U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s call for outlawing prostitution across Nevada has emerged as an issue in the race for Las Vegas mayor, with some candidates agreeing with him that the presence of legal brothels impedes economic development.
Larry Brown, Steve Ross and businessman Victor Chaltiel have all said they oppose legal prostitution, and Ross on Thursday directly challenged Mayor Oscar Goodman’s assertion that brothels don’t hurt the state.
"Las Vegas deserves the opportunity to compete without one hand tied behind its back," said Ross, who is on the City Council. "It’s time to declare unequivocally: Las Vegas is open for business, not for prostitution.
"As mayor, I’ll say it: Prostitution is not welcome here."
He was responding to Goodman’s assertion Thursday morning that it’s not a factor for potential new businesses.
"I personally don’t believe that," Goodman said. "I don’t believe that anyone ever said to their husband or wife, ‘We’re not moving our business to Nevada because they have legalized prostitution’ "
Goodman said prostitution is "demeaning to women" but said it’s worth having a conversation about legalizing it, since illegal prostitution still exists and, as a regulated industry, there would be safety standards and tax revenue.
Reid, in remarks Monday to the Legislature, said lawmakers should ban prostitution outright.
Reid said he had heard from a businessman who decided not to move to rural Storey County because brothels are legal there.
"Having legalized prostitution stops businesses from coming here," he said.
Brown, a Clark County commissioner, has seconded Reid’s remarks and plans to send letters to legislative leadership urging them to heed Reid’s call.
"It is time we sent a strong message in defense of women in Nevada," Brown said.
Other mayor candidates have staked out a less strict position.
Chris Giunchigliani, a Clark County commissioner and former legislator, has long said that the issue needs to be discussed and studied.
Carolyn Goodman, the Meadows School founder and wife of the current mayor, said her approach on this issue would be the same as any other — bring affected parties together and reach an informed consensus.
"I am very concerned about the presence of teenage prostitution and human trafficking, and the issues associated with that," Goodman said. "I have spent my life devoted to helping young people as an educator and it concerns me when I see young people being harmed."
Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@review journal.com or 702-229-6435.