Republican Senate leader brings conservative critic on staff ahead of session

It is said there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics. This may explain why the CEO of an organization that regularly and scathingly criticized Republican Senate Leader Michael Roberson  is being hired to work in Roberson’s office during the Legislature.

Longtime Nevada Republican operative Dan Burdish, a former state party chair and past policy advisor for Republican Assembly members Michele Fiore and Ed Goedhart, is joining Roberson’s staff next week as a legislative assistant. Burdish is also the CEO of Citizen Outreach, a conservative nonprofit group that has savaged Roberson over the years for what it has characterized as his  “moderate” positions, including backing a historic tax hike in the 2015 Legislature.

The hiring suggests a thawing of tensions between Roberson and more conservative elements of the Republican Party ahead of the 2017 legislative session.

Despite being named the organization's “Conservative Rookie of the Year” in 2011, Roberson has become a favorite target of the group, which has since christened him “Tax Hike Mike” and said he and other Republicans who voted to raise taxes “should be locked in a stock on the public square where taxpayers can pelt them with tomatoes.”

The group also endorsed three of Roberson’s opponents in the 2016 Republican congressional primary saying, “All three are credible. All three are viable. And all three AREN’T Michael Roberson!”

Burdish emphasized in an interview that he was hired through the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Counsel Bureau and that his new role would entail “absolutely nothing partisan.”

“I’m more of a policy guy than I am opposed to a specific person,” Burdish said. “I like Mike, I liked him when he first ran, and I like him today. He and I had cordial relationships even as Chuck (Muth) was beating the heck out of him.”

Muth, a conservative firebrand who wrote multiple scorching columns walloping Roberson over the past two years, said he and the Republican senator met up on Thursday to officially “bury the hatchet” and agree to work together during the session.

“There’s no more open hostility between us,” he said. “He’s a professional and I’m a professional and we understand how politics works. To the extent that we were able to sit down and air our differences and acknowledge what has happened in the past is in the past, knowing that it is better for the two of us to work together this session, especially on this ESA issue, that’s better for the people of Nevada and better for the conservative movement.”

Roberson did not return texts seeking comment.

Muth called Burdish a “tremendous addition” and a “really, really good watchdog” for any legislator. He’ll work alongside Senate Republican caucus director Jeremy Hughes, who ran Roberson’s unsuccessful congressional campaign and was Marco Rubio’s Nevada state director.

Burdish has a lengthy history in Nevada Republican politics. He was an advisor to former state senator Sue Lowden on her unsuccessful bids for U.S. Senate and lieutenant governor, and helped out on Danny Tarkanian’s unsuccessful congressional bid in 2006 .

The temporary position pays a daily rate of $160.12 and runs through the 120-day legislative session.

The parent company of The Nevada Independent, Nevada News Bureau (NNB), was a media project of Citizen Outreach from October 2009 through July 2010. Our managing editor, Elizabeth Thompson, was the editor of NNB. She also performed other work for CItizen Outreach in 2008 and 2009. Thompson parted ways with Citizen Outreach as of August 2010, when she sought independent nonprofit status for what is now Nevada News Bureau, Inc. You can read more about Nevada News Bureau here.