UPDATE: After secretary of state walks back opinion on state party fundraising, assemblyman elected chair

Update 4:42 p.m.: Democratic Assemblyman William McCurdy was elected chair of the Nevada State Democratic Party on Saturday.

McCurdy received 138 votes for party chair, slightly more than 52 percent of the 264 central committee members and closely avoiding a run-off.

Rural Democratic activist Kimi Cole received 69 votes, former Assembly candidate Owen Carver received 52 votes for party chair and Matthew Buehler received five votes.


Update 2:50 p.m.: Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske issued the following statement on Saturday "clarifying" her position taken in the letter sent to the Nevada Republican Party on Friday.

Cegavske said that the blackout period would apply only to the individual lawmaker, not the party committee as a whole if a sitting member of the Legislature was named chair of the state party.

"In the hypothetical situation where the chair of a political committee is a person subject to the fundraising restriction found in NRS 294A.300, it is the person who is prohibited from soliciting or accepting contributions for any political purpose on behalf of the committee," she wrote.

You can read her full statement here.


Assemblyman Will McCurdy would be unable to raise money for the state Democratic Party during the legislative session if he is elected chairman on Saturday, according to an opinion from the Republican secretary of state.

McCurdy, a freshman assemblyman who has been endorsed by most of the state’s political Democratic establishmentincluding three members of Congress, would be prohibited from fundraising for the party due to the same blackout rules lawmakers face during the 120-day session, the secretary of state found on the eve of the election.

In a response to a query sent Friday by the Nevada Republican Party, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske said that the state blackout on fundraising also applied to political groups or parties with active state lawmakers as their head.

“After consulting with legal counsel, it is the opinion of the Secretary of State that the fundraising prohibition found in NRS 294A.300 applies to any political organization or committee, including a political party committee, if the leader of the organization is a person subject to the blackout period,” Cegavske wrote. “The prohibition, which applies to soliciting or accepting monetary contributions for any political purpose, is broad.”

Nevada law prohibits legislators, the governor and lieutenant governor from soliciting or accepting monetary contributions or “a commitment to make such a contribution for any political purpose” during, as well as 30 days before and after, a 120-day legislative session.

In a statement, McCurdy accused Cegavske of interfering in the party chair election and called the Republican "ethically-challenged."

"This opinion is an unsupportable intrusion by an ethically-challenged Republican Secretary of State," he said. "Nothing justifies meddling in our party chair election at the explicit request of the Nevada Republican Party. One of my top priorities as Chair will be helping Democrats restore integrity to the Secretary of State's office by beating Barbara Cegavske in 2018."

In an earlier email to Nevada Independent editor Jon Ralston, McCurdy said that he looked into the issue before he decided to run and promised not to raise certain federal funds for the party during the session.

“A sizable proportion of the state party’s fundraising each cycle falls into the federal category,” he wrote last week. “Even though it’s perfectly within the bounds of the law to raise federal funds for the state party, if I’m elected Chair I’ve committed to not raise any federal money during the blackout period from lobbyists or corporations with business before the legislature.”

In a statement sent Saturday morning, McCurdy said his fundraising plan was still in place.

"I have a plan to make raising money for the party a community effort by creating a more robust small-dollar fundraising program, forming a Finance Council with local leaders and working closely with our elected officials in Congress."

Bradley Schrager, an attorney with the state Democratic party, said in an email the letter wouldn't "last 15 minutes in court."

"The part of the opinion of the Secretary of State regarding parties is not just wrong, it's incoherent," he said in an email. "Political hit jobs masquerading as official opinions usually are."

The prohibition on donations would only apply to funds given to the state party, and McCurdy could presumably direct donations to the party’s federal account during the 120-day session. But federal and state Democratic party campaign accounts are often closely intertwined, with both accounts going to pay portions of staff salary and other expenses.

The state Democratic Party reported bringing in more than $132,000 in donations and transfers during the 2015 blackout period, while the federal branch reported receiving more than $204,000 over the same time period.

McCurdy is facing off against former Assembly candidate Owen Carver, rural Democratic activist Kimi Cole and Matthew Buehler in the election for state party chair, which is decided by about 350 members of the state party’s central committee.

Barbara Cegavske letter:

SoS on McCurdy by Riley Snyder on Scribd

Nevada Republican Party/Greg Bailor letter

NVGOP Letter to NVSOS 3-3-2017 by Riley Snyder on Scribd

Megan Messerly contributed to this story.

9:15 a.m. - This story has been updated to include statements from Will McCurdy and Bradley Schrager.

2:50 p.m. - This story has been updated to include a new statement sent by Barbara Cegavske.

5:00 a.m., 3/6/17 -- This story has been updated to fix a typo in Matthew Buehler's vote total.