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Democrats hold a 2-to-1 registration advantage in Senate District 7, but Democrat Mark Manendo says he is running as if he is behind in his battle against Republican Anthony "Tony" Wright.

"Running is never easy, but if you take it for granted you shouldn’t put your name on the ballot," said Manendo, a term-limited 16-year Assembly member looking to step up to the state Senate.

Wright recognizes the registration disadvantage but said he believes voters are tired of business as usual and don’t want to elect someone who has been in the Legislature since the 1994 election.

"I want to put everybody on notice that we are going to change things, and the unions can take a walk," said Wright, a home health nurse.

If he is elected, Wright said, the first thing he would do is eliminate state participation in Medicaid, the program that provides free health care to more than 265,000 poor people and costs the state $500 million a year.

"If the federal government wants to run Medicaid, it can, but there will be no state matching funds," he said.

But a Department of Health and Human Services official said Medicaid is a state-federal partnership and the federal government would eliminate it in Nevada without state funding.

Wright also wants to end business payroll taxes, saying that will help businesses grow and reduce unemployment. The payroll tax costs businesses about $450 a year per employee, he said.

Wright said Manendo consistently supports tax increases.

"He’s a nice guy, but it is not nice when he votes to take out of your pockets (the equivalent of) a half a year’s worth of gas," he said.

Manendo said Wright is the kind of person who is "not a compromiser" and could not get anything done in Carson City.

"His solution is you just say no on everything. If you are going to accomplish anything, you have to work with your colleagues. You can’t be an obstructionist."

Manendo is the father of the law that lowered the blood-alcohol level to .08 for drunken driving and of legislation that established the state veterans home in Boulder City.

He also campaigned to put sound walls along freeways in his Assembly district and now wants to outlaw the use of cell phones and text messaging by drivers younger than 18.

He wants the Legislature to mandate that all businesses and shopping centers must recycle, contending that recycling could create jobs and reduce use of landfills.

As for tax increases to cover a potential $3 billion revenue shortfall, Manendo said it is too early to talk about them.

"We have to get rid of fat first," he said. "We have to consolidate and streamline government. It is disingenuous to the public to say things will be the same."

Manendo said he wants schools to offer more for non-college-bound students. Too many students drop out because they are not interested in taking college preparatory classes, he said.

"I hear it repeatedly: ‘I don’t want to go to college. I want to go into the military. I want to work in a beauty shop.’ We are losing them."

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

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