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Fiore versus Kess for Republican nod for treasurer

Both Republican primary candidates vying to unseat incumbent state Treasurer Zach Conine tout their business acumen. One is an experienced elected official and well-known politician, while the other is running for the first time after what he said were failed pandemic-related policies.

“The biggest difference is that my opponent is a career politician and I am not,” said Manny Kess said about his rival, Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore. “We keep electing the same people and getting the same results.”

Fiore jumped in the race after initially declaring she’d run for governor. In a statement released in March, Fiore said, “After a recent conversation with President Trump’s team, I have decided that now is the vital time to focus on our economy. I am running for Nevada State Treasurer.”

“I had a choice: I could either run for re-election with the council, or run for a different office,” she said in a recent interview. “I think it’s time to explore other avenues to help Nevada.”

The Nevada treasurer is the government’s chief financial officer tasked with maintaining the state’s funds and budget by investing and paying its bills. The treasurer, who manages about 45 financial professionals, handles college savings, and manages the state’s unclaimed property.

Michelle Fiore

“We need a conservative…a fiscal conservative in the treasurer’s office,” Fiore said.

She said she has been in finance for 35 years, including a decade as a lawmaker. She served two terms in the Nevada Assembly and is in her fifth year as a Las Vegas councilwoman.

One of her first tasks on hand would be to audit “every account.” She would increase access to the college savings accounts, and would establish “innovative” strategies to collaborate with different groups, such as veterans, she said.

She notes her own experience as a mother, who established college savings accounts for her daughters when they were children, so that they would not be riddled with student debt.

Fiore is under scrutiny by the FBI, which raided her Las Vegas home that January 2021. In a tweet, she described the federal agency as “forever bothering Italians.” No charges have been filed against her thus far.

In 2019, a Review-Journal investigation found that Fiore had a history of unreported tax and business problems. She denied wrongdoing. And she’s also faced criticism from the Clark County Republican Party for alleged racially charged remarks she made at a county convention, although Fiore denied saying anything wrong and has called for the release of a video of her remarks at the event.

Financial filings show Fiore’s campaign raised about $100,000 last quarter and had nearly $36,000 in her coffers as of April 15.

Manny Kess

The pandemic gave Kess flashbacks of the 2008 economic crisis, which he blames for the shuttering of his restaurant in New York two years later and an eventual bankruptcy.

While the government bailed out large companies, he said, “they did nothing for the regular small-business owner.”

Kess, founder of hospitality company The Kess Group, said those “missteps” taught him “valuable lessons” he would bring to the office.

Under his tenure, the treasurer’s office would be more transparent and accountable, he said. “None of us know where our money is being spent, our tax money, and how it’s being spent.”

As a manager, he would be a capable leader to the financial professionals who work in the office, he said. “What you need as a state treasurer is somebody who can maximize those employees, to get the most out of them, and utilize that knowledge and experience to do what’s best for the constituent.”

He would also promote the $940 million in unclaimed property the office manages.

“It’s their money sitting in an account waiting on them to collect it,” he said.

Kess raised about $125,000 last quarter, and his campaign had nearly $516,000 in his coffers as of April 15.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.

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