The jury is out on which presidential candidates will earn the support of the Las Vegas business community.
In the days before today’s caucus, opinions varied wildly on which presidential hopefuls would best address the concerns of company executives. Some professionals have yet to find any of the candidates inspiring, while others are fired up over specific prospects.
Robert Gomez, general manager of Magic Brite Janitorial, knows what he wants in a president. He’s looking for someone who can "repair" the United States’ international image, make sure all Americans have health insurance and craft an immigration system that would address border security and provide a path to citizenship for immigrants.
And though he called the entire Democratic field strong, Gomez said he especially favors Hillary Clinton.
That’s because Clinton’s campaign advisers are experienced political hands, Gomez said, and those counselors would help her hit the ground running as president.
"Hillary stands above the rest in regard to the fact that she’s been in the trenches," Gomez said. "When she first suggested a comprehensive health care plan for everyone 15 years ago, people laughed at her. They threw her to the wolves. Fifteen years later, she’s still fighting for the same plan."
And though all the Democratic candidates have immigration proposals, Gomez said Clinton’s plan "is a little bit better" than the ideas of her competitors.
Clinton has another advocate in Stephanie Shirit, president of staffing agency Resource Associates.
Shirit said she’ll be voting on health care, education and immigration. She wants improved quality of medical care and more federal attention for Nevada’s schools. She also wants a system that will offer citizenship to immigrants who are "working and paying taxes," while closing citizenship to immigrants who are criminals or who don’t "contribute to the system in any way."
How a candidate thinks and solves problems is more important to Shirit than a prospect’s issue stances. She hopes for a president who will skip talking about a problem and instead focus on pinpointing its origins. And Clinton will do just that, Shirit said.
"I feel strongly about Hillary’s way of thinking, her processes and her familiarity with the system," Shirit said. "She’s a listener and a great multitasker. I think she looks into things and tries to find the root of an issue. She’s bright."
Like Gomez and Shirit, home builder Tom McCormick places immigration near the top of his issues list. And like Gomez, McCormick would like to see a track to citizenship for immigrant workers, who make up a sizable share of construction laborers in Southern Nevada.
McCormick, who is president of Astoria Homes, is watching talks between the White House and Congress on a potential economic-stimulus package. He said he hopes any relief plan might include the business owners who create jobs.
On the topics he cares about, no presidential choice has stood out to McCormick. He said many of the candidates seem tentative about committing to strong positions on important topics.
"I’m having a hard time getting a feel for anyone who stands for anything," he said. "I’m ready to make a decision as soon as someone gives me a reason to make it. I’m not holding back."
Put attorney Al Marquis in the undecided camp as well.
Marquis said the nation’s $9 trillion national debt is the concern capturing the bulk of his attention these days. Unfortunately, he said, he doesn’t hear many candidates discuss what the government owes. Rather, he said, they seem locked in a battle to see who can promise the biggest and best federal programs.
"We’re going to have universal health insurance, education for pre-kindergarten and all these other things, yet no one is talking about where the money for those programs is coming from," Marquis said.
"It would be like running for head of a household with various credit cards, with everyone promising to spend more on each credit card," he added. "It’s scary."
Marquis gave Republican Ron Paul plaudits for at least discussing federal spending. But Paul is too "radical" in other areas, with proposals to dismantle the Internal Revenue Service, close the U.S. Department of Education and retrench sharply from troop placements overseas. So much change so quickly could cause unintended consequences, Marquis said: "Some steps in those directions may be appropriate, but (Paul’s ideas) are really drastic measures."
Like many of his cohorts, Edward Wiseman listed immigration as a subject he’s monitoring.
Wiseman, president of Spacecraft Components Corp., said his business has followed the law on confirming workers’ residency, but he’d like to see the expansion of an electronic-verification system that would provide greater assurances of a job candidate’s immigration status.
Taxes also concern Wiseman. His business makes electrical connectors for the transportation sector, and he competes with overseas manufacturers who enjoy cheaper labor rates. Passing along higher levies isn’t always an option when so many of his rivals can undercut his payroll costs, he said.
But ask Wiseman, a self-described "lukewarm" Republican, who he’s supporting in the presidential race thus far, and it’s easier for him to reel off a list of the GOP candidates he doesn’t like. Mike Huckabee is out of the running because he raised taxes as Arkansas governor, Wiseman said. John McCain made some decidedly unconservative statements during his first attempt at the White House, in 2000. Mitt Romney gets a "maybe." And while Fred Thompson seems conservative, he’s really an "unknown," Wiseman said.
This much, at least, Wiseman knows: The candidate he ends up supporting will need some "zing."
"The candidate I would vote for has to have some personality."
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 380-4512.