Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 | 5:25 p.m.
A Republican was responsible for a conspicuously empty chair on Friday, and this time it had nothing to do with a Clint Eastwood performance.
Danny Tarkanian, the GOP candidate for the 4th Congressional District, failed to show Friday afternoon at a scheduled panel discussion with the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino.
Tarkanian’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Steven Horsford, and both candidates in the 1st and 3rd Congressional District races all appeared as planned.
“We never confirmed with the Latin Chamber that we were coming,” Tarkanian spokesman Michael McAdams said in an email when asked for comment on the absence. “We found out about the event on Monday, and tried to reschedule the events we already had planned for today, but were unable to make it work. Danny was handing out food at a local senior center and was scheduled to be in Pahrump.”
Otto Merida, Latin Chamber president, said every candidate was mailed and emailed invitations on Sept. 24 using addresses provided by the state elections department. The Tarkanian campaign told the chamber it did not receive either correspondence, and campaign officials said they never confirmed Tarkanian’s attendance despite being listed as a confirmed guest by the chamber.
McAdams said Tarkanian has offered to individually address the chamber at a later date.
Friday’s discussion, moderated by political commentator Jon Ralston, was not a traditional political debate. All of the candidates sat in a row together, instead of facing their opponent one-on-one. 3rd District Republican Rep. Joe Heck sat next to Chris Edwards, 1st District GOP candidate. Then there was an empty chair, presumably where Tarkanian would have sat. Next the three Democratic candidates, Horsford, Assemblyman John Oceguera, 3rd District, and Dina Titus, 1st District, all sat next to each other.
During introductory remarks, Horsford did not allow his opponent’s absence to slide.
“This is a forum that we have had on our calendars for several weeks now,” Horsford said. “We all agreed to be here. I think it’s unfortunate that my opponent decided not to be here to take your questions and to talk about his positions.”
Outside the casino, the Democratic Party sent a staff member in a “U.S. Marshal chicken suit” to lambaste Tarkanian on two fronts: Troubles stemming from a failed real estate deal that resulted in a $17 million judgment against the candidate, and Tarkanian’s failure to appear at the discussion panel.
Dicscussion topics covered three areas, the Small Business Administration, health care and immigration. Here’s a look at the topics and the candidates’ talking points:
Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration “has a lot of programs and opportunities for a small business but they aren’t being used because there’s too much paperwork, it takes too long, it’s too difficult and people don’t know they exist,” Titus said.
She advocated for legislation that would create expedited loans for disadvantaged communities and streamline the process for micro-loans for small businesses. She also supported tax breaks for small businesses that hire veterans, the long-term unemployed or provide day care, for example.
“I agree that there is definitely too much paperwork,” Edwards said of working with the SBA. “Taxes are definitely one are we need to take a look at in terms of taking the burden of small businesses. But we also have to take a look at rules and regulations, and how the business and the government are able to work together.”
Oceguera said the SBA should be more aggressive in its outreach, particularly with Hispanic businesses, and deliver more aid to small businesses. He also said he would like to increase deductions for startup businesses and simplify the tax code for at-home businesses.
Heck said more small-business owners should be involved in deciding how the application process for loans is completed. He said not enough banks participated in the loan programs, and the application process was too onerous.
To open up more capital for small businesses, Horsford said the government should turn its attention away from big banks and focus on small financial institutions.
“When I talk to small-business owners … they tell me consistently their issue is access to capital,” Horsford said, adding rules should be changed to give more freedom to credit unions to provide loans to small businesses.
Republicans Heck and Edwards said they would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) while acknowledging some of its positive provisions, such as preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions. All three Democratic candidates, while stopping short of saying the law is perfect, said they supported the legislation.
Heck and Edwards said primary concerns were the impact on small businesses and job creation.
“There are things within (the Affordable Care Act) that have merit,” Heck said. “The goal is that we have to have stability and security for those with insurance, an option for those without, and we’ve got to do something to bring down the cost of health care. If you want to get more people insured, you have to get their premiums down, and that means you have to bring down the cost of health care.”
The Democratic candidates, including Titus, who voted for the act, focused on the provision meant to protect the smallest businesses.
“If you have up to 50 employees … you can be part of the (health insurance) exchanges, which provide health insurance at a lower rate,” Titus said. “Small businesses with under 25 employees do not have to provide health insurance; they are exempted under this bill. Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act provides small businesses with no more than 25 employees a tax credit up to 35 percent of any contribution they make toward health insurance.”
Heck pointed out those breaks expire.
“These tax breaks for small businesses … it’s only there for five years. It’s a bait and switch. It’s going to get you to provide insurance, and then when the tax credit goes away, what are you going to do?” he asked.
Oceguera, asked if there was anything he did not like about the legislation, said he would look into expanding the tax breaks for small businesses.
The three Democrats said they supported the Dream Act while the two GOP candidates said they would reject the law.
Edwards offered a novel interpretation of the negatives of such a law.
“You have two essential paths to be allowed to stay here, you go into the military or you go into college,” he said. “But the problem … is that the 60 percent of the Hispanic community here doesn’t get a high school diploma or GED, so you don’t qualify to get into the military or college.”
Thus, Edwards reasoned, the Dream Act was not a practical solution because it would exclude too many people. Instead he advocated for expanding current programs for student and worker visas, and opening current avenues to legal residency to more people.
Heck said he wanted employers to use e-verify to check the status of applicants, and he opposed the Dream Act because he though the age limit of 32 years old was too high and participants should be required to get a post-secondary degree.
Horsford, spent the discussion criticizing an opponent who was not there.
“I support the Dream Act, period,” Horsford said. “My opponent, as of yesterday, changed his position. Now, apparently he says he supports (dreamers) being able to serve in the military and would consider other options, but would not say he supports the Dream Act as proposed.”
The testiest exchange of the afternoon probably came during the final responses and was in regard to birthright citizenship.
“I’m disappointed that there has been some demagoguery on this (issue),” Oceguera said. “My opponent sounded pretty good on this, but I don’t think he is interested in these practical solutions. He took the extreme position that we should revisit the area of birthright citizenship. He was endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona and he thinks those laws look good.”
The charge did not go unchallenged.
“He said he doesn’t want demagoguery on the issue, that’s exactly what he did,” Heck responded. “The fact is the members of the Latin Chamber have known what my position is on this issue for the last three years, from the 2010 election through today, and it has never wavered. I’ve been consistent with where I am on these issues. All because you wind up at an event and you get a picture taken with somebody, next thing you know it’s a mail piece, and that’s what’s wrong with politics. That’s what’s wrong with this campaign.”
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