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Cynthia Serna arranges "I Voted" stickers at her station at the voting center inside K. O. Knudson Middle School on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

With few to no debates and only scattered advertisements and social media posts amid the coronavirus pandemic, it can be difficult to distill what candidates stand for and what they’d like to do if they win the office. 

That’s why The Nevada Independent is taking a closer look at candidates in a few major races, sitting down for a one-on-one conversation and breaking down where they stand on some of the most pressing issues of the 2020 election. 

Today: An interview with former assemblyman and Republican candidate for Congressional District 4 Jim Marchant. 

Assemblyman Jim Marchant

Marchant was elected to the Assembly in 2016, serving one term in his Summerlin-area seat before being narrowly defeated in 2018’s blue wave. Now a congressional hopeful, he’s leading the eight-way fundraising among District 4 Republicans for nearly the entire cycle, entering the final few weeks of the election with more than $231,000 in cash on hand. 


WHY RUN FOR CONGRESS?

Calling himself “pretty conservative” and a “lower tax, less government-type guy,” Marchant said he wanted to run for Congress in order to stop a trend of legislation that “hurts our economy.”

“I just see a trend of the government raising taxes and being more aggressive with regulations on businesses, and I just decided that I would try to run and try to stop, vote against a lot of that,” said Marchant.

CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE AND RECOVERY

As the nation looks back at the early federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, Marchant said that — though people may want to play “Monday morning quarterback” — the response from the Trump administration “has been really good.”

“He responded right away. He listened to experts supposedly, and tried to do everything that they recommended, and some of it was right, some of it was wrong,” Marchant said. 

But as the economic toll of the virus has come into sharp focus over the last few weeks, Marchant said the federal government should not be prioritizing more legislative stimulus, but rather focus on the re-opening of local economies. 

“I'm not sure that we can do any more,” Marchant said. “At what point do you collapse the entire economy? I'd like to do more, but I think the best thing for us right now is to reopen and reopen fully and get everybody back to work and have them practice all the safe or precautions that have been recommended so far to try to keep it from spreading.”

He also said that Congress should pursue a legislative solution that incentivizes workers to leave unemployment benefits and go back to work, specifically proposing a system by which workers are paid “a kind of signing bonus” should they leave their weekly benefits behind. 

Marchant said this would solve an issue affecting some small businesses in which some workers, often the lowest paid and most at-risk, are being paid more money through state and federal unemployment than they would be at their jobs. 

On the issue of the small business safety net created as part of the federal government’s coronavirus relief efforts — which have so far faced mounting criticism of unfair distribution across and within states —  Marchant said the process “wasn’t equally done.”

Calling the distribution of paycheck protection loans “such a huge issue” and “a mess,” Marchant said it would be “difficult to please everybody.”

“I think that [Trump] could have done some things, maybe, a little better in hindsight,” he said.  “But everybody has that luxury when everything's over. When you're right in the middle of it, right in the beginning, and something that’s this unprecedented, how do you know?”

HEALTH CARE

Amid ongoing debates on Capitol Hill over the future of the American health care system, Marchant said the country should start by repealing the Affordable Care Act and looking toward a system based more on the free market. 

But Marchant also said he would like to see “crony capitalism,” propped up in part by the federal government, removed from the health care system. 

“You know why the prices are so high for health care is that there's all kinds of people picking winners and losers,” Marchant said. “The government is not letting our free market system fully operate, and I believe if we did, we would have lower costs for our health care.

Marchant added that the protection of coverage for preexisting conditions should remain paramount under any solution, and that any replacement for the ACA should be “ready to go” before the law is repealed. 

IMMIGRATION

On immigration, referring specifically to the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., Marchant said Congress should find “some way to keep the good citizens that are here and not criminals,” with the caveat that “they have to go get in line.”

“For the people that are here, I think that we should be able to figure out how to get them on some kind of work visa, where if they're working, if they're working here, and they've been here for a while, and they're good citizens — I don't mind allowing them to stay here and work and have some sort of green card type thing,” he said. “But no amnesty, no pathway to citizenship for them. That allows them to jump in line, ahead of other people that are currently waiting.”

On the legal immigration system, which has been routinely cut or curtailed under the Trump Administration, Marchant said any legal system “should be based on merit,” adding that the current lottery visa system and so-called “chain migration,” or immigration based on family-ties, require reform.

BIPARTISAN COMPROMISE

As the gulf between the two major parties has widened over the last decade, the prospect of bipartisan cooperation on the toughest issues — including healthcare and immigration — has become more distant with each passing electoral cycle. 

But Marchant, though he still said he is conservative to the bone, added that he’s “willing to work with the other side on anything.”

“I demonstrated that when I was in the Assembly here,” Marchant said. “I listened to the other side and always gave my friends on the other side an open door policy — come in and convince me that your way is the right way.”

“It doesn't mean that I'm going to vote their way. But I'll at least listen to them and evaluate honestly, with an open mind, what they're trying to tell me. Because you know, you never know, they may have a good point.”

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION

Marchant, who called himself a “huge supporter of President Trump,” said there was little daylight between his positions and those of the president. However, he did raise concerns over the administration’s approach to federal spending and the deficit, as well as the president's support for so-called “red flag laws” that would allow police to seize firearms from people deemed dangerous. 

“I wasn't shy about calling [former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval] out when I thought he did the wrong thing,” Marchant said of his time in the Legislature. “So I won't be shy about letting President Trump know.”

But as the Supreme Court weighs the power of Congress to oversee the president — specifically as it concerns Congress’ ability to compel the president to release his long-sought-after tax returns — Marchant said that he didn’t believe “it should be mandatory.”

“He should be able to do whatever he wants to do,” Marchant said. “And then, same thing, just like Democrats, I don't think that they should have to release their tax returns if they don't want to.”

For more on the 2020 primary elections, including maps, fundraising roundups, race breakdowns and more, visit our 2020 Elections page

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