House party

As three Republicans struggle for a U.S. House nomination, a Democrat’s hopes may depend on the outcome

Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller has grabbed a late lead  in the northern U.S. House race.

Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller has grabbed a late lead in the northern U.S. House race.

Photo By Dennis Myers

The Republican primary for Nevada’s second congressional district has shown volatility this year, the lead switching back and forth.

Candidates Dean Heller, Dawn Gibbons and Sharron Angle, having raised substantial campaign funds, all have a chance to face Democrat Jill Derby in the general election.

During the autumn, Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller was in the lead in opinion surveys. Then former assemblymember Dawn Gibbons moved out in front. Now Heller has regained his lead. “Dean Heller is out in front, and it’s his race to lose,” said casino lobbyist Tim Crowley last week on Bob Fisher’s Observations program.

While Angle has never led in opinion surveys, there has been speculation that Heller and Gibbons could split the moderate GOP vote, allowing Angle to win. That is also considered Derby’s best chance to take the heavily Republican district for the Democrats in the November election. But Angle was damaged by a Las Vegas Sun interview in which she confused the U.S. Constitution with the Declaration of Independence, incorrectly described U.S. military history, and seemed to confuse events in Iraq with those in Afghanistan.

Heller and Gibbons both enjoy high name recognition, while Angle has surprised many by raising a substantial campaign fund with the help of the Club for Growth in Washington. Her candidacy has become something of a cause in right-wing circles around the nation, with her “Five Conservative Principles” (Godly morality, private property rights, opposition to taxes, national security and border security) posted or mentioned on more than 500 Web pages.

Of the many issues in the race, health care, the Iraq war and illegal immigration are three of the most important.

Gibbons is one of the only GOP candidates to stray from President Bush on stem cell research. She follows the thinking of Nancy Reagan, whose husband died of Alzheimer’s disease—she fully supports the stem cell research, including embryonic.

“I firmly believe that embryonic stem cell research offers real hope for finding new treatments and perhaps cures for many diseases,” Gibbons said. “I am disappointed that the President used his veto power on this very much needed legislation.”

Angle, who didn’t respond to calls, said on her Web site that she is the only pro-life candidate, suggesting that she is against embryonic stem cell research.

“All human life is precious, regardless of location, age, infirmity or degree of dependence,” Angle said. She also claimed in one interview that the “underlying agenda” of stem cell research is “abortion and abortion clinics,” a claim denied by a stem cell researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

Heller supports abortion rights but has not addressed stem cell research specifically and did not return calls seeking comment.

On health care, Gibbons said she would support legislation that gives patients more choice within their healthcare plans, such as a measure introduced by Sens. John McCain and Edward Kennedy. The bills allow going outside of a plan for needed care, continuity of care (not having to switch doctors) and access to medication regardless of cost.

Prescription medications are becoming increasingly expensive and problematic in health care plans.

“We have to try to do something about prescription drugs,” Gibbons said. “The Medicare Plan D gap needs to be corrected. Some providers don’t cover any expenses between $2,251- $5,100 and others do. That must be corrected, and that will be a priority for me in Congress. We need to do everything we can to help the quality of life. Money for lowering the cost of drugs is well spent.”

Angle also believes that changes need to be made to the healthcare system, but her interest is primarily in reducing tax dollars that go to programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

"[Without reform] by 2050, every tax dollar will go into these programs,” Angle said on her Web site.

Heller has been quoted as supporting lower drug costs.

“Americans pay three times more for prescription drugs than other countries do,” Heller said. “We need to allow organizations and associations the ability to provide health insurance to their members so health insurance costs can remain affordable for everyone involved.”

The Iraq war, according to a March 2006 Gallup poll, has considerably lowered Bush’s approval rating, but Angle and Heller seem to be in favor of staying the course. Gibbons, however, calls for a tentative exit strategy.

“I support Gen. [George] Casey and the plan to start decreasing our troops,” Gibbons said. “I think we should begin even now. I trust the general to do the right thing. Winning means giving the country the ability to govern themselves. Troops should stay as long as necessary to achieve that.”

Heller and Angle have said that they don’t support an exit plan and that the United States may stay in Iraq for an extended period.

“I would never support a pullout,” Angle said. “We don’t bring the troops home until the job is done.”

Heller expressed his view in a Las Vegas Review-Journal interview, describing a domino theory so expansive that it recalls the discussions over Vietnam: “We either fight the war in Iraq, or we will be fighting inside our country. If we leave, they attack Israel and then the United States. We will probably be occupying that country for some time. We don’t set a date to leave.”

On immigration, none of the candidates support amnesty, saying that illegal means illegal. But both Gibbons and Heller said that some type of work permit is necessary.

“A secure border means that we will not let people in that do harm,” Gibbons said. “I support work permits, but we need to make sure we do things correctly.”

Heller has said he believes certain conditions exist that would require guest-worker permits.

“We must develop a documented guest worker program that allows those who wish to work in the U.S. to be picked up by employers at the border and taken back once the job has been completed to meet the needs of employers where home-grown labor is deficient,” Heller said.

Angle has said that she is entirely opposed to amnesty and wants a heavier physical presence at the border. She even voted against Nevada’s Millennium Scholarship program because it can be awarded to non-citizens.

“We need to secure our borders at home,” Angle said. “It is a national security issue. No amnesty, never amnesty.”

Republicans Richard Allen Gilster II and Glenn Thomas, Independent American James C. Kroshus and independent Daniel Rosen are also running for the seat.