Nevada five-term incumbent, challenger clash at U.S. House forum

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Jason Henry / The New York Times

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) is shown outside his office in Reno on Oct. 3, 2019. Republicans like Amodei are balancing the risk of President Donald Trump’s wrath and the knowledge that history will hold them accountable for their actions.

Sat, Oct 17, 2020 (10:12 a.m.)

RENO — Democratic challenger Patricia Ackerman went on the offensive Friday, attacking five-term Republican Rep. Mark Amodei for supporting Trump administration policies she says have harmed Nevada’s farmers and immigrants and what she says is the administration's failure to help them recover from the coronavirus outbreak.

Amodei defended his support for President Donald Trump’s reelection and touted his own repeated reelection as a vote of confidence in the track record he has established as a proven advocate for Nevada’s interests.

They shared the stage at a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters in Carson City in their first and perhaps only meeting less than three weeks before the election in the heavily GOP 2nd Congressional District where no Democrat has ever won since it was created in 1982.

Mail-in ballots already have been sent to every active registered voter, and two-weeks of early in-person voting begins across the state on Saturday. Trump has scheduled a rally in Carson City on Sunday.

“Our problems are clearly mounting, and we can’t fix those problems if we keep sending the same representatives to Washington who don’t show up for us,” Ackerman said in her opening statement.

Amodei said he has earned a reputation in Congress working across the aisle to find realistic solutions to problems.

“If I was such an unproven performer, you would think the voters of the state of Nevada would have been able to (determine) this is an evil guy,” he said.

The congressman criticized Ackerman for relying too much on campaign consultants who have pushed misleading ads that wrongly suggest he doesn’t care about women or the unemployed, He said one of the best ways to restore civility to politics is to ``outlaw all campaign consultants."

“When you let the consultants run your campaign instead of trying to connect with the people you want to serve. I think it's a big mistake,” Amodei said. “I’m responsible for everything I do.”

Ackerman repeatedly attacked Amodei for refusing to buck administration policies she said were harmful to Nevadans. She said he “turned a blind eye” when the Trump administration separated children from their families at the Mexican border.

“He didn’t say anything about it,” she said, adding later, “Remember when Mark stood up against the president when he called COVID a hoax? Me either. Because it didn’t happen.”

She said trade wars under Trump have “devastated agriculture across the country.”

“The 2nd District needed an advocate who would stand up to Trump in a meaningful way. Mark didn’t,” Ackerman said.

Amodei said he’s worked tirelessly on behalf of farmers and ranchers across the state.

“I just wonder who pulled the wool over them since I’ve been endorsed by the Nevada Farm Bureau and by the Nevada Cattlemen,” he said.

Responding to a question about whether the country was better off now than four years ago, Amodei said unemployment was at an historic low “across all ethnic groups” in February before the pandemic hit.

“It was better for women. It was better for African Americans. It was better for Hispanics," he said.

Since then, he said “huge strides are being made” against COVID-19.

“There are industries here in Nevada that quite frankly ... have bene minimally effected,” he said. “Nobody is having a great time, but quite frankly in the rurals they are doing better in terms of a lot of things than the rest of the country.”

Ackerman said that when Nevada had the highest unemployment rate in the nation earlier this year and one of four Nevadans were out of work, Amodei “told a roomful of donors that unemployment benefits were too generous.”

Amodei said he supported extending unemployment benefits but not at $600 a week.

“Even Tim Geithner, the Obama administration treasury secretary, said $600 a week is too much. Quite frankly it is counter-productive,” he said. “I supported $450 a week. But in no event, more than your job paid. Those are common-sense solutions, not partisan talking points."

Overall, Amodei took a less aggressive approach than Ackerman during most of the forum. But he responded to her directly during her final attack on his support for Trump.

Ackerman said: “I’m hearing an empty-calorie smorgasbord of words that is absolutely meaning nothing when I see an individual who has been in Congress supporting a president that lies as we have never seen before.”

Amodei replied, “You want to talk about an empty statement.”

“Of course, in a political system you are going to support your party’s nominee, fair and square," he said. "I did that four years ago. That’s who was nominated. And I’m doing it this time. And I assume that she did the same thing with her party.”

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