Incumbent U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford tried to mark his Republican challenger as an extremist while businessman Sam Peters tagged the congressman as an out-of-touch “professional politician” with a penchant for government overspending in a debate on KLAS-TV Channel 8.
Among the issues discussed during the one-hour event: inflation, pandemic recovery, immigration, abortion and legal marijuana.
The candidates are tied up in a tight, contentious race that can very well determine party control after polls close Nov. 8. The district encompasses North Las Vegas, Mesquite, Pahrump and rural central Nevada.
While there was consensus on marijuana laws and somewhat on abortion, both candidates agreed on one thing for sure: their differences are blunt.
“The choice could not be more clear in the decision on who the voters will decide to elect to represent you in Nevada’s Fourth (District),” Horsford said in his closing remarks. “I’m asking for your support so that I can continue to lower costs, make sure that our communities are safer and create better paying jobs.”
“The differences could not be more stark,” Peters responded. “If you want inflation to come down, if you need somebody with finance experience, if you want the gas prices to come down, you need somebody who’s not going to spend all of your tax dollars.”
Peters decried President Joe Biden’s COVID response and recovery policies, saying that they have contributed to current inflation, which he said was “100 percent driven by government spending.”
He said that pandemic-related closures should’ve been up to business owners. “He (Horsford) did nothing to keep businesses open,” Peters said.
Horsford said that he helped bring billions of federal dollars to Nevada. He blamed the economic downturn on the pandemic, price gauging, overseas war and supply-chain issues.
Horsford said Peters’ business benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program. “He’s willing to take the money for his small business but then call it socialist,” Horsford said. (Peters acknowledged receiving the money but said it all went to pay his employees.)
Horsford declared that oil and gasoline industries are contributing to “greedflation,” and he said he urged the Biden administration to release oil from the United States’ reserve.
Peters disputed the assertion, explaining that gas prices can’t be blamed on oil and gasoline companies, but on spending-causing inflation, sanctions and uncertainty about the government’s approach to regulating fossil fuels.
He called it “too much government, too much government overreach.”
Horsford claimed Peters, a business owner with a degree in finance, wanted to take away women’s abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s overruling Roe v. Wade earlier this year.
Abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks under a voter-ratified section of Nevada law and thereafter if a mother’s health is threatened, although U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has suggested a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks, a ban that could supersede state law.
“What’s disgusting is extreme ideologues who want to take away women’s freedom to make their own health care decisions,” Horsford said, adding he would codify legal abortion and arguing that Peters had called those who’ve terminated pregnancy “killers.”
But Peters, who is anti-abortion, said he would respect the will of the voters in Nevada and believes the issue should be decided at the state level.
Biden announced this week that he would seek a pardon for non-violent, low-level marijuana offenders with federal records and called for a review of how the drug is classified in federal law.
Recreational pot is legal in Nevada, and consumption lounges are expected to begin operating in the states in 2023.
The Schedule 1 federal classification hampers Nevada dispensary owners’ ability to use federally chartered banks because the drug remains illegal under federal law.
Peters said he would “absolutely remove it” from the list and “move it down to a more appropriate” classification.
Horsford noted he is a primary sponsor of the Safe Act, a banking provision to allow the marijuana industry to use banks.
“This is a big part of our new industry: they are paying into our education fund here in Nevada, and we need to make sure that they have the same support on the federal level as they need here on the local level,” Horsford said. “And I’m working and will continue to work to accomplish those measures.”
Both candidates said they would support the pardons Biden announced.
The candidates didn’t directly answer a question about how many legal immigrants the federal government should allow into the country every year.
Peters said it was a “moving number” he couldn’t define “right now,” when millions of undocumented migrants were “pouring across the border” and that Border Patrol, which has staff shortages, couldn’t keep up.
The entire system needs to be overhauled, Peters said.
Horsford noted that he’s been involved in proposed immigration-reform legislation.
“Both parties need to stop playing political games with lives that are being affected because of a broken immigration system,” he said. “My opponent spent more time talking about Democrats than he did talking about solutions on how to address immigration policy.”
Horsford supports providing a legal pathway for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status for those who’ve fled their countries due to dangerous turmoil, while also securing the border.
Peters said “we do need to fix this humanitarian crisis, and I’m willing to work with anybody that is willing to do it from a standpoint that’s best for the United States.”
“Mr. Horsford has done nothing in that regard,” he added.
When the congressman said Peters wanted to deport every undocumented immigrant, the Republican shot back: “Lies, absolute falsehoods; that’s not true.”
“We have to fix what’s going on for the children of this program,” he said about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, noting that a federal appeals court recently upheld a lower court ruling that found former President Barack Obama’s executive order that created it was unlawful.
“I’m not looking to deport them,” Peters said. “But we need to find a solution.”