The Republican gubernatorial hopeful said Thursday that a brief, unscheduled question-and-answer session with his Democratic rival at a luncheon takes care of the first of four debates his campaign had agreed to "in principle."
"We had a debate in Las Vegas yesterday, so there are three left," Sandoval spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner told the Associated Press in an e-mail.
Sandoval and Rory Reid were scheduled to give separate speeches Wednesday to a group of contractors in Las Vegas when Reid invited Sandoval to the lectern to take questions, side by side.
Sandoval's campaign said the three questions fielded satisfied one-fourth of his debate commitment.
"It sounds to me like Brian Sandoval is crying because he finally had to answer some questions in public yesterday," Reid spokesman Mike Trask said Thursday. "We considered it an opportunity to do what people have been asking us to do, answer questions about ... the short- and long-term future of this state."
Between questions on education, Nevada's public retirement system and construction jobs, the candidates traded barbs during the joint appearance. Sandoval at one point bristled at Reid's accusation that he was "grandstanding," and later told reporters he was "the only candidate in this race to have a plan."
He termed the public exchange a "pseudo-debate."
The Reid and Sandoval are scheduled to talk about education in a statewide televised debate Aug. 29 in Las Vegas.
A poll conducted in late July for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and KLAS-TV showed Sandoval leading Reid by a 50 percent to 31 percent margin.
Sandoval resigned as a federal judge last September to run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, and defeated incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons in the June primary.