By Vernon Robison
Moapa Valley Progress
State Senate District 19 candidate Harley Kulkin sees himself as an outsider from the mainstream political process. He considers this a good thing as it allows him to think in a more independent way. Kulkin is listed on the ballot as the Democrat candidate. But his ideas are as independent as they come.
“I am a very non-partisan sort of guy,” Kulkin said in an interview last week with the Progress. “I am a Democrat, but the party hasn’t done anything for me because I’m an independent thinking kind of guy.”
Kulkin currently sits on the Pahrump Town Board which is an elected position. In the past he has also run for the Nye County Commission and for the Nevada State Assembly. Each time he has campaigned almost entirely as a self-funded candidate, he said.
“My belief is that most elections are bought and not won,” he said. “The fact is, if someone gives you $10,000 in campaign contributions, it is going to be hard for you to do something that they don’t like. For a regular guy like me, who doesn’t have a ton of money, in order to get into office you have to run a bunch of times before people start to know who you are and what you stand for. But there are no special interests involved.”
When it comes to spending, Kulkin says he is very conservative. At the age of 65, he lives a conservative, no-frills lifestyle.
Kulkin was born in Los Angeles, California. He joined the military right out of high school and served four years active duty between 1969-1973, 26 months in Vietnam.
When he got home, Kulkin went to work for the federal government as an air conditioning/ heating contractor for the military. He worked at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, China Lake Naval Weapons Center and later at the Veteran’s Hospital in Reno, Nevada.
He has lived the past 18 years in Pahrump, Nevada where he has twenty acres and lives in a home that he built himself. He owns and operates his own AC/heating business called Servco.
“I learned many years ago that success is not a dollar amount,” Kulkin said. “Rather if you live well within your means then you will be happy. I think the same principles should apply to the state government.”
But Kulkin is more progressive in his views of the role of government.
“I believe that the government has an obligation to provide a future for people,” he said. “That means it should assist in trying to bring jobs and so on.”
Kulkin said that he did not sign the ‘No New Taxes’ pledge because he thinks it was nothing more than a political con game.
“To say: ‘Yeah, I won’t raise taxes on anybody’; well anybody includes big business,” Kulkin said. “Personally I don’t believe that big gaming and mining pays their fair share in Nevada.
“They are making big profits, exploiting the Nevada workforce,” Kulkin continues. “But we still end up being number one in foreclosures and unemployment and bankruptcy. We end up being 50th in the nation in education and healthcare. So they are leaving us high and dry while they are doing great.”
Kulkin believes that the legislature needs to look into imposing a tax on mining and gaming which would go directly to the state’s struggling education system.
Kulkin said that his opponents believe that the education system can be fixed through tightening budgets and restructuring the system. But he believes that more funding is needed.
“This state has done pretty well on the resources it has been given,” he said speaking of education. “There are some improvements that could be made, yes. But the real improvements have to be about the money. There just isn’t enough money coming into this state anymore.”
The real, long-term answer to the state’s budgetary problems has to be diversification of the state’s economy, Kulkin said. He claims that the state budget is currently 37.4% short. The reason for this, he said, is that the Nevada economy is dependent on gaming and growth.
“Gaming has slowed with the economy and growth in Nevada has come to a standstill,” Kulkin said. “So the state’s supply of money has been cut short. If you couple that with the fact that Nevada is not business friendly and has made no efforts to attract other industries here, well you have a serious problem.”
Kulkin says he would look outside of the box to find ways of diversifying the state’s economy.
A specific way to do that is by becoming more accepting of the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility.
“With the state’s budget shortfall, to have an anti-Yucca Mountain stance; well, I don’t understand that at all,” Kulkin said. “That project would bring a tremendous amount of good quality paid jobs to the state and a lot of money coming in as well.”
Another project that Kulkin would push for is a high speed rail line from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. He believes that the rail line should connect all the way down to the L.A. International Airport.
“I don’t know why we keeping talking about it and don’t jump in a do something,” Kulkin said.
Kulkin observed that California has been looking at putting in a 15 mile subway line in the L.A. area for $7 billion. “The bullet train from Las Vegas would only be $5 billion. I think that Nevada should be partnering up with California and cutting the cost in half. I think that in that arrangement we should let California keep the ticket money and we should keep the money out of all the tourists’ wallets.”
In travelling around the sprawling District 19, Kulkin says he has observed a multitude of challenges experienced by different communities. He said it will be difficult for a State Senator to meet all of those challenges.
He points out that Eureka County, which he says has less than 2000 people, is flush with cash because of all of the mining revenue coming from that county. But nearby Elko county is where much of the mining workforce resides. And Elko county has much less revenues to work with.
“It is a double edged sword,” Kulkin said. “They have good paychecks coming in. But they have social problems like alcohol and drug problems. And there is not enough money to deal with it because the other county gets the mining tax.”
“Of course, those problems are completely different from those we face here in southern Nevada,” he continued. “Here we are just trying to survive and keep our jobs.”
Kulkin says that the answers to all of these problems is to get the state’s economy back on solid footing.
“The state needs to get back on the right track and become financially solvent, which it is not now,” Kulkin said. “That will take somebody in office who knows how to work with people, give and take and come to an agreement. And I don’t think that either one of my opponents have the skills to do it.”