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Damon Political Report

Four special election candidates spar over taxes

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Julie Dawes / AP

Republican Mark Amodei answers a question on the economy as his fellow candidates Democrat Kate Marshall, Tim Fasano of the Independent American Party and Independent Helmuth Lehman (not pictured) wait to weigh in during a debate in the 2nd Congressional District special election on Aug. 17, 2011, in Reno. Most questions centered on the economy and jobs.

Kate Marshall

Kate Marshall

Mark Amodei

Mark Amodei

The four candidates running in the Sept. 13 special election for Nevada's 2nd Congressional District seat sparred over taxes and the economy Wednesday night, parrying on familiar campaign themes but breaking little new ground with only 10 days before early voting starts.

Both Democrat Kate Marshall and Republican Mark Amodei worked to position themselves as consensus brokers able to overcome the brinkmanship in Congress.

And both lobbed familiar attacks against their opponent.

Marshall continued to paint Amodei as the candidate who would fail to protect Medicare and Social Security, while denying that the Social Security program suffers from any financial problems.

For his part, Amodei implied Marshall has lobbed dishonest claims to get herself “through the election,” disregarding the fact his party has aired ads relying on claims deemed false by multiple television stations in the state.

Meanwhile, Independent American Tim Fasano and non-partisan candidate Helmuth Lehmann expressed frustration with both parties and called for a significant overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

Indeed, much of the debate centered on taxes, with Marshall bucking calls by many in her party to raise taxes on the wealthiest income earners. She repeated her support for “closing corporate loopholes” and said the tax code should be used to provide incentives for hiring.

While she declared the Bush tax cuts must be protected — a position at odds with the leaders of her party — she accused Amodei of handcuffing himself by signing a no new taxes pledge.

“He signed a tax pledge which basically says no tax loopholes shall be left behind,” Marshall said. “He shall never turn down a subsidy, shall never close a loophole.”

Responding to the jab, however, Amodei did not take the same tact as others who have signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge that promises not to raise taxes. He noted the pledge, which he signed in 2009, “said nothing about loopholes.”

He also drew a distinction between raising taxes in periods of “phenomenal economic prosperity” and times of “phenomenal economic challenges.”

Asked if he would consider raising taxes when the economy improved, Amodei did not resort to the typical tax pledge signer’s answer.

“Voters can (expect) the same thing they got out of Mark Amodei in my 15 years of public service,” he said. “I’ll do my homework. I’ll talk to the stakeholders involved and do what I think is the right policy for Nevada and the nation at the time.”

Both Lehmann and Fasano championed a version of a flat tax.

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