The race to fill the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Sen. Harry Reid offers voters a marked contrast in candidates, especially rural voters.
Reid has handpicked former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to be his Democratic heir apparent, while Republicans have nominated Congressman Joe Heck, an emergency room physician by profession and a brigadier general in the Army Reserve.
The issue of what to do about federal public lands alone finds the two candidates pegged on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Rep. Heck argues that far too much of Nevada ? more than 86 percent ? is controlled by federal government land agencies, which restrict productive uses.
?I believe that the best stewards of our precious lands are the people closest to it, who understand Nevada?s Western way of life, not bureaucrats in Washington,? Heck says on his website. ?I opposed the president?s recent unilateral, executive land grab designating the Basin and Range Monument because it went well beyond the intention of the Antiquities Act and it did not have the support of local residents. I also cosponsored legislation called the Nevada Land Sovereignty Act of 2015, which prevents the president from taking executive action designating or expanding national monuments without Congressional approval or local support.?
In Congress, Heck boasts that he has fought to stop the listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species because of how it would harm the state?s economy.
?As your Senator, I will fight to transfer more of our public lands back to our state so that Nevadans can decide how to best utilize the land,? the congressman says.
In sharp contrast, Cortez Masto is cut from the same cloth as Reid, who applauded the president?s unilateral designation of Basin and Range Monument and has generally opposed handing over greater control of public lands to the state.
She has said on her website, ?I will fight to ensure that future generations are able to experience the incredible natural resources Nevada has to offer, just like I did,? meaning leaving it in the hands of federal bureaucrats who have failed to manage the range to prevent wildfire and have failed to control the overpopulation of feral horses that are starving from overgrazing and jeopardizing other wildlife as well.
She also embraces Reid?s blind allegiance to the not-ready-for-free-market green energy acolytes.
?As U.S. senator, I will work to ensure we are fully utilizing Nevada?s abundance of wind, solar, and geothermal energy resources and increase investments in renewable energy technology to create green jobs here in Nevada,? she says. ?I will also work to preserve and protect Nevada?s incredible public lands ? a unique, valuable resource in Nevada that creates thousands of jobs and brings in millions of dollars into our state?s economy every year. We must safeguard our natural resources and stop big oil from receiving unnecessary tax subsidies? ? unlike subsidies for green energy?
When it comes to ObamaCare and its skyrocketing premiums and deductibles and disappearing providers, Heck has already worked to pass legislation that would exempt residents of counties that have only one ObamaCare provider from the requirement to pay a tax penalty if they fail to maintain minimum health coverage under the so-called Affordable Care Act. Ten rural Nevada counties this next year will have only one provider.
?As an emergency department physician, one of the reasons I ran for Congress was the passage of the disastrous Affordable Care Act,? Heck says ?The law has failed to meet its stated goals of increasing access to healthcare and reducing costs. Recent events suggest the law is having the opposite effect. Major insurers are leaving the exchanges and others are predicting significant premium hikes for their customers, making it anything but affordable.?
For her part, as attorney general, Cortez Masto refused then-Gov. Jim Gibbons? directive to file suit to challenge the ObamaCare law, even though she was required to do so by state law ? a dereliction of duty.
Heck recently voted to delay an Obama administration Labor Department rule that would vastly increase the number of workers who would have to be paid overtime and thus cripple many small businesses and result in job losses.
Meanwhile, Cortez Masto is advocating that Congress should raise the minimum wage, another job crushing move.
When it comes to the Second Amendment, Heck has an ?A? rating from the National Rifle Association, while the NRA has spent $1 million on ads opposing Cortez Masto.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.