Sisolak, Giunchigliani spar over campaign funds, shooting
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani lobbed criticisms at each other Thursday night over campaign payments and donations, the Las Vegas Strip mass shooting and which of the two Democrats is more qualified to be Nevada’s next governor.
The debate, hosted by The Nevada Independent and KTNV-TV, was Giunchigliani and Sisolak’s second this week and came two days before early voting starts in their race.
The two have been colleagues for nearly a decade on the governing body for Clark County, which encompasses the Las Vegas Strip and an area where about 2 million of the state’s almost 3 million residents live.
The winner of their June 12 primary election will face in November the winner of a Republican contest between State Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Treasurer Dan Schwartz.
A look at how they debated the issues Thursday:
Giunchigliani said her experience as a vice chair of the Clark County Commission, former legislator and former middle school special education teacher makes her the most qualified for the job. Giunchigliani said during her time in state government, she became deeply familiar with the state budget and worked across the aisle to get legislation passed making kindergarten mandatory and requiring insurance plans to cover birth control.
“I was progressive before it was really a word,” she said.
Sisolak is a businessman who spent a decade on the Nevada Board of Regents before spending a decade on the Clark County Commission, where he’s now the chairman. Sisolak said it’s time for new people and new ideas in Carson City and his roles have taught him he needed to work across the aisle to get things done. “Just having a protest vote doesn’t accomplish anything,” he said.
Sisolak said he wants to ban assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines and enforce a background check law passed by voters in 2016. He pushed back against Giunchigliani painting him as a friend of the National Rifle Association, which gave him an “A-minus” rating in 2012.
“I’m an adult my opinions have changed as things have happened,” he said.
Sisolak, who became highly visible in wake of the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip last year that left 58 dead, spoke of how his visit to the site hours after the shooting disturbed him.
“I’ve visited a war zone and it’s changed things,” he said.
Giunchigliani said she has long stood up to the NRA, saying “I don’t need to evolve on this.”
When it comes to school violence, she said the state needs to look at security, lighting, entry ways and fencing at schools but shouldn’t allow the buildings to become prisons. She too said the state needs to enforce the background check law.
CAMPAIGN DONATIONS AND PAYMENTS
Giunchigliani was asked about a March report from the Reno Gazette Journal that found she paid her late husband’s political consulting firm more than $1 million between 1996 and 2014, including $472,661 in 2016 — more than the firm was paid by other candidates over the next seven years combined.
Giunchigliani said, “I understand how it looks,” but said her husband Gary Gray “was one of the best political minds in the state of Nevada” and she paid the same rate as his other clients — including Sisolak.
She’s criticized Sisolak for taking money from the developer behind a plan to build homes near scenic Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas. Giunchigliani said in the past that she didn’t think the money influenced Sisolak’s vote but when Thursday asked why she keeps raising it in the campaign, she said, “it’s more about disclosure.”
Sisolak said the homes would be in an area with an old gypsum mine and his work on the commission prevented the development from ballooning.
The October mass shooting at a country music festival, the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s modern history, came up several times during the debate. Sisolak at one point mentioned the fundraising effort effort he started hours after the attack that went on to raise about $32 million for the victims.
Giunchigliani said she wasn’t called by the sheriff that night and did not find out until the morning after what had happened because she got a voicemail from a staff member.
“Everybody was called. I answered the phone,” Sisolak said.
She also accused Sisolak of having temporarily used his campaign logo on the fundraising page.
Sisolak said he didn’t know about whether the logo was used but said he set the effort up at 2 a.m. and called the criticism “ticky-tack, picky stuff”
Her campaign later sent The Associated Press a screenshot of the webpage appearing to show a small logo for Sisolak’s gubernatorial campaign on the fundraising page.
Sisolak’s campaign said in a statement that the fundraising website GoFundMe automatically pulled the image from a Sisolak Facebook account that had to be used to set up the fundraising page but the image was quickly removed when it was discovered.
Sisolak spokeswoman Christina Amestoy said in an email that hours after the shooting, “the last thing Steve Sisolak was thinking about was the profile picture on the GoFundMe page. It’s the worst kind of petty politics for Giunchigliani to dig up in a desperate attempt to win a political debate.”