CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Democrats and Nevada representatives for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney both enlisted business owners Monday, trying to paint President Barack Obama and the former Massachusetts governor as either a friend or foe of small business.
The only clear message to come out of dueling conference calls with reporters is that Nevada's small business owners are just as divided and partisan as the rest of the nation over how to jump start the nation's economy — and who is best qualified to lead that effort from the White House.
"This administration has been pushing policies that have been hostile to the creation of jobs," Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said in a call arranged by the Romney campaign. Krolicki is co-chairman of Romney's campaign in Nevada.
To make the point, Debbie Somers, owner of Somers Furniture in Las Vegas, said her 23-year-old company survived the economic downturn after 9-11, but now feels abandoned by Obama's policies that she said have forced her to cut her workforce to scrape by.
"I was part of the Obama campaign for small business," she said.
Somers said she now feels abandoned by the administration and blamed the president's health care law and high energy prices for stifling her business.
Somers Furniture off the Las Strip was the backdrop for a Romney campaign stop last week.
Tim Wulf, owner of Jimmy John Gourmet Sandwiches in Reno, estimated the health care law has cost him $80,000 to provide insurance for his workers.
"We need a president who's pro-business ... who's not apologetic of his success in business," Wulf said.
A few hours after the Romney campaign conference call, the state Democratic Party held one of their own, featuring two small business owners who touted Obama's economic policies and health care reforms soon to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Roberta Lange, state Democratic Party chairwoman, said Obama recognizes "that America's small businesses are the backbone of our communities and our economic security," and touted the administration's tax breaks for small businesses and access to Small Business Administration loans.
Bryce Krausman, owner of DW Bistro in Las Vegas, said a $1,000 tax credit for each new employee was "a huge incentive."
"It's put Nevada back to work but also gave us an opportunity to grow," he said, adding that the restaurant is looking to open a second location in the downtown area.
"I'm on this call to give one message," said Ron Nelsen, owner of Pioneer Overhead Doors in Las Vegas. "Nevada cannot afford Mitt Romney economics."
He said the health care law has "positively affected my business," allowing him to supply insurance coverage for his employees.
"My health care costs did not go up this year," he said, adding that he fears if the law is struck down, "we're back to square one."
Sandra Chereb can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SandraChereb