One hot topic precedes any others in the race for Assembly District 5: reforming Nevada’s education system. All five first-time candidates said they want to see more accountability and transparency in the funding of education.
Three Democrats and two Republicans are battling for the seat of Republican Erv Nelson, who is running for the state Senate.
In the race to take back the Assembly from the GOP, Democrats have an advantage. The district has a nearly 1,600-Democratic registered voter advantage.
Democratic candidate Brittney Miller takes pride in her 20 years as a public servant. Her top issues focus on bettering education, the economy, veteran services, public safety and criminal justice reform.
Miller, who teaches in the Clark County School District, said she opposes school vouchers because they could take away from public school funding and could hurt children.
She is undecided about her stance on the legalization of recreational marijuana, which is Question 2 on the November ballot, but said, “I don’t understand how this is an argument as long as alcohol is legal and available.”
She agrees that the state should expand background checks for gun purchases to most private sales and gun shows “to avoid potential harm,” referring to Question 1 on the November ballot.
In contrast, candidate Shannon Churchwell says school vouchers are the key to amending the state’s education system.
“We need accountability for those who are failing at their jobs, we need yearly vigorous fiscal auditing and transparency,” Churchwell said. “It’s not fair to hold poor and middle-class children hostage in a dysfunctional school system.”
Other issues she cares about include public safety and water conservation.
Churchwell is for the legalization of recreational marijuana and believes that, like Colorado, the state can use the extra marijuana revenue to fund schools.
The other Democratic candidate, Rory B. Martinez, is running on the platform of fighting for working-class families by focusing on education, economic security, equal pay and raising Nevada’s minimum wage.
Martinez, the political director for the Bartenders Union Local 165, said the key to changing the education system is to watch where the money is going.
He favors legalizing recreational marijuana as long as it’s regulated.
On the Republican side, Artemus “Art” Ham IV has put his name in the ring. The fourth-generation Nevadan hails from one of the pioneer families of the Las Vegas Valley, who helped Las Vegas develop through philanthropic efforts. UNLV’s concert hall was named after his great-grandfather.
While he said he’s not an ally or opponent of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s record $1.5 billion tax increase that was passed in 2015 to initiate reforms in Nevada’s K-12 education system, he said his priority is to see if it’s making a difference in schools.
“I don’t like tax increases, I’m not a fan of them, but sometimes they’re necessary though it has to be easy to see they’re necessary,” Ham said. “I want to go in and see if the tax increase makes sense.”
When asked whether the state should expand background checks for gun purchases to most private sales and gun shows, Ham said he’s a fundamental believer in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and that background checks should only be done if an identifiable benefit could be produced.
GOP candidate Tony Baca said he is running based on “pure intention to serve the public.”
Baca’s top issues are helping veterans and overturning the state’s commerce tax, which he believes adds overwhelming financial burden on businesses, particularly small businesses.
He opposes the state expanding background checks for gun purchases to most private sales and gun shows. He said he doesn’t think it will deter crime and will cause more problems for people who want to purchase guns.
In terms of education, Baca favors school vouchers, but does not believe in raising taxes. He would rather figure out where the money is going first and focus on creating smaller class sizes with highly trained teachers.
Documents purchased from the Clark County recorder’s office show Baca owes $437,234.48 in federal tax liens. He said he paid some of them off, but provided no proof.
The winners of the two June 14 primary votes will meet in the Nov. 8 general election.
Contact North View writer Sandy Lopez at 702-383-4686 or email@example.com. Find @JournalismSandy on Twitter.
Occupation: Elementary school teacher
Occupation: Notary public, real estate transaction coordinator
Rory B. Martinez
Occupation: Bartender, shop steward
Artemus “Art” Ham IV
Anthony “Tony” Baca
Occupation: Insurance agent, mortgage license specialist