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A GUIDE TO THE CONGRESSIONAL RACES: NEVADA

5 minute read
TIME

NEVADA

Population (1994): 1,457,000 (up 21.2% from 1990), 0.6% of U.S. total

Voting-age population: 1,088,000; 1994 turnout, 35%

Median age: 33.3 years

Median household income: $35,871 ($3,607 above U.S. median)

Unemployment: 4.6% (1% below U.S. average, March 1996)

Last presidential election: Clinton (D): 37% Bush (R): 35% Perot (I): 26%

Congressional delegation: Two Democrats, two Republicans

Though it may be Perot country, Mother Nature did little to draw people to this desert valley, providing almost no water and no arable land. But when people began to scratch below the surface, they discovered there was a reason to move to Nevada: silver. Miners came in the mid-1800s, and visions of a different kind of silver drew even more speculators when casinos began to open in the 1960s. Nevada is traditionally Democratic, but an influx of newcomers in the 1980s has given Republicans a foothold here. But however inhospitable the Sagebrush State may be to farmers (and moderates), Democrats see the Second District’s open seat as fertile ground.

BOB COFFIN (D) District 1 (South–Las Vegas)

BORN: Oct. 7, 1942, Anaheim, Calif. EDUCATION: U of Nevada at Las Vegas, B.S., 1969 FAMILY: Wife, Mary Hausch; three children RELIGION: Roman Catholic MILITARY: Army Reserve, 1962 OCCUPATION: Insurance executive; bookstore owner POLITICAL CAREER: Nevada Assembly, 1983-87; Nevada Senate, 1987- ADDRESS: 1222 South Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas 89104. Tel.: 702-366-9696

An antique-book collector who has served in the state Senate since 1987, Coffin showed his independent streak by casting one of the few votes against a proposed 300% pension increase for state legislators in 1989. Though the 1990 redistricting should have helped Democrats, Coffin has lagged far behind Republican incumbent John Ensign in fund raising.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense YES Abortion NO Guns NO Gays YES Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare YES Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “They always try to blame the Democrats for the taxes. But how do you keep the schools open, the roads paved and cops on the street without money?”

JOHN ENSIGN (R) District 1

BORN: March 25, 1958, Roseville, Calif. EDUCATION: Oregon State U, B.S., 1981; Colorado State U, D.V.M., 1985 FAMILY: Wife, Darlene; two children RELIGION: Christian MILITARY: None OCCUPATION: Veterinarian; casino manager POLITICAL CAREER: U.S. House, 1994- ADDRESS: 4012 South Rainbow Boulevard, Suite K 611, Las Vegas 89103. Tel.: 702-870-3113

Ensign has one of the largest war chests of any House freshman. Nearly 20% of his contributions came from the gaming industry, which the former casino manager has defended from his coveted Ways and Means seat. In June Ensign led a rank-and-file G.O.P. effort to convince party leaders to remove Medicare from welfare-reform proposals, a move that helped win Clinton’s signature on the controversial welfare bill.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare YES Defense NO Abortion YES Guns NO Gays NO Bosnia YES NAFTA NO Welfare YES Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “People who understand politics understand why it’s important for a small state to have somebody on a committee like Ways and Means.”

JIM GIBBONS (R) District 2 (Reno, the “Cow Counties” and part of Clark County)

BORN: Dec. 16, 1944, Sparks EDUCATION: U of Nevada at Reno, B.S., 1967, M.S., 1973; Southwestern U, J.D., 1979 FAMILY: Wife, Dawn; three children RELIGION: Protestant MILITARY: Air Force, 1967-71; Nevada Air National Guard, 1975-95 OCCUPATION: Airline pilot; lawyer; mining-company owner; geologist POLITICAL CAREER: Nevada Assembly, 1989-95; Republican nominee for Governor, 1994 ADDRESS: P.O. Box 12938, Reno 89510. Tel.: 702-825-5800

Gibbons, a six-year veteran of the state Assembly, aims to keep this open seat in g.o.p. hands. His gubernatorial bid, along with the anti-tax initiative he sponsored for this year’s ballot, give him good name recognition. A decorated military pilot, Gibbons also says he’ll be tougher on criminals and will support the funding of locally run charter schools.

THE ISSUES

Budget YES Medicare YES Defense YES Abortion YES Guns NO Gays NO Bosnia YES NAFTA NO Welfare YES Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: [On a proposed nuclear-waste dump site] “Nevadans do not want their children to glow in the dark.”

THOMAS WILSON (D) District 2

BORN: April 15, 1935, San Francisco EDUCATION: Stanford U, B.A., 1957; Georgetown U, J.D., 1961 FAMILY: Divorced; five children RELIGION: NR MILITARY: Army, 1957-58 OCCUPATION: Lawyer POLITICAL CAREER: Nevada Senate, 1971-87 ADDRESS: 290 South Arlington, Patio Suite, Reno 89509. Tel.: 702-324-5577

“Spike” Wilson, a 16-year veteran of the state Senate, surprised the political community by accepting his party’s request to run for Congress after a decade of refusals. He asked opponent Jim Gibbons to join him in debates and weekly news conferences, then blasted Gibbons for sending a press representative to answer reporters’ questions instead of attending in person. A former Nevada Ethics Commission chair, Wilson has proposed eliminating congressional ethics committees because of partisanship.

THE ISSUES

Budget NO Medicare NO Defense YES Abortion NO Guns YES Gays YES Bosnia NO NAFTA NO Welfare YES Medical Leave YES (For an explanation of these issues, see the front of this guide.)

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I never have been a party groupie. I’ve always been driven by the issues.”

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