weather icon Clear

Top Democratic candidates for Nevada governor debate in Las Vegas

Updated May 22, 2018 - 10:19 am

Nevada’s two leading Democratic governor candidates turned up the heat during a debate Monday, jabbing each other on campaign finance, gun control and the minimum wage.

The hot topics drove a wedge between the two hopefuls, further aligning the candidates with the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic Party just three weeks before the primary election.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak supports raising the pay floor from the current $8.25 an hour but doesn’t want a large increase right away. Raising the minimum wage to $15 too quickly “will put small businesses out of business,” he said.

“Minimum-wage jobs were never meant to support a family or provide for a person’s well-being,” Sisolak said during an hourlong televised debate hosted by KLAS-TV, Channel 8, in Las Vegas. “If you raise everyone to $15, then people making $15 have to go to $20, and $20 to $25 … It would cripple our economy.”

Sisolak also supports a “carve-out,” a system in which employers can pay less than minimum wage to workers who get tips.

Sisolak’s more liberal opponent and colleague on the commission, Chris Giunchigliani, said she would never support that.

Giunchigliani said she and her mother worked as waitresses for decades, and she wants to see wages raised to $15 soon.

“I do support a $15 wage, and that’s not enough for families,” Giunchigliani said. “They reinvest those dollars back into the system and generate more than what we’re paying them.”

Sisolak and Giunchigliani both said they support measures to ban assault rifles and bump stocks and enforce background checks. Giunchigliani blasted Sisolak for accepting money from a gun company and receiving an “A-minus” grade from the National Rifle Association.

Sisolak said his positions on gun control have evolved over the past 20 years, and he criticized Giunchigliani for taking money from strip clubs and brothels.

When asked to raise their hands if they promised to not raise taxes as governor, neither candidate moved. Giunchigliani said she’s a “budget hawk” and would find ways to prioritize funding for education, mental health and cultural programs. Sisolak said “everything is on the table” and that the state has to increase revenue.

Both candidates fielded uncomfortable, personal questions that made them wince. Sisolak, who voted as a county commissioner to award grants to the nonprofit Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, was asked whether he should have disclosed that he was dating a woman who worked there before voting.

Sisolak said he’s “proud” to support the organization, both personally and through his role as a county commissioner. Disclosure of the personal relationship was not required, he said.

“I was not married to the individual. We were not engaged. There was nothing like that,” he said. “I didn’t think it was significant, it was material.”

Giunchigliani was asked whether she regrets hiring her late husband as a consultant and paying him through her campaign.

“My husband was the best political mind in the state of Nevada,” she said, adding that he used the money to pay other contractors and that the couple did not share a checking account. “I was a client, just like Steve Sisloak was a client.”

Both candidates said they’d beef up the state’s sexual harassment policies in the aftermath of accusations involving powerful Nevada figures such as casino mogul Steve Wynn and U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen. Both also said they support raises for educators and smaller class sizes.

Contact Ramona Giwargis at rgiwargis@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4538. Follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)