This spring, six Nevada democrats are vying to become their party's nominee for governor. Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is among the candidates most likely to get the nod this June. The former assemblywoman and head of the state teacher's union has taken on the mantle of the "progressive choice" in this year's election.
Our Political Reporter Paul Boger caught up with her at a recent rally in Reno. She starts the conversation explaining why she decided to launch her campaign.
Why are you running for governor?
I decided to run because I looked at the skill set that was out there and I know Nevada. I've lived for 16 years in Carson City part-time when I was president of the teachers' union. I lived for four years in a motor home and I traveled the whole state. I may be from Southern Nevada, but I know how the legislative process works. I know what people need to get done. I went out on a listening tour all across the state and I came back with a theme that I want to build a Nevada that works for everyone, not just a privileged few. That's why I'm running for office.
You're running against one of your fellow Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak. Why run? Why join the primary now?
I think he's running against me at this point, but I decided that I have the better skill set. I know the people here very well. It's about public education and making sure that we're taking care of that and fixing the funding formula. I know how all that works. But more importantly, it's because I'm not anointed. I'm not selected. I will plan. I want to earn every single vote I get across the state. I don't believe that I'm the type of person that won't be a good listener or work across the aisle, and so I've got that reputation. Even though I'm fairly progressive, I've always worked across the aisle to get something done for public policy, and that's how I plan on doing it again.
What are the issues at this point that you see as most important for Nevada as a whole, and more specifically, Northern Nevada?
What I'm hearing from Northern Nevada – as well as rural as well as the South – they want public education fixed and funded for the first time in 35 years that we've been talking about it. They want to make sure that small businesses are promoted and encouraged to expand, not just corporations. They want to make sure mental health and addiction are looked at. They want to make sure that our environment is protected, and those are the things that I will be working on. Especially, with the environment in Northern Nevada with the protection of Tahoe, the Ruby Mountains, Lamoille Canyon, all those different things that make us a real opportunity [sic] for tourism, for skiing, making sure that we're protecting our area, that's very key. Really, what comes up here [as] number one is education.
At this point, you're running to the left of Steve Sisolak, you tend to be more progressive, but Northern Nevada tends to be conservative, quite a bit more conservative in rural areas. How do you plan to appeal to folks who live in Lyon, Lincoln, Lander counties?
I've run this way for 27 years and I'm not going to apologize for who I am. My progressive values are no different than the progressive values of the entire state. Regardless what somebody labels themselves, it's about making sure we respect each other. It's about making sure that we respect our differences but also our commonalities. It all comes back to making sure that we have good quality education, living wage jobs that actually pay where people can afford their housing. You have a housing crisis up here in Northern Nevada right now because of your prices that have gone up. All of those factors make a decision for folks, and it's not about what party you're registered as, it's whether you choose to get things done.
How will you work with conservatives? You might be looking at Senator Michael Roberson as lieutenant governor. You might have a conservative AG. How will you work with them?
I always worked across the aisles. In my 16 years in the legislature, I got more progressive legislation passed in the 90's with Governor Guinn and Senator Raggio. I have a great deal of respect for those men. I was mentored by the conservative Republicans, especially those in the north and rural counties. It's about respecting the institutions you're serving along with the people. We always put petty partisan politics aside and got things done that were good for Nevada. That's who I learned from and that's who I'm going to be.
KUNR spoke to Democratic candidate Steve Sisolak as well and will be airing that interview this week. For the past several weeks, KUNR has also reached out to top Republican candidates -- Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Treasurer Dan Schwartz -- with requests for a sit-down interview and is waiting to hear back.