- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Two candidates running for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional district disagreed on most issues during a debate Thursday, except for one, the importance of the future Interstate 11 link between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Republican Rep. Joe Heck and Democratic challenger Erin Bilbray split on a wide range of issues during the debate held at Vegas PBS studios, set to air Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Bilbray often brought up her history as a third generation Nevadan. She’s the daughter of former Nevada Congressman James Bilbray.

Heck mentioned his military background, experience as an emergency room physician and reminded voters of his middle class upbringing.

Even on Interstate 11, the two clashed on what was or wasn’t being done to move the transportation project forward.

Bilbray often pointed to Congressional inaction whether it was for transportation funding or immigration reforms and said her opponent wasn’t helping, accusing him of saying one thing in southern Nevada and doing another in Washington, D.C.

“Congress is broken and it needs to be fixed,” she said in her opening remarks.

Heck countered, mentioning bills he ushered through, and committees he’s involved in (House Armed Services Committee and House Select Committee on Intelligence) and in at least one case, blamed the Senate for delays.

“I know what it takes to keep our country safe,” he said of his experience.

Questions from moderators Steve Sebelius and Elizabeth Thompson spanned a variety of issues including immigration legislation and what each thought of the country’s response to threats from the Islamic State group.

Asked how she might have voted in September when President Barack Obama proposed a plan for responding to the Islamic State group threat in Iraq and Syria by training and equipping rebels there, Bilbray at first deferred since she wouldn’t have the same information at her disposal as a current House representative.

“It’s hard to make a decision about that in an absence of data,” she said. She said it wasn’t clear who the United States might, in the end, be arming.

Heck, who voted against Obama’s strategy, said he had misgivings about arming “moderate Syrian rebels” without knowing more about them.

As for dealing with the militant group, Heck said the United States needs to lead and may in fact need to put “boots on the ground” if it keeps allies such as Jordan and Israel safe.

Bilbray said she would be very reluctant to authorize sending troops to fight IS on the ground, unless necessary, saying the U.S. didn’t have the military resources necessary.

The two also diverged on immigration reform.

Bilbray criticized Heck and Congress for not taking action, saying the votes to pass it existed.

Heck said the legislation does not have the votes. He also said he disagreed with House Speaker John Boehner for not bringing the issue to a vote sooner. He said he has supported the approach the House has taken for proposals for reform to be introduced piece by piece versus a massive, unwieldy bill. He said he still believes in securing the borders, mandatory E-Verify identity checks, reuniting families and working on Dream Act legislation.

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