Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2002 | 11:06 a.m.
It's supposed to be the marquee race of the year.
But Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn is already talking about next year's budget and legislative session.
And Democrat Joe Neal?
"I'm not running against Kenny Guinn," he says. "I'm running against gaming."
Thus, there are no scheduled debates. And Guinn, who just had prostate cancer surgery two weeks ago, is spending more time looking at tax options than mounting any type of campaign.
Guinn's billboards went up just last week, and a television commercial -- shot from Carson City locales -- began airing this week.
"I'm really just focused on the issues and trying to come up with solutions to the revenue problems," said Guinn, a 66-year-old former educator and utility executive. "We have serious problems in this state that need serious answers."
Neal, 67, is a state senator who thinks he has the answer to Nevada's current $350 million deficit.
"Gaming has to be taxed," Neal said. "When gaming's grossing $18 billion a year and we can't fund education, there's a problem here."
Neal has long proposed raising the gross gaming tax from the 1987 rate of 6.25 percent to 10.25 percent. The industry said it would accept raising its tax rate by 0.25 percent provided a gross receipts tax is imposed on other business.
Neal is opposed to a gross receipts tax, and Guinn isn't talking about any specific taxes until the Nevada Task Force on Tax Policy issues its recommendations on or before Nov. 15.
"Raising revenue has to be the state's top priority," Guinn said. "But the numbers are just ugly. Every one of the taxes that has been discussed so far (by the task force) really only gets us to even."
Neal is the first black nominated to run for governor in the general election in Nevada history. But few in his own party support him.
For starters, he has long said Nevada should negotiate with the federal government for benefits for Yucca Mountain. He also bucked the party by backing Republican Lynette Boggs McDonald for Congress over incumbent Democrat Shelley Berkley.
But Neal is also the state's truest populist -- railing against Nevada Power's proposed $1 billion rate hike, opposing privatization of government services and supporting the purchase of Nevada Power Co. by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
Guinn, a former Democrat, is known as a moderate Republican, supporting social programs many Democrats like and winning endorsements from organized labor, including the state's teachers' union.
Neal is a retired Nevada Test Site worker and the longest-serving senator in Nevada history, first elected in 1972. He was born in Mounds, La., is a widower and has five children.
Guinn, who was raised in Exeter, Calif., is the former superintendent of the Clark County School District and served as president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was also the president and chairman of the board of Southwest Gas Corp. and vice president of Nevada Savings and Loan. Guinn has been married to Dema Guinn for 46 years and has two children.
Guinn has raised $2 million for his re-election and Neal has spent $300 of his own money to file for the office.