Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, one of a handful of Republicans running for his party’s presidential nomination, made a quick two-day campaign swing to Carson City, Fallon and Reno prior to another Republican debate Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
Huckabee, who finished fourth in the 2008 caucus in the Silver State, took on a wide range of subjects at each venue on Sunday and Monday, discussing both state and local topics.
James Smack, Nevada’s assistant controller, said the Huckabee campaign came to him not too long ago for possible support in promoting the candidacy.
“I love his answers he gave to me,” Smack said. “He spent 10 and a half years as governor of a state about the size of Nevada.”
Smack said Huckabee favors cutting taxes and balancing budgets.
“These are things I look for in our next president of the United States,” Smack added.
A familiar topic centered on the federal government’s control of land, especially in the western states. Huckabee said at the Fallon Convention Center Congress should transfer much of the land to the states because the federal government is not managing a vast amount of property.
“Twenty-four percent of the land in America is owned by the federal government,” Huckabee explained. “There is no reason for the government to own that amount of land.”
Later, Huckabee said the government would be more suited to manage the national parks and monuments and military, yet he said state governments should not have to provide the policing and infrastructure for those lands under Washington’s jurisdiction.
Huckabee weighed in on the sage-grouse habitat and said states must have more say in the lands for which they are responsible including fire protection and use management. He also said Nevada and its residents must have the final say in whether or not the Yucca Mountain repository is used for nuclear waste.
“So the next president should make sure that whatever concerns Nevada residents have are those that are mediated. They can’t be imposed on them,” said Huckabee, who is familiar with a U.S. Army installation in Pine Bluff, Ark., that stores nerve gas.
Another topic in which Nevadans are interested is veterans’ health care, which Huckabee calls “a moral outrage.”
“We breathe free air because of them,” Huckabee said of the veterans. “They kept a promise to America to serve. This county has not kept its promise to those who sacrificed their lives and limbs to keep up safe and free.”
Huckabee said the only way Washington lawmakers will understand the plight of veterans is for the president, congressmen and their families to receive care from the Veterans Administration.
Huckabee, who has an approval rate placing him in the bottom tier of candidates vying for the Republican nomination, said elections are more than sound bites. He said voters, and especially Nevadans involved with the Feb. 23 caucus, must look at all the candidates and hear what they have to offer, not the empty words that come out of their mouths.
“A lot of people are falling in love with the candidates giving speeches,” he said.
Huckabee, who formerly had a popular weekend television program on the Fox News Channel, said his 10½ years as governor of Arkansas provided him with the executive experience needed to run the Untied States. When he first assumed office, Huckabee had to work with a Democrat majority in the state senate and house, but he touted his ability to work with the opposition to pass legislation. He also captured almost 50 percent of both the Afro-American and Hispanic vote.
As he has watched the plight of the country since he last campaigned for presidency in 2008, Huckabee is quick to let others know he doesn’t like the country’s direction.
“The Republicans really wanted to challenge Obama,” Huckabee said, “but nothing has happened. Obama has taken to us a new place … to the bottom.”
Huckabee said world affairs and the strength of the military has suffered as a result of Obama’s leadership. Huckabee said the Middle East has turned into a quagmire with the rise of the Islamic State and their quick movement to occupy parts of Syria and Iraq, and the former governor, who served as commander in chief of the Arkansas National Guard, said some military readiness equals that to the years before the start of World War II.
With the news that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s desertion case has been referred for trial by court-martial on Monday, Huckabee said the Obama administration erred in making a five-to-one prisoner swap with five Taliban prisoners for a soldier who took off from his post.
Huckabee said he would be in favor of a very thorough process that vetted Syrian refuges coming into the Untied States. He said ISIS has boasted that it can make passports and have its member infiltrate the groups as refugees.
After his comments in Fallon, attendees mingled with Huckabee for about 15 minutes asking more questions or having photographs taken with him.
Alicia Conliffe of Fallon, one of about 50 people who heard Huckabee, attended the event because she wanted to know more.
“I appreciated the governor shared and offered details on his platform in a clear and more personal manner, and it was nice to know of his plans for the office,” she said.