CARSON CITY — Sue Lowden needs to explain why she has advanced her campaign for lieutenant governor $100,000 of her own money when she wants to repay debts from her 2010 U.S. Senate campaign at 45 cents on the dollar, her primary opponent said Tuesday.
State Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, said that in his campaign travels around the state he regularly is asked by Republicans how Lowden, a former state senator, can justify spending that money on her new campaign when the people who helped her campaign three years ago are still waiting to be paid a fraction of what she owes them.
“I get questions about her debt all the time,” said Hutchison during a stop in Carson City. “People ask how does she justify $100,000 for new campaign when small businesses wait three years to be paid 45 cent on the dollar. This is between her and the Republican primary voters. They wonder if she weren’t running for lieutenant governor if she would have paid the debt off at all.”
Until Lowden answers the “nagging questions” from voters, Hutchison said they really cannot get on to the issues of their campaign. The primary election is June 10.
Lowden was not immediately available to respond to his comments.
Hutchison was endorsed by Gov. Brian Sandoval immediately after he announced his candidacy last July. That quickly lead to speculation by multiple political commentators that Sandoval would not run for the U.S. Senate in 2016 unless a Republican, specifically Hutchison, was elected lieutenant governor and could replace him. If a Democrat is elected lieutenant governor, that person would replace Sandoval if he left office early.
But Hutchison said Tuesday he and Sandoval never have talked about what will happen in 2016, or if Sandoval will run for the Senate.
“All he ever has talked about is 2014,” Hutchison said.
Sandoval’s own wife, Kathleen, said in an interview that her husband plans to serve two full terms as governor. His second term would not end before January 2019. But Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, himself speculated last February that Sandoval could be his opponent in 2016.
Hutchison also criticizes Lowden for statements that she chaired the “No Tax” Senate Taxation Committee in the 1990s and never voted for taxes in her four years in the Legislature.
“That’s just not accurate,” he said.
He said his research shows Lowden voted for higher water distribution, slot machine and real estate license taxes. He also said she proposed a $100 fee on non-combat veterans who wanted to be buried in state veterans cemeteries.
Lowden and he have planned a Feb. 7 debate in Elko. He said he would welcome debates in Las Vegas and Reno.
No Democratic candidates have yet declared for the race, although state Sen. Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins have both expressed an interest in running. Actual filing is March 3 to 14.
Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley contributed to this report. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901. Follow him on Twitter @edisonvogel.