It happens like clockwork.
Candidates announce their bids for office. Then the attack ads follow in short order, unabashedly targeting their voting records and more.
We’re here to help. The Nevada Independent already produces fact-checks for political advertisements and off-the-cuff remarks, but we also want to get ahead of the campaign game.
When politicians announce their candidacy for public office, we’ll roll out “On the Record” — our look at their voting history and stances on a broad array of subjects.
Now up: Democrat Clint Koble, former state executive director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, who is running to unseat GOP Rep. Mark Amodei in Congressional District 2.
During an interview, Koble said he favored federal involvement in health care and restoring portions of the Affordable Care Act that have been changed during the Trump administration.
Koble said he would back federally sponsored universal health care, citing Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s support for eventually moving the country to a “Medicare-for-all” program.
“It’s not going to come overnight,” he said. “But I think that’s a target we’d like to lean towards.”
Amodei, Koble’s opponent, said in an interview with The Nevada Independent that he would support a state-run health insurance plan, doubting the ability of the federal government to come up with a comprehensive solution to the issue. Koble said that the responsibility of providing a health insurance plan should generally stay with the federal government.
Although Congress failed to fully “repeal and replace” one of Obama’s primary legislative accomplishments, the sweeping health law has changed in many other ways. Through rule changes, the Trump administration has made it easier for people to purchase plans that aren’t compliant with the Affordable Care Act, including association health plans and short-term limited duration plans, and Congress recently zeroed out the federal health-care law’s penalty for individuals who fail to purchase health insurance, effectively eliminating it.
“Well, the administration came in and said they’re going to repeal and replace,” he said. “And they repealed or dismantled most of it, or a lot of it, but they certainly haven’t replaced it.”
The result, he said, is that tens of thousands of people are facing more uncertainty in their health-care decisions, potentially less coverage and higher costs to get insurance.
“I’d like to see the ACA put back together the way it was,” he said. “It needed fixes, but it was a good start.”
The economy and minimum wage
Koble said he supports increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024. He said that although the economic recovery has created more jobs, Nevada still faces serious challenges around wage growth.
“Look at the price of rent, look at the price of health care,” Koble said. “Everything is going up. And wages haven’t been keeping pace with those cost of living increases, and that’s the concern for everybody.”
He said a proposed minimum wage increase could be phased in so that businesses could adjust gradually to the changes. The state’s current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and $8.25 per hour for employees who do not receive health benefits.
“There are companies that really believe that you can have business, labor, and the environment all survive and thrive together,” he said. “It just takes political courage to do that.”
Koble said he also supported policies pushed by Gov. Brian Sandoval’s administration to use tax incentives to attract companies to do business in the state. Koble, who has worked with companies through the Nevada Small Business Development Center, said it’s important that Nevada stay competitive with other states that lure businesses through similar incentives.
“I think anything can have tweaks, and maybe adjustments, but it’s worked well,” he said. “And the truth of the matter is almost every state does it. So, you have to be competitive.”
Immigration and a path to citizenship
Koble said he would push for comprehensive immigration reform and also support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have followed the law since they entered the country.
“I think as long as they’re law abiding and have been law abiding people in this country, yes [on a pathway to citizenship],” he said. “We’ve allowed them to be here. They’re paying taxes. They’re obeying the law. They’re raising families. They’re sending their kids to school. Their kids are graduating from college. So, I think we need to provide a pathway.”
Koble, who criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their families at the border, said that comprehensive immigration reform needed to include a border security component. He emphasized the need to address personnel issues among border patrol agents, including high turnover rates. He also said that new technology could help to secure the border.
“I think my biggest disappointment is that we’ve talked about comprehensive immigration reform for decades, and it hasn’t been done,” he said. “We just keep kicking the can down the road. And we really need to come together and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
Washoe County Public Lands Bill
For months, Washoe County has been looking at federal legislation, modeled after past efforts in Clark County, to redesignate federal land within the county and potentially allow developers to purchase some areas of public land for development. The legislation, which would require a sponsor from the federal delegation, has been criticized by a number of groups, including some conservationists who argue that it doesn’t do enough to protect federally-managed public land.
“I don’t agree with the Washoe County Public Lands Bill as it is on its face,” Koble said, arguing that it threatens wilderness and other public land. “I think it needs a lot of work.”
Koble also pushed back on another argument for the bill — that opening more public land to developers, such as homebuilders, will make residential housing more affordable.
“I think that to make housing more affordable, we should look a little bit more at in-fill rather than do subdivisions further out,” he said. “It costs more to provide services further away to get from the core of the city.”
Sage grouse conservation plans
The 2nd Congressional District spans most of rural Nevada, where federal policies often play an outsized role in affecting natural resource economies and range management. One recent issue involved protections for the Greater sage-grouse, an imperiled bird that could be listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2020, a designation that would harm many rural economies.
Under the Obama administration in 2015, a bipartisan group of Western governors, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, collaborated on creating statewide conservation plans to prevent the bird from being listed for at least five years. But those plans, which put some restrictions on how federal land could be used and developed, have been controversial, often coming into conflict with ranching and mining activities. Some of the original rules on mining have been struck down in court and other elements of the plan are being amended by the Trump administration.
Koble said he was familiar with the sage grouse plan, given his work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and said the compromise gave different groups “time to assess more.”
In the past year, more than 1 million acres of land have burned in the 2nd Congressional District as a result of extreme wildfires. Because many wildland fires burn on public land, the federal government plays a key role in responding to preventing fires that affect the district.
Koble said he would address the issue by asking what the underlying drivers were for more extreme wildfire behavior. Climate change, Koble said, bears some responsibility for more intense blazes, as warmer temperatures and less precipitation leave land more susceptible to burn.
“I think we have to assess what’s causing fires of this magnitude,” he said. And I think a lot of that is partially due to climate change, and I think we have to accept and embrace that. And knowing that then, I think we have to sit down and decide how are we going to adjust to that. I think we have to adjust to our environment and our climate rather than ignore it.”
Scientific studies have also suggested that, in addition to changing weather patterns, wildfires are burning with more intensity because more fuel — dry brush and invasive species — has been left on the range due to management practices, such as fire suppression. Koble said he thought federal land managers should look for ways to improve range management. Some ranchers have proposed eliminating excess fuel by creating more flexible grazing rules.
“I’ve seen the effects of overgrazing,” Koble said. “I’ve seen the effects of not grazing enough, and leaving so much fuel out there that once a range land fire gets going, it’s really hard to suppress it. So, we need a better balance.”
Public land transfers
In recent years, there has been a push to transfer federally-managed public lands to state agencies or local governments. Koble said he opposes the wholesale transfer of public lands. There are certain cases where a small public transfer might be appropriate, he said. One example he gave was if a municipality wanted a specific amount of acreage to expand an airport. But in general, Koble said he opposes efforts to transfer federal public land.
“I personally believe public lands should stay public,” he said.
He said the state didn’t have the resources to manage millions of acres of more land.
“We’re having difficulty funding our schools,” he said. “Imagine taking over another 52 million acres of public lands and providing management, and fire suppression, and all those things.”
On his website, Koble said that he supports adding more renewable energy to the grid and backs Question 6, a ballot measure that would increase Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030. But he wrote that he opposes Question 3, a separate ballot measure to end NV Energy’s monopoly on providing energy to residents and businesses. The effort would create a competitive energy market in Nevada and allow other companies to provide power.
“Question 3 would hurt average Nevada ratepayers and should not go forward,” his website says.
Koble said he is “totally” opposed to efforts to revive the nuclear waste repository that would be sited at Yucca Mountain, about 90 miles outside of Las Vegas. He said that he would push the United States to look for nuclear recycling opportunities as a way to reduce the need for Yucca.
“I’m totally opposed to Yucca Mountain and the repository in the state of Nevada,” he said. “Again, if you’re going to put people first, listen to the governor, listen to the people in the state, and they’re going to tell you they’re against it.”