With Gov. Brian Sandoval term-limited, the Democratic race to succeed him gained another long-anticipated contender from Southern Nevada on Wednesday.
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani officially launched her campaign for governor on the steps of the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, saying Sandoval, a Republican, had set a good foundation. Giunchigliani will face fellow County Commissioner Steve Sisolak in the Democratic primary, and said Wednesday after her announcement that she couldn’t compare herself to him.
“I can’t contrast myself to Steve because he’s a good guy and he’s my friend, but I think I’m the better candidate,” she said. “I know I’m the better-qualified candidate, and I know that I’ve got the enthusiasm from the Democrats.”
Giunchigliani said her priorities have matched what many residents in the state have told her so far: fixing public education funding and the system for mental health and addiction treatment; helping mom-and-pop shops expand and not just focusing on big businesses; and advocating for a “living wage.”
Sandoval did not support a hike in the minimum wage this year. Giunchigliani said she’s working with the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities to look at impacts on businesses for living wages.
Sisolak said Wednesday after Giunchigliani’s announcement that he’s sure the differences between him and his opponent will become clear as the race goes on, and that his priorities are still the same as when he announced in June.
“Creation of jobs, continuing jobs that are existing in the state of Nevada, improving the education system, which now I see (Giunchigliani’s) agreeing with that as well, and trying to get more collaboration between the local jurisdictions and the state government,” he said.
Last week, Sandoval told reporters that he had not been asked to support any candidates for governor. He said anyone who wants to put a major hole in the budget by eliminating a tax should explain to teachers and parents what they’re going to cut.
“I’m going to see where the candidates’ positions are,” Sandoval said. “I spent seven years trying to build this education system, to properly fund it, to give kids the resources that they need.”
On the Republican side, state Treasurer Dan Schwartz and businessman Jared Fisher are the only candidates to formally announce. Attorney General Adam Laxalt has long been expected to enter the race. Laxalt’s website says he is kicking off a statewide tour with a “special announcement” on Nov. 1 at Brady Industries in Las Vegas.
“I'm planning on sharing some big news and want you to be one of the first people to hear it,” Laxalt said on his website.
“Our schools remain at the bottom of every good list, at the top of every bad list,” Schwartz said in a statement Sept. 5, the day he announced his campaign. “Our public lands are almost exclusively controlled by the federal government; and, we still give priority to low-paying jobs at the expense of building a tech-savvy economy.”
Fisher, who on Wednesday was riding his bike through Goldfield and other rural areas as part of his most recent listening tour, said through a campaign spokeswoman that it’s good for voters to have a female option in the race.
“People want more choices,” Fisher’s spokeswoman said shortly before Giunchigliani’s announcement. “The one thing I’m finding out from talking to people is they want choices. (Giunchigliani) provides a female choice, which is something that people want. They want to have a group of people, options of people they can look at and make a decision.”
Spokesmen for Laxalt and Schwartz did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Giunchigliani and Laxalt both canceled campaign kickoff announcements after the Oct. 1 shooting on the Las Vegas Strip.
Giunchigliani, who joined the Clark County School District in 1979 as a special education teacher, served as president of the Clark County Education Association from 1983-1987 and as president of the Nevada State Education Association from 1987-1991. First elected to the state Assembly in 1990, she served in eight regular and five special sessions. She was elected to the Clark County Commission in 2006 and re-elected in 2010 and 2014. She lost to Carolyn Goodman in the 2011 general election for Las Vegas mayor.