(AP) — Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt urged fellow Republicans in Reno on Thursday to rally around his gubernatorial campaign as the best way to fend off what he described as overzealous, California-style regulations that would undermine Nevada's conservative principles and future economic growth.
Among other things, Laxalt said he opposes sanctuary cities, co-ed school bathrooms for transgender students and any attempt to erode Second Amendment gun rights.
He also repeated his vow to repeal the state commerce tax on businesses that outgoing GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval pushed through the Legislature in 2015. He said he hasn't yet decided how to offset what would be the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue but pledged there would be no cuts in overall education spending if he's elected.
Laxalt played to anti-California sentiments held by many conservative Nevadans before taking questions from about a dozen of the 50 people who attended a hotel-casino luncheon Thursday sponsored by the Republican Men's Club of Northern Nevada. His chief opponent for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, is scheduled to address the group May 31.
"Do you think it should be a crime in a restaurant to give you a straw when you're trying to have a drink? How about cancer warnings on your coffee?" Laxalt asked at the beginning of his opening remarks. "These are things we're seeing (proposed) in our neighbor California. These are the things I'm willing to fight against so Nevada does not become like California."
Laxalt, who has frequently been at odds with the more moderate Sandoval and been criticized for failing to make himself more available at public campaign events, said requiring photo identification to vote makes common sense and that creating sanctuary cities immune from U.S. immigration laws "will make our state less safe."
"There are dangerous felons that are in our system. We need to try to work with the federal government to get these people out of our state for good," he said. "I will absolutely veto any attempt ... to make Nevada a sanctuary state."
Laxalt, the grandson of former U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt, said he anticipates continued attacks from his opponents about his support for the repeal of the commerce tax. Sandoval has said that repealing the tax on gross business revenues of more than $4 million a year would strip $390 million from public education budgets every two years.
Laxalt said the leading Democrats seeking their party's gubernatorial nomination — Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani — have tried to seize on that in an attempt to misrepresent his own intentions to make education a priority if he's elected.
"The other side has been saying if I support the repeal of the commerce tax, I want to defund education. That is not accurate," Laxalt said.
"I'll ask many in this room to fight back against that false attack in the coming months," he said at the $25-a-plate fundraiser for the local GOP group. "I have pledged I won't reduce education funding if elected governor. In fact, if we have the opportunity, if we have revenue in this state, I will increase education funding."
In response to a question from the audience, Laxalt said that mandating transgender bathrooms in schools is "an overcorrection that will be costly and not necessarily bring results."
"We have a lot of anti-discrimination laws on the books, including anti-bullying. I think there are proper ways to make sure all children have a safe and respectful education," he said.