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Candidates in the Nevada congressional election debate
by Sandra Chereb - Associated Press
Aug 18, 2011 | 1615 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — Four candidates vying to fill Nevada’s empty U.S. House seat faced off for the first time Wednesday in an hour-long debate.

Republican Mark Amodei and Democrat Kate Marshall are the two major party candidates hoping to win the Sept. 13 special election. Also on the ballot are Independent American Party candidate Tim Fasano and Helmuth Lehmann, who gathered enough signatures to run as an independent.

Amodei is a former state senator and former chairman of the state Republican Party. Marshall is currently state treasurer.

Both campaigns are targeting seniors in ads that suggest the other wants to cut Medicare.

Amodei claims Marshall supports the national health care law that expands coverage to 30 million uninsured people in 2014. A recent ad singles out a $500 billion reduction in future Medicare costs included in the federal health care law, and suggests Marshall is trying to hide her support for deep cuts to the program.

Marshall, meanwhile, has focused on Amodei’s support for a Republican budget that calls for privatizing Medicare.

While he has praised the budget pushed by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and approved by the Republican-led House, Amodei has also questioned the Medicare component, and vowed to protect senior citizens. Amodei, however, has said he would consider increasing the Medicare eligibility age to 67.

Marshall has said she would not support any plan to raise the Medicare eligibility age.

She also has said she would not repeal the federal health care law but has questioned whether it’s too expensive, while Amodei wants to overhaul the health care law.

The winner of next month’s election will fill the unexpired term of Republican Dean Heller, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Brian Sandoval after John Ensign resigned in May in the wake of an affair and ethics investigation. Whoever wins will have to run again in 2012 to retain the seat.

Nevada’s sprawling, 2nd Congressional District covers all of northern Nevada and a slice of Clark County in the south. Republicans hold a 30,000 voter registration edge in the largely rural district that includes Reno, and Democrats have never held the seat since it was created in 1982.

The state has never held a special election to fill a House seat, and rules originally established by Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, to allow for an open contest were challenged by the Republican Party. An open contest, described by Miller as a “ballot royale,” could have split the GOP vote and benefited Democrats, especially if voter turnout is low, as predicted.

But the Nevada Supreme Court ultimately said that major political parties should choose their candidate, and the ruling knocked 22 candidates off the ballot.

Local election officials then disqualified four others, leaving the four remaining candidates.
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