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Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani wants to be the next governor of Nevada.
She’s a Democrat who served 16 years in the Nevada State Legislature. She ran for and was elected to the commission 12 years ago. She faces a tough primary in June against fellow County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.
She is considered to be a progressive liberal with a long history of community service.
Giunchigliani, or Chris G. as she is often called, told KNPR's State of Nevada that education and fixing the state funding formula for education is her top priority.
She said that Nevada's per-pupil funding is way below the national average and if elected, she plans on getting lawmakers from across the state to help fix the state's structural funding problems.
“I have the working relationships," she said, "I have the ability to bring those people together. I will work across the aisle with Republicans as well because the same problem is across this entire state.”
She also noted that the reason companies choose to come to a state is not really about tax credits and incentives, like those used to lure Tesla's gigafactory to Northern Nevada, but quality education.
She would also like to focus on providing help to small and medium-sized businesses in Nevada rather than just large corporation like Tesla.
“My economic development package is about moms and pops," she said "It’s about growing Nevada businesses, making sure they have the support”
Giunchigliani would like to streamline processes for regulations and taxes that small businesses have to go through. But she also wants to give help to businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans, and handicapped people to make sure government contracts are open to them and they're getting all the help they need to succeed.
The longtime politician has been at odds in this election cycle with some union leaders, which have supported her in the past. The reason is the $750 million in public money being directed to the Raiders Stadium.
Giunchigilani is opposed to the idea of giving the money to the stadium when the state has so many other needs, especially when it comes to education and mental health services.
She told KNPR's State of Nevada that she hopes the rank and file of the unions understand her position and know that she votes her conscious.
“We have to plan for economic development that benefits working men and women in the long term not just a three year period where we bubble and then we drop down again,” she said.
Besides supporting education funding and better economic development, the county commissioner would like to see serious funding to fix the state's ailing mental health system.
She said it is a matter of cost and compassion.
“Mental health is absolutely critical," she said, "We cannot afford to house them in jail and in prison. We have to make that investment”
Giunchigliani said transitional housing and problems at group homes both need to be addressed, along with more mental health professionals and a streamlined licensing process.
She said the money to fix the problems won't be hard to find if everyone wants to make that effort and she believes people do because so many lives have been impacted by the problem.
As far as other issues before the state, Giunchigliani said she believed in universal access to health care, would fight any effort by the federal government to interfere with the legalized marijuana industry and believed in universal background checks for guns and stricter controls for assault-style rifles.
Giunchigliani also addressed the controversy surrounding her late husband Gary Gray. A report by the Reno Gazette-Journal earlier this year outlined campaign payments she made to Gray during a campaign several years ago that coincided with the pair buying a house.
Giunchigliani defended the payments. She said she paid her husband about the same has Steve Sisolak paid him for campaign services several years ago.
She said Gray used the money to pay vendors - not line their pockets.
“No one should ever challenge our ethics," she said, "I have never, ever used campaign money for personal gain in any way, shape or form.”
She said they used a loan to buy the house and had a mortgage on the property.
She doesn't want the controversy to distract from her goal of winning the Democratic primary. Giunchigliani said she has the expertise and the relationships to be effective in Carson City.
“I don’t need this job, I want this job,” she said.
Giunchigliani said she has already accomplished a lot in state and local government but there is more she wants to get done.
Chris Giunchigliani, candidate for governor