Nine Republican gubernatorial candidates were asked about the economy, crime, schools, homelessness and development amid a dwindling Colorado River water supply during the questions-style forum answers.
In attendance were perennial political hopeful Eddie Hamilton, logistics executive Tom Heck and real estate investor Barak Zilberberg, along with five others who took part in a campaign forum last week in Las Vegas: the mayor of North Las Vegas John Lee, Gardnerville surgeon Fred Simon, Reno venture capitalist Guy Nohra, former U.S. Senator Dean Heller and incendiary northern Nevada lawyer Joey Gilbert.
Stock said the station plans to air the two-hour event twice — at 2 p.m. on Saturday and noon on May 8.
The campaign for the June 14 GOP primary has 20 announced candidates.
Sisolak has a huge campaign finance advantage over all Republicans, and he faces only one underfunded Democratic primary challenger, former North Las Vegas City Councilman and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins. .
Most Republican candidates have offered dire assessments of the state’s economy, rising crime and struggling schools. Many blamed Lombardo for not attending the events of the previous campaign.
Lombardo fired back Tuesday at Heller, who served one term in the Senate after serving in the state Assembly and Congress, for Heller’s speech comments on “sanctuary cities,” “catch and liberate” and funding the police.
“Do you want to live in a dangerous neighborhood? Live in a sanctuary city,” Heller said Tuesday. “Practicing catch-and-release? You have a dangerous community. Are you talking about defunding the police? Guess what, you have a dangerous town.
Lombardo pulled Las Vegas police in 2019 from participating in a federal prison immigration enforcement program known as 287(g) which critics including the American Civil Liberties say Union, led to unconstitutional arrests without warrants. Others said the program’s withdrawal made Las Vegas a safe haven for people living in the United States without legal permission.
Lombardo this week began running a campaign ad that took credit for deporting 10,000 people.
“I’m sick of hearing it,” the sheriff said Tuesday. “There is no sanctuary jurisdiction in Clark County or the State of Nevada. There is no catch and release program in the state of Nevada.
This story has been updated to correct for the year the Nevada public health care option is expected to reduce insurance premiums by 15% for participants. It will be in 2026, not in 2025.
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