Democratic leaders on Saturday warned Clark County party members that Republicans backed by “dark money” will likely out-spend them in the 2014 election, but said Democrats’ “people power” will win in the end.
“It’s going to be a low turnout primary so we’ve got to get our Democrats out there,” Nevada U.S. Rep. Dina Titus said, addressing the county Democratic convention at the Tropicana.
Titus said campaigns will heat up after the June 10 primary just like the Las Vegas summer, and during the final stretch before the Nov. 4 general election “the lies come out ... and we’ve got to be ready.”
“We know we can never match their dark money,” Titus said, referring to GOP campaigns. “But we can match them with our people power. That’s what we have that they don’t have.”
Dark money is a reference to political action committees and other nonprofit entities that don’t have to report the identities of their contributors. Such groups have become a political fixture these days.
Titus, who is running for re-election to the 1st Congressional District, was among dozens of Democratic incumbents and candidates who addressed the convention, which was attended by about 200 delegates.
HORSFORD: OBAMA NEEDS SUPPORT
U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., said Democrats need to win elections so they can back President Barack Obama’s effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. He said the fate of comprehensive immigration reform also is at stake.
He, too, warned that big-money donors such as Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers will spend money to help Republicans win.
“We must fight to keep the money of special interests from corrupting” what he called a “fragile” political system, Horsford said. “Elect people who represent our interests, not the special interests.”
State Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, and Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick D-North Las Vegas, said Republicans can’t be allowed to gain ground in the Nevada Legislature. Both houses are controlled by Democrats, but Republicans are hoping to retake control of the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 11-10 seat advantage. The GOP, however, would have to win all three of the most competitive races to win the majority.
“We had a very progressive session last time, but there’s more work to be done,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s important that the Legislature stay majority Democratic. We need to fight. ... We need good Democrats there.”
Erin Bilbray, a Democrat trying to defeat U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., went on the attack, saying her Republican foe doesn’t represent the values of Southern Nevada, including equal rights and opportunity. Bilbray, appearing on stage with her husband and two young daughters, said she believes her girls “should dream big.”
“And that means choice over their health care ... and decisions in their lives,” Bilbray said, noting Heck voted to defund Planned Parenthood.
Heck also voted against a measure to ensure equal pay for equal work among men and women, she said, and he opposes gay marriage.
“Joe Heck does not believe in marriage equality and I do,” she said.
Bilbray faces an uphill battle, however, as Heck seeks a third term in a district that’s about equally divided among Republicans and Democrats in a mid-term election in which the GOP expects a higher turnout.
In Nevada’s congressional races, the coming Bilbray-Heck matchup is the most competitive contest and voter turnout could decide the race.
Bilbray faces weak Democratic opposition and Heck is unopposed in the primary.
NO STANCE ON MARGINS TAX
In the afternoon, the convention with little debate approved a party platform that didn’t specifically support the Education Initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot. The measure would create a 2 percent margins tax on businesses to raise about $700 million for education.
The proposed tax, which will be Question 3, is strongly opposed by Republicans because it would apply to all businesses with $1 million or more in annual revenues — whether or not a company is profitable.
Democrats have been divided, saying there are flaws in the design of the margins tax, while others argue education needs the money and the Legislature and GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval have failed to provide funds.
As adopted, the Clark County platform doesn’t mention the Education Initiative, but instead generally calls for supporting “the collection of revenue for the full funding of fundamental public services, including but not limited to education, environmental protection, law enforcement, public housing, social services, and public transportation.”
Steve Horner, co-chairman of the platform committee, said the panel decided not to specifically propose backing the Education Initiative in order to better reflect the overall Democratic support for new revenue for education instead of for any specific proposal.
“We wanted to make it more general,” Horner said.
Horner noted, however, that the central committees of both the Clark County and Nevada Democratic parties have endorsed the margins tax.
The only debate came when the platform was amended to reject so-called Common Core standards in Nevada schools. The standards would “punish teachers and their students,” according to the amendment adopted. The amendment passed 65 to 29.
Republicans have recently come out against Common Core standards, too. The Nevada Republican Party convention recently approved a platform that also rejects Common Core, which Sandoval backs.
TAX OPPOSITION MOUNTS
It’s unclear what, if any, effect the Clark County’s platform will have on the Education Initiative since the party did not reject or embrace it.
The initiative, however, has not seen much growing support. On Friday, it was dealt a severe blow when the Nevada State AFL-CIO voted to oppose the margins tax, which was put on the ballot by the Nevada State Education Association.
In a statement after a vote of delegates at a convention for the Committee on Political Action, Danny Thompson, executive secretary treasurer, said the union supports education but can’t back a “flawed initiative.”
“The Nevada State AFL-CIO has always supported funding education to the National Average,” Thompson said. “There is no equivocation on our support for funding our schools so that our children receive a great education. We are a strong voice and advocate at every level of government for more funding for classrooms, teachers, and school buildings.”
“The vote today in opposition to the margins tax initiative is not a vote against education,” Thompson added. “It is a vote against a flawed initiative that will cost many of our members their jobs and raise the cost of living on Nevadans on a fixed income and on citizens that are still struggling to make ends meet after years of a terrible recession.”
Sandoval has said the tax would be “the fatal blow” to many businesses and halt Nevada’s economic recovery. Proponents, however, argue that 87 percent of Nevada businesses wouldn’t be subject to the margins tax.
Thompson and the AFL-CIO, the most powerful union in Nevada, originally backed the measure.
Some prominent Democrats also have recently come out against the proposed margins tax, including Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, who is running for lieutenant governor.
“Unfortunately, that plan fails in many places and that is not a plan I can support,” Flores said in late April during a Spanish-language interview with Noticias Mundo Fox.
Flores said she sees a need to boost education spending, but the proposed margins tax is not the way to do it.
Flores faces only token Democratic opposition in the primary. On Nov. 4, she’ll face the winner of the GOP primary, a heated contest between state Sen. Mark Hutchison of Las Vegas and Sue Lowden. Both Republicans oppose the margins tax.
Early voting in the primary begins on May 24 and continues through June 6.
Both Titus and U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., face little primary opposition, but the GOP primaries for their seats are highly competitive.
Two Hispanic Republicans, Dr. Annette Teijeiro and attorney Jose Padilla, are competing for the right to take on Titus in her heavily Democratic district, which includes 43 percent Latinos by population.
Horsford’s GOP opponent will likely be Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite, or Niger Innis, a civil rights advocate and member of the Tea Party. Horsford’s district leans Democratic but includes urban North Las Vegas in Clark County and all or part of six GOP-heavy rural counties.
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.