Updated Sept. 4th 8:57 a.m.
On Wednesday, Nevada Lt. Gov candidates Mark Hutchinson and Lucy Flores faced off at the downtown location of Doña Maria Tamales Restaurant. The debate was sponsored by the Hispanics in Politics organization. Both candidates knew most of the questions in advance.
While Hutchison and Flores sparred on topics ranging from same-sex marriage to raising the minimum wage, they did find common ground on two issues: Nevada is in dire need of education reform and the margins tax is not the best way to fund it.
“I’ve traveled all over Nevada and I’ve talked with business owner after business owner and they know where they’re going if this tax passes. They’re going to Idaho. They’re going to Montana. They’re going to leave the state,” Hutchison said. “I was one of the few that proposed an alternative and said let’s have a discussion about this … There were crickets from the Democrat’s side during the last legislative session about this.”
Flores also opposes the margins tax. In July, she told MSNBC that in the 2011 legislative session she "supported a broad-based approach that would have restructured the way we tax businesses and increased funding for education."
During the debate she challenged Hutchison’s suggestion for tax credits for parents that would allow children more school choice.
“(Vouchers) do not give families equal opportunity in terms of getting high quality education in any school,” she said. “Private schools still have the ability to discriminate against kids. They don’t provide busing services.”
Nevada insiders are closely following the contest between Republican State Sen. Mark Hutchison and Democratic Assemblywoman Lucy Flores. The battle could be a proxy for the 2016 election, when Republicans hope the state's popular GOP governor, Brian Sandoval, challenges Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, assuming Reid decides to run again. The state's lieutenant governor would replace Sandoval.
According to political commentator Jon Ralston, who live-tweeted the debate, the candidates also debated immigration reform. Both candidates expressed a pro-immiagration stance.
Lucy Flores is widely regarded as a rising star of the Democratic Party and is frequently on “Latinos to Watch” lists. Adding to her popularity is a compelling personal narrative in which she describes escaping poverty, gang life and an abusive partner to successfully graduate from law school and hold elected office.
Hutchison was picked by Governor Brian Sandoval to run on the Republican ticket. It's unclear whether Sandoval would run in 2016. He is cautious, but he is popular enough that he faces no real Democratic opposition in his re-election campaign this year.
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