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Annie Black challenges Chris Edwards from the right in AD-19

Republican Chris Edwards, seeking his fourth term representing Nevada’s Assembly District 19 in northeast Clark County, faces a challenge from Mesquite Councilwoman Annie Black in a GOP primary that, with no Democrat in the November race, will determine who takes the seat.

The district is among the most conservative in the state. Black says Edwards isn’t conservative enough, while Edwards points to rankings from the American Conservative Union, among other groups, that say otherwise. (Edwards received an 80-80 percent rating, what the group calls its “Award for Conservative Achievement.”)

Black charges that Edwards has been soft on holding the line on tax and fee increases. Edwards rejects that, adding that he has the legislative experience Black lacks to help the state work through the significant budgetary upheaval caused by the pandemic.

“We need people who understand the process right away,” Edwards said. “It’s much more important now because of what we’re going to be faced with, especially in terms of the budget.”

Black ran for state Assembly in 2010; last year she threw in for state GOP chairman. She was elected to Mesquite City Council in 2018. A realtor since graduating high school, she is also working to launch a surgical supply business, an effort the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted.

“I feel like we deserve to be represented by a true conservative,” she said, listing her desire to cut spending, taxes, fees and regulations. Discussing the Legislature’s 2015 enactment of the commerce tax, Black said Edwards worked to get the bill out of committee although she acknowledged he ultimately didn’t vote for it.

Edwards said he supported an amendment that brought the bill to the floor where he voted against it.

“So she does not understand the difference between amending a bill and approving a bill,” he said.

Democrats currently control both houses of the Legislature; if they hold onto that advantage next term, it’s not likely many Republican-backed budget initiatives would get far. But Black said she would vote to repeal the commerce tax and modified business tax, eliminate business license fees, cut sales tax, reduce vehicle registration fees to a flat $50 per vehicle, and roll back the minimum wage. She says the state Republican Party has “been on a steady nosedive” because it has abandoned fiscally conservative principles.

She wants to streamline education as well.

“We need to shrink our bureaucracy there and put some administrators back in the classroom,” she said. “I think we also really need to be advocating for school choice.”

“If there’s anything that the Coronavirus has taught us, it’s that homeschooling is an interesting prospect,” she adds. And I love that idea. I mean, it’s a hard thing if you’re working to do it. But I think it’s an interesting idea that maybe looking at some unconventional education options that we haven’t looked at.”

Edwards wants to “take a much more aggressive posture” on education “because let’s face it, we have not taken the dramatic actions necessary to get the dramatic improvements we need.” The impact “rolls downhill to businesses that don’t have employees they can actually hire that would be qualified. And businesses don’t want to come to the state if the education system isn’t better.”

Challenging Black again on conservative credentials, he said she was “coming from the angle of being the extreme right wing…. I try to be Reagan conservative, and I think that the people in the district like that.

His biggest concern heading into a possible fourth term is the “economic disaster that we’re faced with” from the ongoing pandemic. Among other impacts, he cites the potential blow to state employees across the board, who never got back everything that lost in budget cuts during the Great Recession.

“We have got to have people focused on salvaging everything we can, doing things as smartly as we can, in order to make sure that the pain is minimized as best we can,” he said, touting his edge over Black in experience. “And that’s going to be important for the people of the district and the people of the state.”

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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