Candidates often get tough questions during debates. But usually they come from the moderator or a member of the audience — who is for the other guy.
Last week, Republican congressional hopeful Niger Innis faced friendly fire from a onetime supporter during a debate with his GOP primary opponent, Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite.
And the questioner, Cathie Lynn Gisi, paid a price. After the debate, she was told she is no longer welcome to teach at the Congress of Racial Equality, a North Las Vegas office of CORE, for which Innis is a national spokesman.
So what did Gisi ask? She wanted to know what Innis was doing to pay back tens of thousands of dollars to the Internal Revenue Service dating to when he lived in New York in the 2000s. She also asked about other unpaid bills.
“What about your student loans?” Gisi asked, referring to nearly $10,000 Innis owed.
Innis said he is paying all his remaining bills from when he was younger and on shakier financial ground.
“I have addressed all my creditors, and I’m in the process of paying it all back,” Innis said.
Then he turned the tables on his opponent, Hardy, noting that the assemblyman filed for a business bankruptcy. Innis said he decided against filing for a personal bankruptcy.
“Cresent could have not declared bankruptcy,” Innis said at the Tuesday debate, held at Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas. “I could have claimed bankruptcy, too, and walked away from my debt.”
He said he knew Democrats would go after him if he ran for public office, but he was shocked by a GOP attack.
“I was a little surprised and disappointed that Republicans would practice (President Barack) Obama’s politics of personal destruction,” Innis said.
Hardy, who was in the construction business, has said he declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows a restructuring of debt to avoid closing down his business or laying off workers. He has said it was the responsible thing to do.
Gisi agreed, saying, “I’m happy with Hardy’s answer to bankruptcy.”
After the debate, Connie Miranda, the director of the CORE school in North Las Vegas, came up to Gisi and said, “You are not welcome at CORE,” according to Gisi and several witnesses.
Before the debate, Gisi said she told Miranda she was ready to return to teaching English in June. Gisi had taken a semester off because of her husband’s health problems, she said.
The CORE school, which opened in 2008 in North Las Vegas, caters to immigrants, teaching English, government and Constitution classes. It’s designed to help newcomers be more successful in America.
Gisi said she used to support Innis and even attended his campaign kickoff. Now, however, she said she backs Hardy for the 4th Congressional District in the June 10 GOP primary. U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., is the incumbent.
“I feel my rights have been violated as a teacher,” Gisi said. “I didn’t support Cresent until” Tuesday night.
Innis’ communications director, Lisa Mayo DeRiso, said she was disappointed Gisi publicly confronted Innis.
“Free speech sometimes has consequences,” Mayo DeRiso said.
— Laura Myers
RORY REID’S FUTURE POINTS TO TV
Rory Reid has discovered television — or perhaps TV has discovered him.
Reid announced Friday that he is leaving Lionel Sawyer & Collins, the law firm where he said he met his mentors and eventually became a partner. He said he is happy in his work but can’t find the time to focus both on the law practice and a daily half-hour political talk show he’s involved in, “What’s Your Point?”
“What’s Your Point?” airs Monday through Friday at 12:30 p.m. on KSNV, Channel 3. Reid, a Democrat, and Amy Tarkanian, a former chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party, co-host the show.
“Quite simply, Channel 3 made me an offer I could not refuse,” Reid said in an email announcing his career change. “I get to go on TV every day and say whatever I want. And, they pay me to do it.”
“I have found it impossible to balance the demands of a daily TV show and a busy law practice,” he added.
Reid said he plans to open up a solo practice to keep his hand in law, not to mention TV shows can be canceled.
In 2010, Reid ran for governor against Republican Brian Sandoval, who won easily. Reid, a former Clark County Commission chairman, is the son of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who also was on the ballot that year.
Asked if Reid plans to return to politics, he gave a firm no.
“I have no interest in running for office,” Reid said in an email. “That door is closed.”
— Laura Myers
TITUS SURVIVES DRIVERLESS CAR
Rep. Dina Titus survived a ride in a driverless car Thursday as Google showed off its latest work to members of Congress. Afterward, Titus said it would be nice for Nevada to grab some of the testing that Google has been doing in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Democrat, who sits on the House Transportation Committee, was given a 15-minute spin through Capitol Hill, on the adjoining stretch of freeway, across the Potomac River into Virginia and back. She sat in the back seat of the white Lexus RX450H hybrid sedan while two Google technicians sat up front and explained its workings as it maneuvered through midday traffic on a sunny day.
Besides the Google logo on the rear door, the car was distinguished by the twirling laser radar attached to the roof.
“It felt just like driving in a normal car; you wouldn’t know it if they didn’t tell you they weren’t driving,” Titus said when the ride ended. “They described it as cruise control on steroids.”
One the freeway, the Lexus slowed automatically when another car cut in front of it. “It senses all the things that are around you,” Titus said, while giving the rider the ability to grab the wheel and take over if desired.
The car changed lanes on the highway and sped up and slowed down as speed limits dictate. Titus said she was told it can sense sudden movement in its path, such as a child running into the street.
After being lobbied by Google, the Nevada Legislature enacted a law in 2011 making it the first state to legalize use of driverless cars.
“We hope we could build on that,” Titus said. “We’d like to see them come do some testing in Nevada.”
With Nevada selected already as a test bed for unmanned aerial vehicles, “some of the technology has got to be similar,” she said.
After the ride was over, Titus was given a souvenir bumper sticker that hinted at Google’s ambitions. It read: “My Other Car Drives Itself.”
— Steve Tetreault
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.