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September 1, 2014

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First-termer Beers faces GOP primary challenge

Republican registered voters in State Assembly District 21 (see map) , unlike their Democratic counterparts, have two choices in Tuesday's primary election race.

Bob Beers, the 56-year-old first-term incumbent, is in a contest with fellow Republican Jonathan Ozark, a 26-year-old revenue manager for the Rio. And it could be a tough challenge for Beers.

That's because during his two years in the state assembly, Beers turned more than a few heads, especially in 2007. That's when he broke with party lines and penned legislation that would stop Wynn Las Vegas from mandating dealers share their tips with supervisors.

One year later, with his position at stake, Beers is less than apologetic about that move.

“The reason I wrote the bill that I wrote is because the law, as written in our NRS code, was being violated,” Beers said.

But Ozark is not running on the platform that Beers is a faux Republican, unlike what some GOP officials have suggested. (In a July 14, 2008, Sun article, former executive director of Nevada’s Republican Party, Chuck Muth criticized Beers’ bi-partisan acts in the state legislature.)

Instead, Ozark pointed to Beers’ 2006 campaign as his biggest issue with the freshman assemblyman.

“I believe the way he first won his race was somewhat dishonest. A lot of voters I’ve spoken to while going door-to-door didn’t realize it was a different person,” said Ozark.

Ozark was referring to the more well-known state Sen. Bob Beers, who ran against Jim Gibbons for the Republican nomination for governor in 2006. Some voters may have not realized they were voting for a different man with the same name.

However, Bob Beers the assemblyman contends that his name, however similar to Bob Beers the senator, had nothing to do with how he represented District 21 once elected.

“Name recognition isn’t going to have anything to do in actually doing the job,” Beers adds, “That’s in Summerlin, we’re in Henderson.”

Names aside, both Beers and Ozark are running for Assembly District 21 with platforms that focus on their Republican roots that favor a lean government to an over-spending one.

“I believe in smaller government. I do not believe that in order to take care of people that you have to tax business – I believe the opposite. I believe that if you allow business to grow, it will grow an economy,” Beers said.

Ozark pointed at the current state of Nevada’s budget to depict why he thinks big government doesn't work.

“The way we budget now, we say, ‘What did we budget last year and let’s grow it,’” said Ozark, “People don’t trust government programs because if the government does a program and it doesn’t work out, it never gets eliminated,” Ozark said.

Beers is worried that limiting Las Vegas’ business choices to casinos, strip clubs and bars will keep the economy from diversifying and growing.

“We need to make it easier for business to conduct themselves in this state, honestly, and that’s the caveat. And that caveat right there is where I run afoul of certain members in the leadership of my party,” said Beers.

Ozark contends that his job as a revenue manager at the Rio, where he is responsible for pricing the casino, gives him an edge over Beers on Las Vegas’ economy.

“I think I have a good understanding of our local economy, and it’s hurting right now. All the big companies reported their quarter two earnings last week, and none of them had a great story. People are not coming here. People are losing their jobs,” Ozark said.

But to reaffirm his conservative Republican status, Ozark does not see growing unemployment as a tax issue, and certainly not one that needs a state income tax. He points to California as an example of what Nevada should not become.

“Look at California, they have what many critics of Nevada would say is a good, broad tax; one of the highest personal, corporate and income taxes in the country and look at their budget mess. It’s not a tax issue, ” Ozark said.

Beers views sales tax as an extension of the free market and as a key to keeping any state’s economy alive.

“Our economy is based primarily on sales taxes. That’s where the vast majority of the money that we have come into the state coffers comes from,” Beers said.

Although they have similar positions on the issues, they each bring different personal qualities to the job.

For Beers, his two years of experience as a lawmaker — and possibly his years on Ozark — are invaluable.

“You have to be able to develop a consensus. And a freshman almost never, ever gets a consensus. The only way you get people to work with you is you show them you have some longevity,” Beers said.

But the echoes of change and fresh faces rings as loudly in District 21’s race as it has throughout the presidential election.

“I thought, ‘It’s time for new people and new ideas to run,’ and that’s why I jumped in the race,” Ozark said.

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