After close to a year on the ground, Democratic presidential campaigns enter home stretch as Nevada’s caucus nears

Democratic presidential candidates appear on stage with Harry Reid

With less than six weeks until Nevada’s Democratic presidential caucus, campaigns are kicking into high gear on the ground here in the Silver State, the third in the country to host its presidential nominating contest.

By the time Feb. 22 rolls around, several candidates will have been campaigning for a full year and some of their staffers on the ground will have been here nearly as long. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s team landed earliest in Nevada, in January 2019, and she was one of the first candidates to visit the state. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has built up, by far, the largest staff on the ground in the last year, with a team double the size of those assembled by his closest competitors.

At the same time, former Vice President Joe Biden has maintained an edge in the polls here, while former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been looking to introduce himself to voters and make inroads with Nevada’s communities of color as he tries to grow his support here to match what he has seen in Iowa. 

Then there are the rest of the candidates who have invested time and money in Nevada — billionaire Tom Steyer, who has spent millions on television ads in the state that may have earned him a recent and sudden surge in the race; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, whose mom lives here and who has been the most frequent visitor to the state; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is ramping up in Nevada as she has been gaining support elsewhere; tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who has a moderately sized staff and has invested some time here; and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who has one staffer stationed here despite his late entry into the race.

Four other candidates have visited the state less frequently or skipped it altogether and have not yet placed staff on the ground here.

Read on for a look at how candidates have been campaigning in the Silver State over the last year and how it could position them for a possible victory here.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event inside Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant in Las Vegas on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Joe Biden

The former vice president is no stranger to Nevada. Not only was he a familiar presence on the campaign trail in 2008 and 2012 as Barack Obama’s running mate, the 77-year-old Democratic presidential hopeful has been campaigning in the state for decades.

“The first Nevada Democrat I ever campaigned for, I was a 31 or 32 year old kid, and I came out to campaign for a guy named Harry Reid,” Biden told a packed room at the Nevada State Democratic Party’s First In The West event at the Bellagio in November.

That familiarity has buoyed Biden — at least so far — in the Silver State. Recent polls have shown the former vice president with anywhere from a 6- to 10-point lead in the state over his Democratic opponents. He also leads, by far, in prominent endorsements here, with the support of Rep. Dina Titus, state Sen. Yvanna Cancela (now a senior adviser on the campaign), Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, Assemblywoman Susie Martinez, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, former Gov. Bob Miller, former Rep. Jim Bilbray, and former Rep. Shelley Berkley.

While his campaign didn’t officially announce its first hires here until May — he only officially launched his campaign in April — he’s since built up a team of about 50 people here, a similar sized operation to two of the other top-tier campaigns. The campaign has six offices in the Silver State, including one that just opened in Carson City.

Biden’s first visit of the campaign to the state was also in May. The former vice president hosted a rally at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 159 in Henderson. He has since made eight more trips to the state, including, most recently, campaign stops in Sparks and Las Vegas this weekend. He also has toured the Techren Solar Project near Boulder City and spoken at a town hall hosted by the politically powerful Culinary Union. He is also one of two candidates still in the race to have campaigned in Elko.

The former vice president has run two ads in the state, backed by the campaign’s $6 million buy across the four early nominating states. Both have contrasted Biden’s vision for the future of the United States against President Donald Trump’s.

While in Nevada, Biden has weighed in on a number of state-specific issues — but it hasn’t always gone smoothly for him. He received significant pushback from supporters of recreational marijuana when he said at a November town hall that his position against legalizing the drug hadn’t changed and that there “hasn’t been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not (marijuana) is a gateway drug.” Later that month, Biden told The Nevada Independent that he doesn’t believe marijuana is a gateway drug and that there is “no evidence I’ve seen that suggests that.”

Biden has also promised to hold the Department of Energy responsible for its actions on nuclear waste in Nevada, including shipments of high-level radioactive waste the state discovered last year that were supposed to be low-level waste, and repeatedly stressed his opposition to the construction of a long-term, high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

He said he believes that the federal Wire Act should only apply to sports betting, not to all forms of interstate gambling, as the Justice Department indicated in an opinion last year. He also opposes decriminalizing sex work nationally, though he has said he wouldn’t impinge on Nevada’s decision to allow prositution in certain jurisdictions.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a town hall at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Bernie Sanders

Sanders needs little introduction in Nevada, where he came in only about 5 percentage points behind Hillary Clinton in the state’s Democratic caucus in 2016. Four years ago, his campaign was scrappy, grassroots and insurgent — and it came together last minute. This time, Sanders started early, hiring a team of experienced political operatives who have worked to focus the grassroots enthusiasm for the Vermont senator to try to propel him to victory.

Since announcing his first Nevada hires at the end of March, Sanders has brought on more than 100 staffers in the Silver State, which puts his team at nearly double the size of other top-polling candidates. The campaign also has opened 10 offices, with at least three more slated to open in the near future.

The Vermont senator’s first rally of his 2020 campaign, at Morrell Park in Henderson back in March, drew a crowd of more than a thousand. Since then, he has made 10 trips to the state, during which he has spoken at the LGBTQ Center of Las Vegas, hosted an event at the Washoe Tribe’s Stewart Community Center and attended a town hall with Culinary Union members. He is one of two candidates still in the race to have visited Elko, hosting a town hall at Elko High School in December.

Despite concerns about how a heart attack he suffered in Las Vegas in October would affect his presidential campaign, Sanders has continued to keep an aggressive campaign schedule and has remained near the top in Nevada polls, trailing Biden by anywhere from 6- to 10-points.

Sanders has received a number of grassroots level endorsements, though his biggest high-profile endorsements have come from Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, a longtime Sanders supporter, and Clark County School District Board of Trustees President Lola Brooks. He has not yet run any television ads in the state.

The Vermont senator has also weighed in on a number of issues of particular relevance to Nevada during his campaign. Early on, his campaign released a video highlighting tribal opposition to storing high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a position Sanders also shares, and both he and his campaign have spent significant time and energy talking about Native American issues. He was also the first presidential candidate to come out against oil and gas drilling in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains.

Sanders has been less willing to take positions on some other niche issues affecting the state, demurring on the issue of sex work and declining to comment on a Justice Department opinion this year on online gambling. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to a crowd at a Las Vegas campaign rally on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. (Jeff Scheid//The Nevada Independent)

Elizabeth Warren

Warren, the senior senator from Massachusetts, probably wouldn’t even be running for president if it hadn’t been for a call from a Nevadan.

Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted to know if Warren, at the time a not very well known professor at Harvard Law, would join a new commission approved by Congress overseeing the Wall Street bailout. She said yes, and a month later found herself in Las Vegas chairing the first field hearing of the Congressional Oversight Panel. She went on to help set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, run for U.S. Senate, and now seek the office of president of the United States.

Warren’s first hires landed on the ground in Nevada in the spring, and her campaign now has about 50 staffers in the state and 10 offices. Her first trip to the state was in February to host a campaign rally at Springs Preserve, which was attended by about 500 people.

Since then, the Massachusetts senator has slowly climbed in the polls in Nevada, from 10 percent support in March to a high of 22 points at the end of October. Her average hovers in the high teens, behind Biden and Sanders.

Over the last year, Warren has traveled to the Silver State 10 times, marching in the Las Vegas Pride Parade in October, attending a “Westside Pride” Black Community Summit at Nevada Partners in November and participating in a town hall with Culinary Union members in December.

Warren’s top endorsers in the Silver State include Assemblyman Howard Watts, Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, Controller Catherine Byrne, DNC Committeeman Alex Goff and DNC Committeewoman Allison Stephens. She has not yet run any television ads in the state.

While in Nevada, Warren has promised that she would not fund the construction of a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain if elected president and expressed unease about the expansion of online gaming. She was also the first Democratic presidential hopeful to come out against the military’s proposed expansion into Nevada’s Desert National Wildlife Refuge, setting off a wave of similar declarations from other candidates.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, speaks during a campaign event at Madhouse Coffee in Las Vegas on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Pete Buttigieg

A latecomer to the state, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana has rapidly expanded his campaign operation since his first hire this summer and now has 55 staffers, making his the second largest staff only behind Sanders’. He also has 12 offices across the state, the most of any other presidential campaign here.

Buttigieg’s first trip to the state was on April 8, less than a week before officially launching his presidential campaign. The former South Bend mayor attended a meet and greet at Madhouse Coffee and a roundtable discussion at Veterans Village. From that first visit, Buttigieg has acknowledged that his path is “admittedly not a traditional way to get into presidential politics.” But, as he has gained traction in other early states and nationally, he has won over supporters here as well, polling in the high single digits.

In his nine trips to the state, Buttigieg has joined UAW members in a picket at the GM Reno Parts Distribution Center, toured a grow house and a dispensary, spoke at the Human Rights Campaign’s Las Vegas dinner and attended a roundtable at UMC, one day after the second anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting. He also was only one of two candidates to attend the Nevada State Democratic Party’s Keep Nevada Blue event in Reno, where he became the first candidate to officially file to participate in the caucus.

Buttigieg has been making a particular effort to reach out to communities of color in recent trips to the Silver State. In December, he attended an APIA town hall, a Latino community leaders roundtable, and a “black empowerment” conversation, where he faced tough questions. He also met with members of the powerful Culinary Union on Saturday.

Though the former South Bend mayor has received endorsements from a number of grassroots community leaders, he hasn’t secured much in the way of big-ticket supporters, with Wells Mayor Layla Walz and former state Sen. Patricia Farley two of his prominent endorsers.

In an effort to boost his name identification, Buttigieg went up with his first television ad in Nevada in December, a biographical spot highlighting his military service in Afghanistan and experience as mayor. He released a second TV ad last week focusing on his “Medicare for all who want it” health plan, a more conservative approach to the single-payer health care system some of his opponents favor.

While in Nevada, Buttigieg has made promises to not allocate funding to construct a high-level nuclear waste repository and said he would work to restore trust between Nevada and the Department of Energy. He hasn’t endorsed legalizing sex work nationaly, but said he wouldn’t as president stop Nevada from continuing to allow it.

Tom Steyer, center, founder of NextGen America, speaks during a panel discussion on immigration at the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Tom Steyer

Steyer, a billionaire who previously ran the progressive advocacy group NextGen, has taken a simple approach since launching his presidential campaign in July: Blanket the airwaves in the four early voting states with ads. He has spent $10.3 million on television and radio advertisements in Nevada, with an additional $270,000 booked, according to Politico.

Those ads have ranged from purely positive, biographical spots, in which Steyer introduces himself as a candidate, to contrast ads that have sought to position the billionaire as a viable alternative to President Donald Trump. He’s also run ads on a number of specific policy issues including climate change, the economy and term limits.

And those ads might just be working. A Fox News poll released Thursday showed Steyer surging to 12 percent support in Nevada, putting him 6 points ahead of Buttigieg, neck-and-neck with Warren, and only 5- and 11-points behind Sanders and Biden, respectively. That’s a significant leap from where Steyer was in the fall, when he was hovering in the mid to low single digits.

Steyer has visited the state six times since launching his campaign this summer. During those trips, he has joined UAW members in a picket at the GM Reno Parts Distribution Center and met with DREAMer moms. But he’s generally been a frequent visitor to the state as part of his work with NextGen and another group he founded, Need to Impeach. Since 2017, he has visited the state 13 times to host town halls, canvass kickoffs and other election-related events.

Steyer announced his first Nevada hire, state director Jocelyn Sida, at the end of August and his since hired 38 staffers and opened 4 offices, with more slated to open in the future. While he has received some community-level endorsements, Steyer has not yet received the support of any prominent Nevadans.

Steyer has taken a keen interest in Nevada issues, both prior to and during his candidacy. In 2018, he backed a ballot measure to put a requirement that Nevada raise its Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50 percent by 2030 into the state’s constitution, which passed with 59 percent support.

He opposes the construction of a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain and has said that he would like to see the pot industry regulated through a combination of state and federal regulations, similar to the liquor industry. He has not weighed in on the issue of online gambling across state lines.

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks during a rally at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 525 union hall in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Andrew Yang

Though one of the earliest candidates to announce back in 2017, Yang didn’t begin staffing up in Nevada until mid-August last year. He now has a small team of 16 staffers — and plans to get to 20 by the end of the month — with three field offices, two in Las Vegas and one in Reno.

Yang’s first rally in the state was at Springs Preserve on April 23, part of his nationwide Humanity First tour. He also attended a meet-and-greet with SEIU Local 1107 the following day. Since launching his campaign, he’s been to Nevada four times and held rallies at the Rio, the Clark County Library and Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 525, among other locations. He was one of two candidates to attend the progressive People’s Forum in October.

Yang has not received any top-tier endorsements in the Silver State, nor has he run any television ads.

He has, however, developed some policies out of his visits to Nevada. After he was asked why MMA fighters aren’t allowed to unionize, Yang released a plan specifically to help them. He also released a plan to federally regulate online poker in response to a question about why online poker is state regulated and only legal in some states. (Some of Yang’s top donors from Nevada are professional gamblers.)

At the People’s Forum, Yang received some blowback for saying that he doesn’t have a “terrific answer” on Yucca Mountain. However, he told The Nevada Independent that he believes nuclear waste is a “national problem” and “should not be saddled with the people here in Nevada.”

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks during a rally in Las Vegas on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Amy Klobuchar

Though she has been campaigning aggressively in Iowa — she just had 99 “day of action” events in each of the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties — Klobuchar has only recently begun to turn her attention to Nevada.

It’s not to say that she hasn’t visited the state. She has, both early and often. During her first visit to the state in early April, she hosted a meet-and-greet with voters, toured a local middle school and spoke at a labor conference. She was also one of the earliest candidates to visit Northern Nevada, attending a veterans roundtable at the Fox Brewpub in early May. This weekend she met with members of the Culinary Union, marking her 10th visit to the state.

But the Minnesota senator just started staffing up in Nevada, announcing her first two hires, a state director and political director, at the end of November. She has also opened a campaign headquarters in Las Vegas.

On the trail here, Klobuchar often talks about her friendships with the two women who represent Nevada in the U.S. Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, and peppers her speeches with other Nevada-specific references, talking often about Reid and electoral and legislative victories in the SIlver State. She has not received any major endorsements or run any television ads in Nevada.

Like many of her fellow Democratic presidential contenders, Klobuchar has stressed her opposition to building a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. She also supports legalizing marijuana.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, left, during the Boulder City parade on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Cory Booker

Booker, the junior U.S. senator from New Jersey, wants to win Nevada’s Feb. 22 caucus. Of course he wants to be president. But he also wants to win the state where his mom, Carolyn, has lived since 2013.

“We are doing what we believe we need to do to win Nevada,” Booker told the Independent in a podcast interview last month. “It is very personal to me, the state where my mom will caucus.”

Booker’s first memory of Las Vegas is from a cross-country road trip with his grandparents, who became one of the first families to buy into one of the Del Webb communities here. His parents moved to Las Vegas seven years ago, shortly before his father passed away.

Since launching his presidential campaign at the beginning of February, Booker has been to Nevada 11 times, more than any other Democratic presidential hopeful still in the race. His first campaign stop, on Feb. 24, was to Nevada Partners where he hosted a “Conversation with Cory” event.

Booker was also in Las Vegas for the 4th of July — cooking pancakes and marching in the 71st Annual Boulder City Damboree Parade — and Rep. Steven Horsford’s Labor Day barbecue at Craig Ranch Regional Park. He’s the only candidate to have toured a correctional center, Florence McClure, in Nevada and one of a handful of candidates to have met with the Douglas County Democrats in person at their office in Minden in April.

Of the smaller campaigns, Booker has one of the bigger staffs, with more than 20 paid, full-time staffers, including some who were hired as early as March. The campaign has two offices in Nevada, in Reno and Las Vegas, and is in the process of opening an additional Las Vegas office and securing other office space by the end of the month.

Booker has a few notable Nevada endorsers, including Assemblywoman Selena Torres, North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown and the Clark County Black Caucus. Torres had chosen former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro as her first pick, but realigned her support to Booker when Castro dropped out of the race.

The New Jersey senator released his first television ad in Nevada, as well as other markets across the nation, on the day of the December Democratic debate. In it, he made a pitch for his campaign, despite the fact that he did not qualify for the debate stage. Booker has been struggling in the polls in early states, including Nevada where he is hovering in the low single digits.

Booker supports decriminalizing marijuana nationwide and has said that he wants to help Nevada and other states that have already legalized marijuana on a state-by-state basis by passing legislation to increase marijuana businesses’ access to banks, allow veterans to access medical marijuana through the VA system and expunge pot convictions.

He supports online gambling and disagrees with the Justice Department opinion prohibiting all gambling across state lines. He favors decriminalizing sex work, though he believes the federal government should play a support role to the states and allow them to develop their own laws and regulations.

Booker has also promised not to fund a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain if elected president, calling it a “very personal” issue to him since his mom lives in the state.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, left, during a presidential campaign stop at Expertise Cosmetology Institute in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Deval Patrick

When Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts, launched his late-to-the-game candidacy in mid-November, his first official trip was to the Silver State.

“It’s a little strange to be in a hall where every other candidate but mine has a cheering section already organized,” Patrick said, to the few stragglers who had remained to hear him speak at the Nevada State Democratic Party’s First In The West event at the Bellagio.

During his second trip to the state in December, he toured Expertise Cosmetology Institute and the Vegas Roots Community Garden and grabbed lunch at Gritz Cafe, where he had to be introduced to patrons.

“This is Deval Patrick,” said William McCurdy, a political strategist and father of Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II. “He’s running for president of the United States.”

In December, Patrick brought on Matthew DeFalco as his state director. DeFalo, who worked on Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton’s presidential campaign earlier this year, is the sole member of Patrick’s team in Nevada, and the campaign does not have any offices in the state or prominent endorsements.

He has, however, begun to run television ads in an effort to introduce himself to voters in Nevada and the other three early states.

Other candidates

The four other Democratic presidential hopefuls remaining in the race have spent significantly less time and resources campaigning in the Silver State. None of the four candidates have staffers on the ground in Nevada.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet has made four trips to the state, participating in AFSCME’s 2020 Public Service Forum in August, swinging through Northern Nevada in August, speaking at the HLTH Conference in October and attending the state Democratic Party’s First In The West Event event in November.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard visited Nevada early, in March, to host a town hall at the Asian Cultural Center and attend a meet-and-greet luau at United Way of Southern Nevada. In May, she toured Veterans Village, and her last visit to the state was in August for the AFSCME forum.

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney has been to Nevada twice, for the AFSCME forum and the First In The West event.

Former New York City Michael Bloomberg has not visited the state and has said he is not campaigning in Nevada or any of the other three early voting states. He is also the only Democratic presidential hopeful whose name will not appear on Nevada’s presidential preference card.

Indy 2020: Biden leads in Nevada poll; Democratic hopefuls prepare to return to the Silver State

Your Nevada 2020 election newsletter. Please read, forward and subscribe.


Good morning, and welcome to Indy 2020, a biweekly newsletter focused on the 2020 presidential election in Nevada. A reminder that email subscribers get early access to this newsletter, so be sure to subscribe and tell your friends. It’ll be peachy.

There’s an image that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the last 24 or so hours, and that’s of former Vice President Joe Biden as Schrödinger’s cat. (Thanks to this Atlantic article by Edward-Isaac Dovere.)

It neatly puts a bow on some of the things I’ve been mulling over the last week: How Biden seems to be flailing in Iowa and New Hampshire but has a sizable lead (at least so far) in Nevada, according to our poll and another released by Emerson last week. How Nevada might not really be a battleground state if Biden wins, but maybe it could be if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren does. How with 102 days until Nevada’s caucus it seems like everything — Democratic candidates winning and losing, Trump winning and losing, Nevada being a battleground state and not — is at the same time happening and not happening inside that box.

The good news is that (eventually!) we get to open the box.

As always, a reminder to reach out to me with any tips, story ideas, comments, suggestions, and your favorite thought experiment — am I the only one still stuck on Maxwell’s demon (especially as it was used in The Crying of Lot 49)? — at megan@thenvindy.com.

Without further ado, a download of the recent 2020 happenings in Nevada.


TOP OF MIND

The Indy poll: I had many thoughts on our latest Indy Poll — most of which are summed up in this story and thread — but I’ll briefly note some of them here. The overall takeaway is that former Vice President Joe Biden leads Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 10 points in Nevada, though his backers reported being less strongly committed to him than Warren and Sanders supporters are to their candidates. Warren was also the top second choice candidate, with 21 percent support, followed by Sanders at 19 percent.

The caveat: Only 44 percent of respondents said they were certain of their first choice pick, with 55 percent saying they still might choose someone else.

Filing deadlines: It’s all good and well to be campaigning in the Silver State, but candidates still have to actually file with the Nevada State Democratic Party in order to participate in the caucus process. I’m told that only South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, billionaire Tom Steyer, Biden, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and Sanders have filed so far.

Candidates have until Jan. 1 to file, which means that it isn’t too late for a late bloomer(berg) to get into the race here. (For what it’s worth, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has indicated that he’ll skip the four early states, Nevada included, if he gets into the race.)

Sound and fury, signifying nothing: Last week, the Las Vegas City Council passed a controversial ordinance that makes sleeping or camping in downtown Las Vegas a misdemeanor crime, but not before several Democratic presidential hopefuls had a chance to weigh in with their opposition to the measure.

I noted in the last newsletter that Warren and Steyer had joined former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro in opposing the proposed ordinance. On Monday, two days before the hearing, they were joined by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker

The following day, Sanders joined in, with his campaign promising to use its email list to encourage its supporters to turn out to oppose the ordinance outside City Hall on Wednesday, soon followed by Biden, who tweeted that he was “proud to stand with folks in Las Vegas fighting against a proposed ordinance that effectively criminalizes homelessness” and Harris, who said “criminalizing homelessness is not the answer.” Castro also urged residents to call their city councilmembers.

Then, the morning of the vote, Buttigieg also came out against the ordinance with a statement: “Homelessness is a moral crisis that defies easy solutions, and the best way to address it is with smart investments in housing, supportive services, and health. I stand with members of the homeless community and advocates in opposing this ordinance."

But it was ultimately to no avail. The City Council passed the measure 5-2. (One of the “no” votes was Councilman Brian Knudsen, who backs Harris.) Warren, Castro and Sanders all came out right after the City Council’s vote, condemning it. Booker and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet criticized it the day after the vote.

The state of the #WeMatter state: Castro, appearing on MSNBC on Sunday, called for changing the order of the early nominating states.

“I actually believe that we do need to change the order of the states because I don’t believe that we’re the same country we were in 1972,” Castro said. “That’s when Iowa first held it’s caucus first, and by the time we have the next presidential election in 2024 it’ll have been more than 50 years since 1972.”

By my math, if Iowa is no longer first and New Hampshire is no longer second, that would leave a certain #WeMatter state with the first nominating contest in the nation.

Staffing up (and down): It’s been nearly two weeks since Harris’s campaign announced that it would be laying off or redeploying staff from headquarters, as well as New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa. But Nevada still hasn’t seen what New Hampshire has, with the campaign essentially halting all activity there.

I asked Harris while she was here over the weekend whether she still plans to redeploy staff from Nevada to Iowa. She gave me two non-answer answers.

“I care deeply about this state, I have worked closely with this state years before I ran and decided to run for president and I'll continue to focus resources on the state of Nevada,” Harris said, followed by, “I'm focused on Iowa, to be sure, there's no question. It's the first in the nation primary, and I'm all in on Iowa. I'm leaving Nevada to fly back to Iowa but Nevada is going to always be a priority for me.”

This comes as Castro has also announced that he is shifting his resources, with an increased focus in the coming weeks on Iowa, Nevada and Texas.

Ramping up before the first-in-the-West dinner: Buttigieg’s campaign here tells me that they plan to knock 10,000 doors as part of a weekend of action ahead of the Nevada State Democratic Party’s first-in-the-West event Sunday, where 13 Democratic hopefuls, including the South Bend mayor, will appear. (More on that below.)

Staffers and office count survey: I reached out to all the campaigns with a presence here to find out their latest staff and office census. Not all responded, but here’s what I got from those who did:

  • Biden: About 40 staff, with the campaign in the process of actively trying to hire more, and five offices.
  • Booker: About 20 staff, with plans to add more in the next few weeks, and two offices in Las Vegas and Reno.
  • Buttigieg: 46 staff, with plans to add more to the team over the next week, and 10 offices. (That includes six organizers full time in rural Nevada, and offices in Pahrump, Fallon and Elko.)
  • Castro: four staffers, and one office.
  • Harris: 26 staffers, and four offices.
  • Sanders: 72 staffers, and eight offices, with plans to open an Elko office soon.
  • Steyer: More than two dozen staffers and two offices.
  • Warren: More than 50 staffers, and nine offices.
  • Yang: 14 staffers, and two offices.

Michael Bennet was also here: The Colorado senator recently made his second trip to the state to speak at the HLTH Conference here in Las Vegas. “I’m running because I think I’ve got an agenda I think can not just unite Democrats but also win back some of the 9 million people who voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Donald Trump and that’s what it’s going to take to win purple states like Colorado and Nevada and Iowa and win not just the presidency but the Senate as well,” Bennet told CBS News’ Alex Tin outside of the conference.

Medicare for all delegates: Activist Christine Kramar, who was a Sanders national delegate from Nevada in 2016, has started a new PAC focused on electing delegates who support Medicare for all to the Democratic National Convention. It’s called the Medicare for All Delegates Network. (Thanks to my colleague, Riley Snyder, for spotting the FEC filing.)

Kramar told me the goal is to get half of the delegates elected from each state to support Medicare for all.

“The project is about beating the second ballot in the Presidential nomination process at the national convention,” Kramar said in a text. “We may end up helping to elect delegates from multiple Presidential candidates who become no longer bound to those candidates as all delegates are on the second ballot to unite around the candidate with the best Medicare for all plan.”

What she’s talking about here is if no candidate has enough delegates at the Democratic National Convention to clinch the nomination, all delegates that were bound at the state level become unbound and can support whichever candidate they want. The goal here would be that those candidate could pool their power to back a candidate who supports Medicare for all.


ON THE INDY

Nevada’s battleground status may depend on Biden: Republicans here in Nevada are gearing up for the general election. But several Republican operatives on the ground say that whether Nevada is actually in play may come down to whether the Democrats choose Biden as their nominee.

Harris campaigns with Culinary: The California senator was the first to be invited by the politically powerful Culinary Union to a town hall. There, she threaded the needle with her union-friendly Medicare-for-all plan.

Nevada still a battleground, DNC says: My colleague Humberto Sanchez was at a DNC briefing last week, where one party official said that Trump faces “historic headwinds” here. “There’s not a lot of evidence that he can successfully compete and win there,” he said.

Yang and Steyer join the pod: My colleague Jacob Solis sat down with tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang recently to talk about universal basic income and Yucca Mountain. I chatted last week with Steyer, who called Warren’s health care plan a “huge risk” and weighed in on contamination associated with the Anaconda Copper Mine.

Steyer stumps in Nevada: While in town last week, Steyer hosted a town hall in Henderson where he talked about health care and veterans. Indytern Shannon Miller was there.


CAMPAIGN NUGGETS

Staffing changes and office openings

  • Booker Campaign Manager Addisu Demissie opened the campaign’s Reno office on Oct. 29, in addition to participating in a housing clinic tour.
  • Warren opened a new office in Southwest Las Vegas on Nov. 2. (Former Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani was there and also to kick off the campaign’s weekend of action.) Her campaign also opened its Elko campaign office on Nov. 9, its eighth campaign office in the state, with plans to open a ninth in the near future.
  • Steyer opened his Nevada headquarters in person on Nov. 3. On Wednesday, his son, Sam Steyer, attended the grand opening of the campaign’s Reno office.

New endorsements

  • Warren was recently endorsed by Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles and Bob Fulkerson, founder of the Progressive Alliance of Nevada.
  • Team Buttigieg on Monday announced the formation of “Nevada Leaders and Military Communities for Pete,” a group of servicemembers, veterans, members of military families and others who are backing Buttigieg in Nevada.
  • As I first told you on Twitter, Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo — who plans to run for Nevada Supreme Court next year — will withdraw all of his endorsements, which include Biden, before the judicial filing period in January "in order to comply with judicial canons."

Upcoming candidate visits

  • Self-help author Marianne Williamson is in town through Wednesday. She’s scheduled to speak to residents of the Siena Retirement Community in Summerlin on Tuesday and host a meet-and-greet at UNLV on Wednesday.
  • Thirteen Democratic presidential hopefuls are slated to appear the Nevada State Democratic Party’s first-in-the-West event at the Bellagio on Friday night. Those who will attend are Bennet, Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sanders, former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, Steyer, Warren and Yang.
  • Biden has announced that he will also be in Las Vegas on Saturday and Elko on Sunday before the event. The former vice president will also be back in Nevada on Dec. 10 and 11.

Surrogate stops

  • Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz was in town on Oct. 29.
  • Biden campaign co-chair Rep. Cedric Richmond, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, attended the Washoe Dems Virginia Demmler Honor Roll dinner in Reno on Nov. 6. The following day, he met with local community members and officials in Las Vegas.
  • Sam Steyer also attended the Virginia Demmler Honor Roll dinner.
  • Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Pete Buttigieg, was in Nevada on Nov. 2, kicking off a canvass in Southwest Las Vegas, meeting with organizers and touring Positively Kids — a nonprofit that focuses on meeting the needs of medically fragile kids and developmentally delayed children — with Assemblywomen Michelle Gorelow and Shea Backus.
  • Several surrogates traveled to Elko on Saturday for the Elko County Democratic Party’s Roosevelt/Kennedy Dinner, including Carolyn Booker, mother of Cory Booker; Valerie Biden Owens, Joe Biden’s sister and longtime political advisor; and Doug Emhoff, Harris’s husband.
  • Carolyn Booker also hosted a meet and greet in Winnemucca on Saturday, as well as a breakfast in Elko and a meet and greet at the campaign’s Reno office on Sunday.
  • Emhoff also made stops in Winnemucca and West Wendover while in northeastern Nevada.
  • Second Lady Karen Pence will be in Las Vegas on Thursday for a Latinos for Trump event at the East Las Vegas Community Center.

Other election news

  • The Nevada State Democratic Party opened its first field office in the Historic West Side on Oct. 29. The opening was attended by Assemblyman Will McCurdy, the party’s chair.
  • The party also hosted a weekend of action over the weekend, with caucus trainings in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City. The party also plans to host veterans-centered training at Veterans Village on Nov. 13 and a women-to-women phone bank at a party field office.
  • Sanders’ campaign announced that it is “rapidly approaching” 2 million attempted voter contacts in the state.
  • Warren’s team hosted an afternoon tea service event called “Putting the Tea in Persist” with a conversation with leaders of the arts, entrepreneurial, and nonprofit communities. The campaign plans to hold a community information and listening session with Assemblyman Howard Watts, who has endorsed Warren, at Pearson Community Center today focused on issues that impact the Black community.
  • Buttigieg’s campaign plans to hold volunteer summits on Nov. 22 in Las Vegas and Dec. 6 in Reno, with the goal of training of hundreds of volunteers.

DOWN BALLOT NEWS

Reshuffling on the Board of Regents: Clark County Regent Trevor Hayes won’t run for re-election to Board of Regents, Indytern Shannon Miller reports.

Supreme Court changes: Shannon also reports that Associate Chief Justice Kristina Pickering will seek re-election in 2020, while Chief Justice Mark Gibbons will not.

Independent redistricting commission:  The League of Women Voters is pushing for a ballot initiative that would create an independent redistricting commission to combat partisan gerrymandering, my colleague Riley Snyder reports.

Ranked choice voting for state Senate: Riley also talked to a teacher in rural Nevada who is proposing a measure to amend the Nevada Constitution by substantially overhauling the structure of state Senate elections and including elements of ranked choice voting.

SOS to CCC: Former Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller, who lost a high-profile bid for attorney general in 2014, will run for Clark County Commission, Shannon reports.


OTHER REQUIRED READING

Indy 2020: Democratic presidential hopefuls try to out-Nevada each other on controversial 287(g) program, homeless ordinance

People wave green cards at a presidential forum

Your Nevada 2020 election newsletter. Please read, forward and subscribe.


Good morning, and welcome to Indy 2020, a biweekly newsletter focused on the 2020 presidential election in Nevada. A reminder that email subscribers get early access to this newsletter, so be sure to subscribe and tell your friends. It’ll be peachy.

There are 97 days until the Iowa caucus, 116 days until Nevada’s first-in-the-West caucus, and 258 days until the start of the Democratic National Convention, where the winner takes it all.

Until then, the Democratic presidential hopefuls are continuing to voyage out west asking Nevadans voulez-vous support their campaigns in the hope that the state’s Feb. 22 caucus won’t be their Waterloo. The Super Trouper beams were trained over the last two weeks here on South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro — who has continued to ask Nevadans to take a chance on him despite sending out an SOS last week. (Sorry, Fernando, one non-ABBA song link with more details on that here.)

At least 12 candidates will ask Nevada Democrats to lay all their love on them when they return to the state on Nov. 17 for the state party’s First in the West dinner. (“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” would be a little demanding, honestly.)

But it really won’t all be said and done until the general election, which is a year from this Sunday. Until then, not a lot of sleep for political operatives or journalists. But that’s just the name of the game.

As always, a reminder to reach out to me with any tips, story ideas, comments, suggestions, and your favorite ABBA song (or just an eye roll emoji) at megan@thenvindy.com.

Without further ado, a download of the recent 2020 happenings in Nevada.


TOP OF MIND

Knowing me, knowing you: Eager to prove themselves to Nevadans, several Democratic presidential hopefuls have been weighing in on a number of Nevada-specific issues. In no particular order, they are:

The Las Vegas homeless ordinance: Following in the footsteps of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren came out last week against a proposed Las Vegas ordinance that would effectively criminalize homelessness. “We should be fighting back against measures that criminalize homelessness – not proposing ones that will only perpetuate it,” she said in a statement. “I strongly oppose this proposed ordinance, which caters to the interests of business groups rather than our families and our communities.” (Her campaign also gave a nod to Castro when releasing the statement, which earned plaudits from his team on Twitter.)

Two days later, billionaire Tom Steyer came out against the ordinance too. “It is immoral and counterproductive to criminalize homelessness. I stand in solidarity with those in Las Vegas who oppose a proposed ordinance that would make it illegal for homeless residents to encamp or sleep in certain areas of the city,” he said in a statement.

The 287(g) program: A few candidates weighed in last week on the announcement that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had decided to end its controversial 287(g) program with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agreement had allowed Las Vegas Metro police officers to carry out certain immigration-related functions.

Castro, in a tweet, lauded the “tireless advocacy” of the ACLU of Nevada, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and others. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders congratulated advocates. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg called having local law enforcement officers serve as immigration officials “just plain wrong” and applauded the police department for ending its 287(g) agreement. California Sen. Kamala Harris also praised the department’s decision, saying using local law enforcement to carry out immigration duties “erodes trust between law enforcement and those they serve.” (New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker tweeted about the issue one day later, saying that state and local law enforcement "should be focused on keeping their communities safe & pursuing serious threats.")

A proposed military expansion into Desert National Wildlife Refuge: I reported last week that Buttigieg was against the proposal, which would would remove nearly 300,000 acres from the largest wildlife refuge in the contiguous United States. But he officially addressed the subject while in town this week, promising to appoint an Interior secretary who “believes in protecting public lands, including the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.” (If you read that article, you’ll see the South Bend mayor peppered his speech at Battle Born Progress’s dinner with quite a few Nevada-specific details.)

Steyer also came out against the proposal on Monday. “It is imperative that Congress hear the voices of Nevadans and reject the proposal to expand the Nevada Test and Training Range,” Steyer said in a statement. “It is critical for our government to protect public lands that belong to the American people and refrain from policy decisions that could impact local communities.”

Others against it: Booker, Castro, Sanders and Warren.

The Anaconda Copper Mine: Castro weighed in on groundwater contamination issues related to the Anaconda Copper Mine near Yerington while discussing the issue of tribal consultation at a progressive forum over the weekend. Castro promised to require local governments to seek not just consultation but consent from tribes, including on future mining projects with the potential to contaminate local groundwater.

One candidate who struggled with Nevada-specific issues this weekend: tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang. While at the same progressive forum on Saturday, he struggled to answer a question on building a long-term, high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain and wasn’t familiar with the 287(g) program. (He did, however, tweet his support for online gaming over the weekend.)

Organizing in the Latino community: Harris is today announcing her “Latinos Para Kamala” committee here in Nevada. The committee will, according to early details I obtained, focus on recruiting new members, offering guidance on how to mobilize Nevada’s Latinx community, developing caucus education tools and participating in Latino-focused trainings. This comes on the heels of other Latino-focused outreach efforts by the campaign, including its Camp Kamala en Español program. Harris even made waves earlier this year when she offered headsets with real-time Spanish-language translation at a townhall in Las Vegas.

The steering committee includes previously announced Harris supporters, including Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui and Washoe County Recorder Kalie Work. Harris is also receiving a few new endorsements from the Latino community, including Rhina Moreno, president of Amigos Salvadoreños de Las Vegas, Saúl Guizar Galvan, president of Federación de Clubes Michoacanos Unidos de Nevada, and Latinx community leaders Fermin Ramirez and Maria Reyes.

But Harris isn’t the only one trying to make inroads within the Latino community, a key Democratic constituency in Nevada. Cristóbal Alex, former president of the Latino Victory Fund and a senior advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden, attended a Latinx community event at Biden’s East Las Vegas office last week to launch the campaign’s “Todos con Biden” program, and Sanders Latino Press Secretary Belén Sisa was in Las Vegas this weekend, attending a happy hour Saturday night at Hop Nuts.

Castro has also been heavily investing in direct outreach to the Latino community while visiting the state. When he was here two weekends ago, he toured Broadacres Marketplace, a gathering place for members of Las Vegas’ Latino community, who come to the open-air market for food, entertainment and shopping.

My colleague Luz Gray and I will be bringing you more coverage of Latino-focused outreach efforts soon, so stay tuned.

Update on Biden ad reservations: It’s still unclear exactly how big Biden’s pre-caucus TV ad reservations are. I told you in the last newsletter that KTNV was the only station in Las Vegas to have filed its paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission, showing a $14,275 buy. Only one more Las Vegas station has filed paperwork since then, KVCW, showing two $75 buys for one spot each on Feb. 14 and Feb. 21.

Nothing has changed on the Reno front either, with KRXI showing a $2,430 buy and KOLO showing a $23,755 buy. Will keep you updated as I learn more.


ON THE INDY

All quiet on the Labor front? Listening to presidential candidates talk about their myriad health care proposals as they came through Las Vegas, I noticed a common thread — lots of talk about how their proposals would help unions, whether they were pitching a single-payer Medicare for all plan or a public option. But the unions themselves here on the ground haven’t been that publicly vocal on the issue (even as it’s been raised in closed door discussions with presidential hopefuls.)

So, I called many of them up to ask their thoughts. Many of them — particularly those with their own health trusts — are opposed to or have significant concerns with Medicare for all. Others voiced openness to a single payer plan if it could somehow take into account the needs of unions or outright support it.

One interesting detail: The Culinary Union wouldn’t rule out endorsing a candidate who supports single-payer, but Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the union’s secretary treasurer, told me how hard it would be to sell a candidate like that to her union members. (Buttigieg, who favors a public option plan, met with the union while in town last week.) More from me here.

Money, money, money: Democratic presidential candidates received more than half a million dollars in itemized contributions from Nevadans in the third quarter. Biden raised the largest total sum, while Sanders received the most individual itemized donations. If you missed it, I would recommend exploring the graphic I put together that shows which candidate had the most individual donors in each zip code in the quarter.

Mayor Pete + me: I sat down with Buttigieg on our podcast this week to talk about Medicare for all, his relationship with Big Tech, and how he’s positioning himself in the 2020 race. Come for the politics, stay for me asking him his favorite movie with a Nevada scene and what casino game he’d be. Article here and direct link to the podcast here.

Steyer + me: The California billionaire and I also chatted on the phone recently about his debate performance and criticisms that his money would be better spent elsewhere helping Democrats.

Amodei blames ‘fake news’ for Trump campaign snub: Rep. Mark Amodei, the lone Republican member of Nevada’s congressional delegation, blamed a “fake news story from a few weeks ago” on why he was passed over as President Donald Trump’s Nevada campaign chair — a position he held in 2016. It is unclear which story Amodei was referring to, though he did come out in support of Congress exercising its oversight authority through the ongoing impeachment inquiry.


CAMPAIGN NUGGETS

Staffing changes and office openings

  • Harris’s campaign opened its North Las Vegas office on Friday — attended by former Assemblyman Gene Collins, who endorsed Harris this week — and its Henderson office on Monday with Harris supporters and state Sens. Melanie Scheible and Joyce Woodhouse. The campaign now has a total of four offices in the state.
  • Booker’s campaign is hosting its Reno office opening with Campaign Manager Addisu Demissie. This brings the campaign to a total of two offices in the state. (Demissie is also expected to take a walking motel tour in Reno and attend a roundtable discussion on housing and homelessness.)
  • Trump’s campaign opened its first Nevada office last week in Reno. Republican National Committee Co-Chair Tommy Hicks was there, as was Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, former Attorney General Adam Laxalt and other local elected officials.
  • Warren will open her seventh campaign office in the state in Southwest Las Vegas on Nov. 2 and her eighth office in Elko on Nov. 9. Former Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani will at the Southwest office opening, which will also kick off a weekend of action one year out from the general election. The campaign has plans to open a total of nine offices.

New endorsements

  • Warren was endorsed by Assemblyman Howard Watts on Friday.
  • In addition to Collins, Harris received several more endorsements last week, including from former Assemblyman Wendell Williams and North Tahoe Dems Chair Coralin Glerum.
  • Biden also announced “Nevada Educators for Biden,” which included a number of names of leaders who had already voiced support for the former vice president, including former Nevada State Education Association President Ruben Murillo, former Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich and Regent Sam Lieberman, among others.
  • Sanders released a list of 11 educators, health care workers and others supporting his campaign. 
  • For the latest on presidential candidate endorsements, check out our endorsement tracker.

Upcoming candidate visits

  • Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who has only been to Nevada once this cycle, is returning Wednesday to speak at a health care conference at the MGM Grand.
  • Steyer will be back in Nevada on Sunday to open his Nevada headquarters.
  • At least 12 Democratic hopefuls will attend the Nevada State Democratic Party’s First in the West event at the Bellagio on Nov. 17 — Bennet, Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Steyer, Warren, and Yang. (Biden has also announced that he will also be in town on Nov. 16 and Nov. 18.)
  • For all the details of upcoming presidential candidate visits, check out our candidate tracker.

Surrogate stops

  • Olympian Michelle Kwan returned to Las Vegas on Saturday to launch “AAPIs for Biden.”
  • Co-founder of the Dream Defenders Phillip Agnew was in Las Vegas on Monday for Sanders attending a panel discussion at Masterpiece Barber College. He’s also slated to attend a student-focused event at UNLV tonight.
  • Actor and comedian Cristela Alonzo is doing a standup show on Thursday (Halloween) benefitting Castro. It’ll be at Champagne’s.
  • Another attendee has RSVP’d to the Elko Democrats Roosevelt/Kennedy Dinner on Nov. 9 — Carolyn Booker, mother of Cory Booker. Doug Emhoff, Harris’s husband, will also be there as I reported last week.

Other election news

  • The Nevada State Democratic Party announced five additional early voting sites for the caucus last week. There are three in the south — at the Las Vegas Indian Center, Cheyenne High School and Steelworkers Local 4856 — and two in the north, at the Washoe Housing Authority and Hungry Valley Recreation Center.
  • Sanders recently launched a series of caucus education videos in English and Spanish. The videos include “the Basics,” “Early Voting” and “Caucus Day.”
  • O'Rourke's campaign plans to hold a weekend of action starting Nov. 3 to get out the vote for elections in the state of Virginia on Nov. 5.

DOWN BALLOT NEWS

The biennial legislative reshuffling: Five Assembly members are foregoing re-election bids and setting their sights on higher office. Three are running for state Senate, one is running for County Commission and one is running for a seat on the Nevada Supreme Court. All you need to know from Indyterns Shannon Miller and Mark Hernandez and my colleague Michelle Rindels here.

Laxalt beats Amodei in hypothetical head to head: As I mentioned above, it’s been tough sailing for Amodei after he came out in support of the process of the impeachment inquiry. Now, the conservative Club for Growth is out with a poll that shows Laxalt beating Amodei in a matchup by four percentage points. (Laxalt told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he’s not interested in Amodei’s seat.)

Money, money, money (part two): My colleague Jacob Solis and Indyterns Shannon Miller and Mark Hernandez break down the congressional campaign finance reports.


OTHER REQUIRED READING

Updated 10-29-19 at 11:17 a.m. to include details of a tweet from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker about the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department ending its 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Indy 2020: Candidates flock to Las Vegas for gun forum; Warren places seven-figure pre-caucus ad buy

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Your Nevada 2020 election newsletter. Please read, forward and subscribe.

Good morning, and welcome to Indy 2020, a biweekly newsletter focused on the 2020 presidential election in Nevada. A reminder that email subscribers get early access to this newsletter, so be sure to subscribe and tell your friends. It’ll be peachy.

The top 10 Democratic presidential contenders are preparing to return to Las Vegas on Wednesday for a presidential gun safety forum sponsored by the advocacy groups Giffords and March for Our Lives and hosted by MSNBC. It’ll be a somber occasion: Today is the two-year anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting, which killed 58 and injured more than 800. While in town, California Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will meet with nurses and first responders at UMC — the only Level 1 trauma center in the state — and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker will host a conversation on everyday gun violence with students. 

Not all events will be just focused on guns, though. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will attend a town hall on medical debt, Medicare-for-all and Social Security, and former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will host dueling rallies at the same time Wednesday night in Reno and Carson City, respectively. As always, the Indy will be there covering it all, so keep checking the website for updates.

Please reach out to me with any tips, story ideas, comments, suggestions, and your favorite xkcd comic at megan@thenvindy.com.

Without further ado, a download of the recent 2020 happenings in Nevada.

WHAT THE INDY IS WATCHING

Warren places seven-figure ad buy in Las Vegas: The Massachusetts senator has dropped nearly $1.2 million to reserve pre-caucus airtime in Las Vegas and Reno, according to an unaffiliated Democratic operative tracking the ad buy. ($864,000 of that is in Las Vegas, according to recently filed reports with the Federal Communications Commission.)

The buy — which runs from Jan. 27 to Caucus Day, Feb. 22. — comes as part of an overall $10 million-plus ad buy in early states announced by Warren’s campaign last week. (Thanks to my eagle-eyed colleague Riley Snyder for flagging that the FCC reports posted.)

Polls, polls, polls: A CNN poll over the weekend puts Biden and Sanders neck-and-neck in Nevada at 22 percent each, and Warren just behind them within the margin of error at 18 percent. Harris trails at 5 percent, with Buttigieg and billionaire Tom Steyer each at 4 percent. A Suffolk/RGJ survey from last week had only slightly different results, with Biden at 23 percent, Warren at 19 percent, Sanders at 14 percent, and Harris a distant 4 percent.

There’s a slight shuffling among the top three contenders, but what’s becoming clear is this: Support is consolidating around Biden, Warren and Sanders, which will only make it increasingly more difficult for Harris, Buttigieg or any of the lower-tier candidates to gain ground not just in the Silver State but nationwide — even with robust campaign operations.

The blue firewall in Clark County grows: Statewide voter registration totals for September will post soon here, but numbers out of Clark County show that Democrats have a 134,000-person lead over Republicans, and nonpartisans and other third-party registrants are only behind the GOP by a little less than 4,000. We’ll see how the new statewide totals shake out, but by the end of August, Democrats had a 73,392-person, or 4.6 percentage point, lead over Republicans statewide.

For comparison, Democrats had a 5.1 percentage point advantage over Republicans when the red wave of 2014 swept the state — and many Democrats didn’t turn out to the polls. During the blue waves of 2016 and 2018, Democrats had a 6.1 percentage point and a 4.8 percentage point lead over Republicans, respectively. The tl;dr — voter registration numbers matter, but you also have to get those voters to the polls.

Our freelancer Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez also took a look at efforts on the ground to register historically underrepresented groups on National Voter Registration Day.

Biden on impeachment: Biden returned to Las Vegas on Friday and attended his first public event since the House launched its impeachment inquiry. At the event, Biden said that President Donald Trump violated his oath of office, put at risk national security and “abused” the power of the presidency and taxpayer dollars. Biden said it was  “not surprising” that he had become “the object of [Trump’s] attention” but that his job is to “make sure above all else we beat Donald Trump.” He also attended an evening fundraiser with businesswoman Heather Murren, who is also the wife of MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren, and Democratic donor Stephen Cloobeck. Read more here.

Harris hosts tele-town hall: Harris hosted a Nevada-specific tele-town hall last week where she said that the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump would be a “full and righteous airing” of what she described as the “corruption and misdeeds” of the president and his administration. More from me here.

Mayor Pete goes north: Buttigieg met with housing advocates, joined a picket with striking members of the United Auto Workers Union and held a rally over the weekend during his first visit to Northern Nevada since launching his presidential campaign. Buttigieg’s team has been quickly ramping up its operations in Nevada, and he became the first candidate to file paperwork to participate in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses at the Nevada State Democratic Party’s Keep Nevada Blue dinner this weekend. Indytern Mark Hernandez covered it all.

Steyer was also in Reno for the Democratic party dinner. He hosted a town hall and met with UAW members on strike while in town as well. Self-help author Marianne Williamson did not attend the dinner but was in Las Vegas last week, speaking at an event on keeping children safe with actor Richard Dreyfuss and meeting with voters at two yoga centers.

Booker on Desert National Wildlife Refuge: Following in the footsteps of Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker came out in opposition to a proposed military expansion into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge north of Las Vegas on Public Lands Day, Sept. 28. The military’s proposal would remove nearly 300,000 acres from the largest wildlife refuge in the contiguous United States. “We owe it to future generations to balance the needs of military readiness and conservation to respect and protect the cultural heritage and wildlife on these public lands. I believe all stakeholders, including tribal nations, should be consulted in any plans for the refuge," Booker said in a statement. (The announcement came even as Gov. Steve Sisolak declined over the weekend to take a firm position on the issue.)

Endorsement tracker coming soon: You’ve gotten to know and love our candidate tracker — and soon the Indy will be launching a presidential endorsement tracker. Keep an eye out in the next week or so for its launch.

CAMPAIGN NUGGETS

Staffing changes and office openings

  • Buttigieg’s team has now hired 35 staff members in Nevada and plans to have 10 offices open by the middle of this month, including in Carson City, Fallon and Pahrump. The South Bend mayor has also brought on Travis Brock, former executive director of the Nevada State Democratic Party, as his national caucus director and Juan Carlos Perez as national Latinx engagement director.
  • Harris’s campaign hosted a Reno office opening on Sept. 19 attended by Washoe County Recorder Kalie Work, who is backing the California senator for president. Her team also put on a number of events for Hispanic Heritage Month.
  • Warren will be opening three offices this month in Carson City, Elko and Southwest Las Vegas.
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro brought on Megan Macias, who was previously an intern for the campaign, as regional organizing director.
  • Former tech executive Andrew Yang has opened his first office in Las Vegas and will soon open one in Reno. His campaign also says it has plans to expand its Nevada team this month.

Early endorsements

  • Former Gov. Bob Miller and Reno City Councilman Oscar Delgado endorsed Biden for president.
  • Wells Mayor Layla Walz endorsed Buttigieg, as did dozens mayors across the country.
  • Former North Las Vegas City Councilman Theron Goynes and retired educator Naomi Goynes endorsed Booker.
  • Castro received five community member endorsements.

Upcoming visits

  • The Giffords and March for Our Lives presidential gun safety forum hosted by MSNBC is happening on Wednesday. Ten candidates will be in town for the forum — Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sanders, Warren and Yang — and also attend a bunch of ancillary events scheduled around the forum on Wednesday and Thursday. Check out our 2020 Candidate Tracker for the full details.
  • Warren will return to Las Vegas to march in the Las Vegas Pride Parade on Oct. 11.
  • Buttigieg will keynote Battle Born Progress’s annual Celebrate Progress event on Oct. 22.
  • Castro will speak at the People’s Forum on Oct. 26 at the East Las Vegas Community Center.

Surrogate stops

  • Amy O’Rourke, wife of Beto O’Rourke, made her first solo trip to Nevada, hosting a conversation on gun safety with Moms Demand Action and the National Organization for Women and meeting with members of the Latin Chamber of Commerce’s Professional Mujeres Group.
  • Rep. Ro Khanna campaigned on behalf of Sanders in Reno over the weekend. He joined a canvass launch and spoke at the Nevada State Democratic Party’s Keep Nevada Blue dinner.
  • Carolyn Booker, mother of Cory Booker, was also in Reno for the Democratic party dinner over the weekend. She attended a canvass launch, a Washoe Dems meet-and-greet and a community breakfast while in town.
  • Douglas Emhoff, Harris’s husband, was at a Truckee Meadows river cleanup, a lunch with UNR students and a phone bank in Reno over the weekend. He also stopped by the Democratic party dinner.
  • Maya Rupert, Castro’s campaign manager, toured a resource center for homeless youth, opened a Reno campaign office and attended a “Women of Color” coffee before attending the Democratic party dinner Saturday night.
  • Rep. Barbara Lee was in Southern Nevada for Harris over the weekend, launching a phone bank kick off, meeting with women leaders, and attending a canvass kick off. Rep. Ruben Gallego, Harris campaign manager Juan Rodriguez and labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta are all slated to travel to Nevada on Harris’s behalf later this month.

Other election news

  • Biden’s campaign is co-hosting a “Vegas Strong” blood drive in partnership with IBEW Local 396 on Wednesday.
  • Several Nevadans who have not yet endorsed for president — including Attorney General Aaron Ford, DNC Committeeman Alex Goff, and two assemblywomen — took to Twitter to make their pitches for why Booker should remain in the presidential race and urged people to donate to help him reach his $1.7 million fundraising goal by the end of the month. Booker announced on Monday that he has met his goal and will stay in the race.
  • DNC Chair Tom Perez attended a Spanish-language caucus training with Rep. Dina Titus and Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Will McCurdy on Monday at Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 525.

DOWN BALLOT NEWS

Navy veteran, ex-congressional staffer formally launches CD4 bid: Charles Navarro launched his bid for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District Thursday, joining a widening field of Republican hopefuls looking to flip the seat red in 2020. My colleague Jacob Solis has more.

OTHER REQUIRED READING

  • Housing troubles seep into 2020 campaign (AP)
  • In Las Vegas, Joe Biden’s sister dismisses calls to impeach Kavanaugh (CBS News)
  • Las Vegas police investigate a break-in at GOP headquarters (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Updated 10-1-19 at 8:21 a.m. to correct that Castro campaign manager Maya Rupert did not attend a United Auto Workers picket as planned on Sept. 28.

Home means Nevada to Cory Booker

Cory Booker strode into a Boulder City living room packed with 4th of July revelers, thanked his hosts, said hi to a baby and made it all of one minute and 16 seconds before mentioning that his mom, Carolyn, lives here.

“I hope people here will be involved in supporting my efforts here in Nevada,” the New Jersey senator urged the sitting-room-only crowd, framed by a picture window overlooking Lake Mead. “My mom, who lives in Vegas, would be very happy about that.”

Booker’s first memory of Las Vegas is playing Zaxxon and Donkey Kong at Circus Circus with quarters given to him by his grandparents during a cross-country road trip in a beat-up Winnebago they called the Green Dream. The neon-drenched city seemed like a “Mecca heaven” to him as a kid, Booker recalled in a recent interview, but now he thinks of it as home.

His aunt and uncle live here. His grandparents, who had lived in Los Angeles, were one of the first families to buy into one of the Del Webb communities; his grandmother helped found the local chapter of the Urban League. His parents moved here in 2013.

“This is where I had Thanksgiving meals, Christmas meals,” he said. “My mom was the last of the siblings to move out here.”

Now a Democratic presidential candidate, Booker isn’t shy about touting his familiarity with the Silver State. He's been here seven times since 2018 with his eye on winning the state’s first in the West caucus, held just after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Those seven visits leave him tied with California Sen. Kamala Harris and one visit shy the state’s most frequent visitor, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro

A win in Nevada can cement frontrunner status for a candidate who scores an early victory in Iowa or New Hampshire, or it can buoy a candidate who finished strong, but just short of the top spot in the first two states, by showing his or her ability to appeal to a much more diverse electorate. (Nevada’s population is 29 percent Hispanic, 10.1 percent black and 9.5 percent Asian American and Pacific Islander; in Iowa and New Hampshire, roughly nine in 10 people are white.)

“Nevada is the first state that really reflects the grand diversity of this nation. You have urban and rural. You have cities and suburbs. You have racial diversity, religious diversity. This is really a gateway to the country in terms of the early primary states,” Booker, 50, said. “As the third contest in this election, it's very, very important to me.”

But Booker admits that his frequent trips to the state from the East Coast are made easier by the fact his mom lives here and his girlfriend, actress Rosario Dawson, lives in nearby Los Angeles.

“Let's just say I get double points if I come here,” Booker said.

On the ground here when he visits, Booker is eager to show his understanding of Nevada. Like other candidates, he opposes the construction of a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain and has voiced support for the gaming industry, including preserving the future of online gambling. But in Boulder City, he also laid into rural broadband access issues, the lack of rail service in the West, and the state’s public education system, which routinely ranks at or near the bottom of national rankings.

“You can't have the pursuit of happiness if in a 21st century global knowledge-based society you have — and I hate to call out Nevada, I feel like I can do it because my mom lives here — but you can't have that if you underfund education,” Booker said.

It’s a familiarity he gets, he said, from conversations around the dinner table with his mom, who lives in a retirement community in Summerlin. 

“When I go down to dinner with her, I hear current events here everywhere,” Booker said, seated in an armchair beside his mom at her apartment. “I have known about current events from the perspective of senior citizens who live very passionately. I feel like I know the local issues here.”

But Booker attributes his overall approach to politics — exemplified, in one instance, by the 10-day hunger strike he went on as a Newark city councilman to prompt conversation about drug problems and lack of basic public services in his community — to the lessons he learned at his childhood dinner table.

“Growing up — James Baldwin said this — children are never good at listening to their elders but they never fail to imitate them,” Booker said. “My mom did sit-ins. My mom helped organize the March on Washington ... I would hear it at my dinner table, sexism and racism and about all the things they were experiencing. But the way my parents dealt with it, modeled it, was always with this idea of love.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker visits his mother Carolyn Booker at her Las Vegas home on Friday, July 5, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)

Childhood lessons

Carolyn Booker’s story begins in Detroit — where she was born and where her son will return later this month for the second round of Democratic presidential debates — long before there were children or a kitchen table at which to teach them. She was the middle child of three, with a dad who worked on the assembly lines at the Ford factory and was a union organizer and a mom who ran the family’s small businesses.

When she was little, the family moved to Monroe, Louisiana — where her grandmother lived — because of her father’s health issues, which were exacerbated by the cold climate. There, her father finished his college degree, her mom worked as a school teacher and Carolyn attended elementary school in the segregated south. Had they stayed, she would have attended Monroe Colored High School; as it was, when her father finished his degree, the family moved out west to Los Angeles, where she graduated from Manual Arts High School.

As a kid, Carolyn watched her 4’10”, 86-pound mom struggle to meet height and weight requirements to get a job. But her mom eventually got an entry level position with the federal government and eventually rose to executive management, while her dad ended up as chief of the Bureau of Apprenticeship standards for the state of California.

The work wasn’t just on the weekdays either. Her parents owned rental property, and her dad spent his weekends doing maintenance on the apartments and fixing up the rooms for new tenants.

“It's kind of one of those stories where you start from the bottom rebuilding a life you hadn't anticipated and were able to bring you and yourself into the middle class,” Carolyn, now 79, said.

When the kids grew up, left the house and started having kids of their own, they took on the responsibilities of grandparents, including taking Booker and his older brother Cary on cross-country trips. Each grandchild had a specific assignment: One read the map, one kept account of the expenses, one was on lunch duty, and one would make dinner reservations.

“They played a big role in raising my brother and I,” the senator said, adding that the two trips he took with his grandparents helped “shape my understanding of America.”

At home around the dinner table, Carolyn and her husband, also named Cary, shared their stories from their work at IBM, where they were among the first black executives. She worked in human resources, helping employees who were having problems in the workplace or those who managers wanted to fire and didn’t believe they had been treated fairly. 

“The kitchen table conversation would be about somebody being unjustly fired or somebody refusing to work for a woman,” the senator said. “It was really planting seeds for me that I didn't realize would blossom in the future.”

But Carolyn was intentional in the way she helped her son translate those workplace lessons to the classroom.

“Our philosophy was, we can always step in and go up to the school, but would you like to try to handle this yourself first with this teacher or this coach and see if you can work the problem? And then we'd talk about things they might try to do and try to say,” Carolyn said. “If you can handle it how much better equipped in life will you be to handle anything that comes along and to represent yourself well.”

Case in point: One day when Booker was in elementary school, Carolyn came home to find bicycles scattered in the yard. When she opened the door, a little boy answered and told her, “Mrs. Booker, don't you worry about a thing. We're going to take care of this.” In the family room, she found her son and his friends making posters and signs. When she pulled her son aside to ask what had happened, he told her, “Mom, it's just not fair. It's just not.”

It turned out that his teacher had promised to take anyone who aced a test to California with him. A young Booker, eager to see his grandparents in Los Angeles, had done exactly that. But his teacher docked him one point for leaving his last name off.

“He tells me this story, and I said, ‘Cory, time out. Let's just be realistic, you know that there's no way that he can take you to California,’” Carolyn said. “I said, ‘Why don't — before you all picket and have the whole school in the newspaper — why don't you just try talking to your teacher and expressing yourself and letting him know the reality here? Maybe there's something else — a party for the class or something like this — that he can hold.”

She said she dropped by the classroom on her way to work the next morning to give his teacher a heads up.

“I'm not upset. It's a great learning opportunity for all of the kids, but they're passionate about what's right,” she remembers telling the teacher. “Here's a perfect opportunity for you as an adult to just admit to these kids that you went too far. Your heart was in the right place to get them to study, but you kind of took it a little too far. You have to apologize to them and offer them something else, and I think you might be willingly surprised that what they're looking for is fairness."

(Carolyn is pretty sure the class ended up having the party; her son can’t remember.)

But Carolyn and her husband had their own — and larger — struggles for fairness, too.

In 1969, the year after the passage of the Fair Housing Act and the year Booker was born, the couple was looking to buy a house in a small town with good schools in New Jersey, but they were told it wasn’t for sale. With the help of the Fair Housing Council, a white couple impersonating the Bookers in a sting operation visited the house — which was indeed for sale — and put in an offer on it, securing the house for the family. (In his retelling, Booker often notes that a real estate agent sicced a dog on his father and punched his father’s lawyer when he realized his family was black, but the law was on their side.)

The senator said that, as a kid, he watched his parents assert their dignity “in a time when people were trying to strip them” of it.

“My father had this idea that there's two ways to go through life — as a thermometer or a thermostat,” he said. “They didn't just reflect the temperature around them, but really were changing the temperature, changing the climate, changing the environment.”

The story of his parents’ struggle to purchase a house as a black couple in a white neighborhood is now at the core of the senator's stump speech for president.

“Back 50 years ago, they would show up and a real estate agent would see a black family, and they would lie to my parents,” he told the Boulder City crowd. “You want to know what I’m about? Growing up at an American table with American parents telling me, ‘Hey we worked hard, but we got here because of the people that understood that patriotism is about love, and even though we were a different race and in some cases a different religion, Americans stood up for you.’”

Supporters gather at a Boulder City home to listen to presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)

The Las Vegas years

After years of visiting family for the holidays, the Bookers decided to move to Las Vegas in 2013. Booker’s grandmother, who was living here, was in her 90s. His father had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and they wanted to be close to the Lou Ruvo Center, the outpost of the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas dedicated to the treatment of brain diseases.

The plan, Carolyn said, was for them to be snowbirds and split their time between Las Vegas and Newark.

“The thought of being able to live someplace where your loved one who's going through more difficult challenges is also right there with you, and you can see them on a daily basis, really appealed to us,” she said.

But 48 hours after they moved to Las Vegas — in the middle of Booker’s primary campaign in a special election for the U.S. Senate — the unthinkable happened. His father had a stroke. Carolyn told her son that his father would want him to keep campaigning and win the primary, and that he could come out to visit between the primary and general elections. So Cary had a different visitor: then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“I'm not even the Democratic nominee, and I get this call from Harry Reid who said, ‘I hear your father's fallen ill. Where is he? What hospital?’” the then-mayor of Newark recalled. “He came to visit him, sat by my dad's bedside, called me to reassure me that he was doing all right. As soon as Harry Reid comes to the hospital and visits you, everybody there is suddenly very, very attentive.”

Reid, in an interview, said he would’ve expected Booker to do the same.

“If it had been reversed and he had come to wherever my dad was and visited my dad, I would’ve felt pretty good about that,” said Reid, who remains in regular touch with Booker’s mother and aunt.

Carolyn also said that Reid brought her husband two books — both written by Reid.

“He said, ‘If you need to get some rest, try reading one of these. It'll put you to sleep,’” she said.

Reid said that’s one of his standard lines — “only because it’s true.”

(Booker said the best compliment Reid ever paid to him was informing him of the results of an informal survey he had conducted of people who work in the Capitol — “the people that folks don't pay attention to” — of who the nicest person in the Senate was. Reid told him that everyone had told him it was Booker. “He stuck out his hand [and] he said, ‘Keep being nice,’” Booker said. “I said, ‘Okay, Harry.’”

Reid said some senators can be “obnoxious” to the young Senate pages, but not Booker. “To have a senator pat them on the back and say, ‘Where are you from?’ talk to them just for a minute, boy that means a lot to those young men and women,” Reid said. “They can call home and say, ‘I had Senator Booker talk to me today.’”)

Booker’s family didn’t sit idly by in the community, either. At 90, his grandmother, Adeline Jordan, helped found the local chapter of the Urban League. His uncle and aunt, Limuary “Butch” and Marilyn Jordan, have served in various community organizations including the local chapter of the Links and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. His uncle is even neighbors with Gov. Steve Sisolak in Las Vegas.

Booker said he knew his family had “gone native” when his grandmother got upset at President Barack Obama for saying that corporations using federal bailout dollars shouldn’t “take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer’s dime.”

“I said, ‘I know things are bad when the 90-something-year-old black woman is mad at the black president for dissing this town,’” he said.

But Booker said he feels like he has been pulled into the Las Vegas community in a “great way” since he was first elected mayor of Newark.

“I just love this community,” he said. “It is what my parents told me we should always strive to have in America, is a beloved community.”

Asked whether Nevada’s ties give Booker a leg up among his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls, Reid said it “certainly doesn’t hurt him.”

At an immigration event last week, Booker was asked whether he’d be back to Nevada. He said he would — because his mom lives here — and that if they have any issues with him, they should let her know. It's a place filled with memories for the senator, including his final days with his father, who passed away six days before his son was elected to the U.S. Senate.

With seven months until the Iowa caucus, Booker admits that he doesn’t even have time to see his mom on every trip out here. But Carolyn said she doesn’t mind sharing him.

“He's got a mission that's very important,” she said. “You teach your kids certain values and certain ways of doing things, and you tell them the sky is the limit. You have no idea where they'll land in that sometimes. Sometimes it's perhaps even more than you anticipated or expect … I'm just proud to be here to see it. I know his father would be proud of him, too.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, left, reacts after Fawkes Nix starts to cry during a meet and greet in Boulder City on Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)