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SECRETARY OF STATE

To hear Republican candidate Rob Lauer tell it, Democrat Ross Miller has been an abject failure as Nevada secretary of state, costing businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and depriving soldiers of their right to vote.

But secretary of state candidate Lauer, a real estate investor, has some credibility problems. He faces a January court date over a misdemeanor battery complaint stemming from an incident in a bar last June, when he said he was showing supporter Jennifer Von Tobel some martial arts holds.

And there was an earlier incident in California when Lauer sold an airplane over eBay to a man who filed a complaint with local authorities contending the plane was a piece of junk. Lauer was arrested for that incident, and the case is still pending.

Miller accused Lauer of repeatedly "fabricating the truth." He noted that the Legislature, not he, approved the $200 annual business license fee.

He also pointed out that at his request, the Legislature last year passed a law allowing Nevada soldiers stationed overseas to register and vote by e-mail.

Only after Nevada led the way did Congress pass similar legislation, he said. Election ballots already are being returned from service members.

Miller, whose hobby is mixed martial arts, questioned why Lauer would be demonstrating holds to a woman who suffers from muscular dystrophy

Lauer said he was just "goofing around" with Von Tobel and "didn’t strike her." He accuses Miller of working behind the scenes to make sure a criminal complaint was filed .

"This is typical politics for an incumbent who is deep trouble and has connections in the D.A.’s office," Lauer said, adding that the airplane buyer in California was just trying to collect money from him.

"He lied to the police," Lauer said. "He said I sold him an airplane with no engine."

Miller dismissed Lauer’s allegation as "just ridiculous."

When questioned, Lauer conceded Miller had no vote on the business license tax increase, but insisted he should have spoke out against it.

"I would be yelling and screaming about the tax increases," Lauer said.

He also said the $4.5 million business portal website, approved unanimously by the Legislature and being established by Miller, won’t help business but will allow the state to collect more taxes.

Lauer maintains the vast majority of resident agents — people who work with businesses incorporating in Nevada through the Secretary of State’s Office — support him and that he has "their endorsement." He later clarified that he does not have the endorsement of the Nevada Resident Agents Association, which does not make endorsements.

Miller countered that neither he or anyone else could protest the tax increase because legislative leaders met behind closed doors and then revealed the plan. He also said the business portal will help the state collect taxes owed, but its primary purpose is to "streamline" the process for establishing a business in Nevada.

"Instead of needing to go to 17 different places, you will find everything in one place," Miller said of the website. He noted that he has the support of the Las Vegas and Reno-Sparks chambers of commerce and other business groups.

Lauer’s biggest gripe with Miller has to do with voting by service members stationed overseas. If elected, he said, he would e-mail registration forms and absentee ballots to all service members 90 days before elections.

"I don’t know many 18- and 19-year-old who cannot figure out how to download a (registration) petition and wait for an absentee ballot," said Lauer, an Army Reserve member.

But Miller said he has already simplified the process, having lobbied for the current law that allows service members register and vote by e-mail. Before being shipped overseas, service members are given information on requesting absentee ballots, he said.

"He (Lauer) doesn’t know much about the election process," said Miller, pointing out that e-mailing registration forms and ballots at the same time would not work because ballots vary by place of residence and it’s not possible to know where the recipient lives until after they register.

Miller also noted that he formed a team to investigate election fraud. Its efforts lead to charges against ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. A trial is pending.

Also running is Independent American Party candidate John Wagner, 72. Wagner’s main complaint is that state law requires candidates for public office to report campaign contributions of more than $100. That should be increased to $1,000, he said.

Miller had raised $408,000 in campaign contributions as of late May, compared with $41,500 by Lauer. Wagner reported no contributions.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

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