LAS VEGAS — Rival state attorney general candidates Ross Miller and Adam Laxalt traded accusations, talked up their prosecutorial experience and defended their records during a debate taped Friday for airing on public television across the state.
Miller, a Democrat and former prosecutor in Las Vegas, declared himself the more qualified candidate after two terms enforcing state election law as Secretary of State.
“He has not even practiced law long enough in this state to legally run for judge,” Miller said of Laxalt. “He’s running to become the state’s top attorney.”
Laxalt, a Republican former Navy judge advocate general lawyer who served in Iraq and moved to Las Vegas three years ago, repeatedly pointed to his endorsements from sheriffs around the state and Gov. Brian Sandoval.
“I’m coming out the military. I’m not owned by any special interests,” Laxalt said.
He repeated criticisms leveled in campaign ads that Miller accepted more than $70,000 in gifts ranging from tickets to entertainment to educational seminars during a five-year period.
“What do these people want from you?” Laxalt asked.
Miller, who hinted several times at “dark money” backing for Laxalt’s campaign, responded that thoroughly disclosing gifts showed his effort to make government transparent to voters who will decide which candidate should serve a four-year term as the state’s top law enforcement officer.
“I’ve gone above and beyond in putting that out there so the public can gauge for themselves,” he said. “There is no conflict.”
The questions by moderators Steve Sebelius and Elizabeth Thompson ranged from gay marriage to opinions about legalizing marijuana to threats posed by con artists scamming the elderly to whether state, local and university employees serving elected office in the Legislature poses a conflict of interest.
Laxalt said he views marriage as “one man, one woman.”
Miller said he agreed with a federal court ruling striking down a 2002 state constitutional amendment that prohibited gay marriage.
Both said they would enforce state marriage law as it stands now.
Laxalt denied Miller’s claim that he had friendly ties with southern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, whose supporters faced off with armed federal agents in April to end a Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy cattle grazing on federal land.
Miller denied Laxalt’s claim that he or Democratic supporters stole or were behind the leak of a Las Vegas law firm’s performance review that described Laxalt’s work as sloppy and him as a “train wreck.”
Asked by Thompson to air proof of Miller’s involvement, Laxalt called the documents as “false misrepresentations.”
“If my opponent had anything to do with that or knew anything about that, of course that’s a question for you guys to ask,” Laxalt said.” I haven’t insinuated that.”
The debate, airing at 8 p.m. Friday on PBS stations in Nevada, was the second in the campaign. No more are scheduled.
It came amid reports that the more than $1.5 million Miller and Laxalt have spent on TV advertising is more than other statewide campaign ahead of the Nov. 4 election.
The nonprofit Center for Public Integrity reported this week that Laxalt’s campaign and two Republican organizations have bought $844,000 in TV time, while Miller has spent $690,000 on campaign commercials.