Republicans Reluctant To Talk To Press Despite Tough Races

Oct 25, 2018

With two weeks until the 2018 midterm election, KUNR has not yet been able to schedule interviews with some of the most prominent members of the GOP running for office. KUNR News Director Michelle Billman sat down with Senior Political Reporter Paul Boger to talk about some of the Republican candidates and where they stand on the issues.

Paul, we’ve heard from a lot of candidates this election cycle, but we haven’t heard from some of the most prominent Republican candidates running for election including incumbent U.S. Senator Dean Heller, Gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt or state Senator Michael Roberson who’s running for lieutenant governor. I want to get your take on that. 

Over the past couple of months, we have reached out to the campaigns several times in hopes of trying to arrange a sit-down conversation with the candidates. As a matter of fact, I sent at least nine different requests to Senator Heller’s campaign, with another six sent to Laxalt. All of which have been ignored.

I will say, at least Michael Roberson’s campaign responded, letting us know that they declined the interview. Also, Adam Laxalt did sit down with me prior to the primary.

Did they say why?

No, but I also can’t say that I’m surprised. It seems at this point, Heller, Laxalt, and Roberson are being very tight-lipped when it comes to speaking with the media as a whole. They are being very selective with who they speak to, choosing media outlets that are more aligned with their core base.

For example, while our requests seem to have been outright ignored, Senator Heller has outright refused to talk to others like The Nevada Independent, calling them fake news.

Some candidates have also gotten in trouble speaking to reporters in recent months. Adam Laxalt created a bit of a stir when he said he was willing to look at changing the state’s abortion laws. Laxalt has also been tight-lipped since allegations that he assaulted a police officer popped up last month.

But it’s important we at least talk about where some of these candidates stand prior to early voting. So, let’s start with Dean Heller. He’s running in a very tight race against Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen. What are some of the key issues there?

So, Dean Heller has been in Nevada politics since the 90s. He was a state assemblyman. Then served as Secretary of State for three terms. He then served in the U.S. House for three terms before Governor Brian Sandoval chose him to replace John Ensign in the Senate in 2011. I tell you all that to explain that Heller has been a known quantity here in the state.

What’s really interesting is that for a majority of that time, he was widely considered a fairly moderate Republican. It’s only been in the last two years, that he’s come under fire, and a lot of that has to do with his ties to President Trump, and his perceived inconsistencies on last year’s fight over the Affordable Care Act.

On most other issues, he’s been a pretty standard Republican. He voted for the tax reform bill last year. His website boasts that he has authored several bills aimed at protecting veterans, upholding the Second Amendment, and limiting the size of the federal government. However, those aren’t the big issues in this race. It’s health care. That’s what his opponent, Jacky Rosen and the Democrats, are hammering him on, and frankly he hasn’t had the strongest record on that particular issue. It’s part of the reason that many believe he’s in trouble.

At the end of the day, it’s also important to remember, Dean Heller has never lost an election, and recent polling has him in the lead – at least slightly.

Adam Laxalt, is also facing stiff opposition from Democrat Steve Sisolak. What do you make of that race?

You know, we talk about Dean Heller being a known quantity in this state, the same cannot necessarily be said about Laxalt. Laxalt is a first-term attorney general. He has no other record to speak of, not on a state or local level. He did previously serve as a judge advocate general in the Navy. He’s the grandson of probably the second most popular politician in Nevada history, Paul Laxalt.

But to get down to his politics, Laxalt espouses a fairly conservative worldview. In his role as AG, his office has filed a number of amicus briefs (or friend of the court) in several cases in other jurisdictions, most of which have been suits where one or several right-leaning states have sued the federal government for some overreach. One of most recent of which was in support of a Texas law that banned the most common type of abortion.

Laxalt has also come out as a strong opponent of the Commerce Tax passed by lawmakers in 2015 to help bolster education funding. And it’s that opposition that has drawn some criticism from current Governor Brian Sandoval. Sandoval has refused to endorse Laxalt, saying he wouldn’t support someone who wants to undo perhaps his biggest achievement. In that same vein, though, Laxalt has said publicly that it would be virtually impossible to repeal the tax with a Democratic legislature.

On other issues like guns, Laxalt has been unwavering. He declared an expanded gun background check law passed by voters in 2016, unenforceable. He’s been in favor of work requirements for Medicaid recipients, but recently told voters he would not work to repeal Medicaid expansion. 

As an editor's note, KUNR has interviewed other Republicans on this year's ballot including Attorney General Candidate Wes Duncan and incumbent Congressman Mark Amodei.