With Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore running for Congress instead of seeking re-election in District 4, six candidates are vying for her vacant seat — one of the most crowded races in the district in years.
Two Republicans have joined the race again — Melissa D. Laughter, who lost against Fiore in the district’s 2014 primary, her first race, and Richard McArthur, a former FBI agent who held a state Assembly seat from 2008 until 2012, when he opted to run for a state Senate seat and lost.
McArthur pointed out that the American Conservative Union — an organization that ranks politicians on their conservativism and presents conservative issues to Congress — ranked him the Assembly’s most conservative voter in 2011. He is running again because he “opposed the large tax increase that was approved by the 2015 Legislature” and opposed the driver’s licenses that the Legislature approved for people in the country illegally.
He also said Fiore asked him to run after she decided to run for the House.
McArthur opposes legalizing recreational marijuana and expanding background checks for gun purchases, two proposals on Nevada’s November ballot. To improve education, he said the answer isn’t more money but policy changes, such as holding back third-graders who are not at grade level and “immersion in English.”
“Our education system has received more money every year for the last 40 years and our students still rank at the bottom nationally,” McArthur said.
Laughter agreed. She suggested improving the state’s teacher pool by recruiting veterans and making science and technology a core part of the curriculum, “beginning at kindergarten.”
She also opposes recreational marijuana, adding that “the passing of medical marijuana did a disservice to our youth and those ill in our community,” and that “medical marijuana facilities target the poor and vulnerable in our society.” She said her strict stance on the issue was a reason she decided to run against Fiore in 2014.
Meanwhile, Laughter said the idea to expand firearm background checks “completely disregards the fact that criminals don’t utilize legal avenues to obtain guns.”
A background check showed Laughter filed for bankruptcy a few years ago after defaulting on her mortgage payment because she said she was laid off from her advertising job during the recession. “I tried for over a year to replace that income,” she said, but couldn’t, so she made a “calculated decision” to finish her bachelor’s degree at UNLV while working on the side. She is due to graduate later this year.
“It came to a point where I either needed to get engaged or just be quiet,” he said. “Being a small-business owner, I think it’s important to give back to my community.”
Rezendes said he is “all in favor” of medical marijuana but didn’t state an opinion on recreational use of the drug. That’s because he feels that “allowing the voters of the state to make (that) decision is more appropriate than elected officials,” though he added “there is a lot more that comes with the legalization of (marijuana) than just making it legal.”
Rezendes said he supports school choice and expanding vocational programs because “not every child is college-bound.”
Bert Lucas, a Democrat and newcomer, said he also supports expanded vocational programs. But the father of five added that parental involvement is key, too. He suggested creating better economic opportunities so parents can have a greater impact on student education.
“Families struggle to make ends meet, working two or more full-time jobs, so parents cannot afford to be an active part of their child’s instruction, and our education system suffers,” he said.
He also supports legalizing recreational marijuana, citing a “much-needed boost to our economy.”
The two other Democrats, Earle Orr and John Piro, also support legalization. Orr said such a move would allow more room in jails for violent offenders. Piro, a public defender, echoed those sentiments.
All three Democrats also support extending firearm background checks to third-party sellers, with Piro adding that “it is too easy for a criminal convicted of a violent felony to circumvent the law and obtain as many guns as they want without a background check simply by going to a gun show.”
Orr said he first considered entering the race a few years ago, when he sat in on legislative sessions as a lobbyist for his company.
“One of the reasons I got into insurance was because it allowed me to protect people,” he said, and now, “I kind of want to move on to become an agent of change.”
Piro said he decided to run because “the cost of waiting was too great.”
Aside from improving education, Piro said he wants to “fix this net-metering issue” for rooftop solar and create a better alternative energy environment in the state.
“Nevada should be the leader in solar energy,” he said.
Contact Rachel Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5290. Find @rachelacrosby on Twitter.