CARSON CITY – A televised debate today between the two candidates for the state Senate seat in district 9 in Las Vegas - viewed as critical by both major parties – got off to a rocky start for Democrat Justin Jones.
The debate between Jones and Republican candidate Mari Nakashima St. Martin on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face program started with questions posed to Jones, an attorney, in relation to his representation of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. in a wrongful termination case.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported that Jones did not correct another Sands attorney who said in a Clark County District Court hearing that no one could view a series of emails outside Macau that were sought in the case. This statement was determined to be inaccurate and the Sands was fined $25,000 for “intention to deceive the court.”
Asked about the matter, Jones said he could not comment specifically because of attorney-client privilege, but that he has always acted honorably as an attorney in court matters. He is no longer involved in the case.
“The order from Judge (Elizabeth) Gonzalez speaks for itself,” he said. “I hope you have had a chance to look that over. I hope my opponent has also. I’m not mentioned in the order at all. And I think that I’ve acted honorably throughout that case and all of my cases.”
St. Martin is using the issue in her race.
“I think it is absolutely an issue,” she said. “I think that, you know, Justin says that he was willing to do this for a client, but he will probably have those same clients when he goes to Carson City. You know, we’re a citizen Legislature and so, he’s willing to do that in his professional career; how do we know that; you know, if he is willing to walk into a courtroom with the intention to deceive, how do we know he’s not going door-to-door with that same intention to deceive.
“The voters need someone they can trust,” St. Martin said.
Jones said: “I’m proud of my legal career. I’ve done a lot of good work in my career over the last 10 years both as a lawyer but also in the community and I think that shows. I fulfilled my obligations, Jon, and I always have.”
He called the claims “slanderous attacks” and said St. Martin was the focus of personal attacks by her GOP primary opponent and is now using the same tactics.
Jones said the attacks in St. Martin’s mail pieces are untrue, but St. Martin said the information is taken directly from the judge’s order and columns in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The Senate 9 seat is one of five in play in the state Senate, where Democrats now hold an 11-10 edge. Republicans are seeking to win four of the five seats to take control of the Senate for the 2013 legislative session.
The district, open because of the resignation of Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, has a Democratic voter edge of 39.9 percent to 34.3 percent for the GOP as of the end of August. Since then Democrats have been out registering Republicans in Clark County as a whole.
Other issues raised in the debate included a statement by St. Martin that more needs to be done to eliminate waste in state government.
Asked to name instances of waste, St. Martin said she would seek to sunset state agencies every six years or so to force them to justify their existence.
“I think that is a great way to look internally at how we can root out waste, fraud, abuse,” she said. “Why shouldn’t we do an internal audit of our own state government.”
An example of waste is the current cumbersome process of finding who is receiving Medicaid but who also has private insurance, St. Martin said.
Jones said it would cost more money to sunset and eliminate organizations that have lost their purpose than to just leave them in existence and on the books.
Another issue discussed was the foreclosure crisis.
Jones said on his website he will crack down on illegal foreclosure activity.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress but there’s a long way to go,” he said.
St. Martin said voters want someone they can trust, and that Jones has represented banks as an attorney.
Senate 9 candidate Justin Jones says he acted honorably in the Sands case:
Candidate Mari St. Martin says the issue raises questions about Jones’ suitability for the job: