PAC led by former Lt. Gov. Hutchison reloads ahead of 2022 midterms with $2 million contribution

One of the top Republican-supporting political action committees of the 2020 election cycle is already close to matching its prior fundraising totals more than a year and a half away from the 2022 midterms thanks to a major $2 million contribution by a prominent Las Vegas real estate developer.

The Stronger Nevada PAC, which is led by former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, reported raising a sizable $2.1 million between April 1 and the end of June 2021 — approaching the total amount raised by the PAC ($2.6 million) through the two years of the 2020 election cycle (Nevada law allows state-based political action committees to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money).

In a statement, Hutchison — who strongly considered a gubernatorial run in 2022 but opted to endorse Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo —  said the group will be “fully engaged” in the 2022 midterm election cycle and promised to go “even bigger next year.”

“Our fundraising efforts have gone well, and we expect more Nevadans to join our efforts to protect and strengthen Nevada,” he said in a statement to The Nevada Independent.

Ahead of the 2020 elections, the PAC spent nearly $2 million on a targeted suite of television, digital and mail advertising focused on an open Nevada Supreme Court seat and a handful of swing legislative races — taking credit for assisting with Republican down-ballot success.

Political activity by the PAC has been slower in recent months, though the PAC has run a handful of ads on Facebook attacking Critical Race Theory, accusing Democrats of discrediting election integrity and lobbing several thinly veiled attacks against Sisolak. None of the ads so far has mentioned Lombardo, or other Republican gubernatorial candidates.

Driving the PAC’s fundraising total was a $2 million contribution made on June 29 by Sedona Magnet LLC, a company registered in Nevada in November 2020 that lists prominent Las Vegas businessman Robert T. Bigelow as its sole officer (Sedona Magnet LLC also lists the same address as Bigelow Aerospace).

Perhaps best-known for a decades-long interest in UFOs, Bigelow — described by The New York Times as a “maverick Las Vegas real estate and aerospace mogul with billionaire allure” — is the owner of extended stay apartment chain Budget Suites of America and hundreds of other properties and real estate developments. Bigelow's company has pushed back against state and federal eviction moratoriums — filing “at least 46 eviction actions in Texas and Arizona and obtained court judgments in its favor in half of those cases.”

As a political donor, Bigelow has given primarily to Republican candidates and causes, but has also made contributions to figures on the other side of the political aisle — including nearly $20,000 to then-Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak in 2011. The $2 million contribution to Stronger Nevada PAC, however, dwarfs the $124,000 cumulative given in past decades to state-level candidates and organizations.

A call to Bigelow Aerospace regarding the donation was not returned on Thursday. 

Bigelow (through Sedona Magnet LLC) wasn’t the only major contributor to the Stronger Nevada PAC — the organization also received a $100,000 contribution from SBW Capital LLC, a corporate entity affiliated with formerly incarcerated sports bettor and developer Billy Walters. The same entity — along with nine others linked to Walters — also gave a maximum $10,000 contributions (for a total of $100,000) to Sisolak ahead of the 2018 election.

Stronger Nevada PAC also received a $25,000 contribution from Joseph Otting, a Las Vegas-based banking executive who served as the federal Comptroller of the Currency under President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2020.

In the 2020 election cycle, the PAC received several large contributions from 501(c)4 nonprofit advocacy and social welfare organizations — which are not required to reveal their donors. It received nearly $1 million from American Exceptionalism Institute, Inc. 

A recent report by the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington indicated that Nevada Gold Mines — a joint venture between mining companies Newmont and Barrick — contributed $750,000 to American Exceptionalism Institute, most likely for political activities in Nevada. The Nevada Gold Mines company separately contributed $500,000 to the PAC last year as well.

Clark County Sheriff Lombardo announces run for governor as Republican; says he’ll veto new taxes, take ‘law and order’ tack

Citing his law enforcement credentials and a need to end one-party rule in state government, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo on Monday officially launched his gubernatorial campaign with promises to veto tax increases and roll back many of the policies instituted under Gov. Steve Sisolak and legislative Democrats.

Lombardo, 58, officially announced his campaign for governor at a speech at Rancho High School in Las Vegas — where he graduated from in 1980 — and promised that if elected governor, he would serve as a check on legislative Democrats on issues from taxes to elections and education.

“I have been elected twice as a conservative in our state's bluest county. I have never compromised on principles to get elected, and won’t do so now,” said Lombardo, whose previous sheriff campaigns were in nonpartisan races. “Today, I'm standing here to announce my candidacy for governor, because if we don't put an end to the single-party rule eroding our state of the values, laws and opportunities to make Nevada great, we won't have a lot left to fight for.”

Much of Lombardo’s speech on Monday previewed his coming campaign messaging — including calling Sisolak the “most partisan governor in Nevada history” and saying Sisolak has copied the “worst policies of some of the most liberal governors in the country.” Lombardo also promised to block any effort to teach critical race theory in public schools, to back efforts requiring identification to vote and rolling back several Democrat-backed election changes including ballot collection and expanded mail voting.

Lombardo, who plans to embark on a statewide campaign launch tour this week, joins what may become a crowded Republican primary to take on incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in the 2022 midterms. 

Other announced candidates include North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, a recent convert to the Republican Party, and Reno attorney Joey Gilbert, who argues that Trump actually won the last election. Rep. Mark Amodei and former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller are also weighing potential bids. Former Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison, once considered a potential candidate, has endorsed Lombardo.

Lombardo, who is in his second term as Clark County sheriff, hinted that one of his major campaign themes will be his law enforcement experience. He said that “police reform is needed” but that legislators were moving too fast and creating an “environment where the police are handcuffed.”

“What we currently have is ... a sense up in Carson City that we're more concerned with felons’ rights, lessening penalties associated with crime and handcuffing the police,” he told reporters after the event. “That's a paradigm, or that's a program that just doesn't breed success into the future. We have to change that.”

After his Las Vegas kickoff, Lombardo headed to a Reno wine bar in the evening, holding a meet-and-greet at the Napa-Sonoma restaurant. He pitched his candidacy to the roughly 40 people in attendance, mirroring his rhetoric in Las Vegas, and took questions from attendees on elections, guns, education and more.

Former educator Sandy Horning, 77, said she appreciated Lombardo’s background in law enforcement and had a strong grasp on improving schooling across the state. 

“He knows what’s going on in the streets … he’s very impressive with education,” the Reno resident said. “I think he hit all the high spots.”

Carson City high schooler Jessica Gonzalez, 16, said she liked Lombardo’s speech but sought more detail on what his campaign hopes to achieve. 

“I wanted him to go more in depth on how he’s going to defend our rights and how he’s going to explain to the younger people how he is going to reach them,” she said.

A cadre of Democrat-aligned groups including the Democratic Governors Association and Nevada Democratic Victory issued statements on Monday panning Lombardo’s announcement. DGA Executive Director Noam Lee accused him of walking “every partisan ideological line as he’s pretended to represent the constituents he promised to serve and protect while trying to avoid estranging the Republican base he needs for his pending political career.”

Asked by reporters on Monday if he would seek the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, Lombardo said “seek” is an “arbitrary word” but would accept the former president’s endorsement if offered.

“If I receive it, I'll embrace it. Sure,” he said. “You know, anybody that's willing to endorse me and what I believe in, and the direction I want to go in, I'm not going to turn them away.”

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo announces his candidacy to run for Nevada governor during a news conference in Las Vegas on Monday, June 28, 2021. Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)

Taxes

In addition to pledging to veto any new taxes, Lombardo said he would oppose any efforts to introduce a state income tax, raise property taxes or any other efforts to “advance public policy that would make Bernie Sanders blush.”

Asked whether he would seek to repeal or lower any existing state taxes, Lombardo said that would be a “matter of evaluation as we move forward” and promised to evaluate all existing tax sources. He said the state needed to develop a “tax environment” to attract other industries outside the casino industry to help to diversify the state’s economy.

“You have to be living in a cave not to see that the casino, the mother milk of our economy, will not continue to support us in perpetuity into the future,” he said.

Elections

In his remarks, Lombardo pledged to “undo the reckless partisan policies out of Carson City, and replace them with election law that is transparent, honest and fair.” 

He promised to support requiring some form of identification to vote, eliminate ballot collection or “ballot harvesting” where non-familial individuals are allowed to turn in mail ballots, and to repeal the “new practice of mailing ballots to people who did not request them.”

That’s a reference to AB321, a bill permanently expanding and enshrining expanded mail voting used in the 2020 election that passed on party lines in the 2021 legislative session. The bill was signed into law by Sisolak earlier this month, making Nevada the sixth state to adopt a largely all-mail voting system.

Lombardo also said he would support a bipartisan “election integrity commission” to oversee elections and “guarantee fairness,” and the creation of a non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting commission to draw new boundary lines for congressional and legislative districts.

Asked by reporters if he believed that the 2020 election in Nevada was accurate, Lombardo said he wasn’t “privy” to the data but believed the current electoral system “makes it easy for people to commit fraud.”

“Your question is, ‘Do I think there was fraud in everything?’ I'm not even going to give you an answer on that,” he said. “My concern is moving forward and how we can better make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

The Trump campaign and Nevada Republican Party filed lawsuits and repeatedly made claims of fraud in the weeks and months following the state’s 2020 election. All of the lawsuits failed to make headway in state and federal courts, and Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office released two reports finding no evidence of “wide-spread fraud” in the 2020 election.

Immigration 

Among the challenges Lombardo will face in a Republican primary is defending himself over his 2019 decision to withdraw from the 287(g) collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His decision came after a lawsuit from the ACLU and a subsequent court ruling in California that determined “detainers” — holding people in local custody for extra time to allow ICE to detain them — constituted a new arrest and violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against warrantless arrests.

Immigrant advocates, who argue that local police should stay out of immigration enforcement so immigrants can report crime to police without fear of detainment or deportation during the interaction, have said that Metro continues less-formal collaborations with ICE absent the title. Lombardo said that after withdrawing from the program, Metro “dedicated more internal resources to … identifying and deporting violent criminals.” 

“There's been a lot of rhetoric out there that I have created a sanctuary jurisdiction. That is absolutely not true,” Lombardo said. “What we did is adjust, moved resources and addressed the problem to move forward, versus backing up and say, ‘We raised our hands and gave up.’” 

Guns

Lombardo has also struck a more moderate tone on firearm issues, telling the Nevada Firearms Coalition during a question-and-answer panel last week that he supports universal background checks on firearm purchases, opposed “constitutional carry” and tepid support for limits on high capacity magazines.

“I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” he said. “This isn't rhetoric. I've carried a gun every day for more than 30 years in the Army as a cop and as your sheriff. I will always support the rights of law-abiding citizens to responsibly own and carry guns.”

Policing and criminal justice reforms

Lombardo took aim at Democratic state leaders for being “more concerned with felons rights, lessening penalties associated with crime and handcuffing the police,” and said he would distinguish himself from his Republican primary opponents by taking the “law and order lane.”

“Yes, police reform is needed ... I appreciate that and we have looked at that, but it's adapting too fast,” he said. “We have created an environment where the police are handcuffed and have an inability to do their job.”

Lawmakers in 2019 passed a comprehensive bill aimed at reducing penalties for certain crimes and ultimately reducing the prison population. The goal is to use the hundreds of millions of dollars in anticipated savings for “reinvestment” activities, such as better preparing inmates for reentering the community.

In 2021, lawmakers passed a bill to decriminalize low-level traffic offenses on near-unanimous votes and decriminalized jaywalking unanimously, making it a civil infraction without the possibility of arrest. On policing, they passed a bill requiring ample warning to protesters before deploying tear gas, calling for data collection on the demographics of people stopped for traffic violations and requiring police maintain an “early warning system” for “bias indicators or other problematic behavior” among officers. 

Progressives have characterized the policing reforms as largely just codifying Metro’s existing policies and not going far enough, while police agencies and certain police unions have framed them as demoralizing for officers and part of an anti-police narrative.

Lombardo also addressed interactions between police and protesters — an issue that came up in the summer of 2020 amid frequent racial justice demonstrations.

“While Portland, Seattle in Baltimore gave into rioters, looters and vandals, we instituted a zero tolerance policy for violence,” Lombardo said. “Let me be clear, I will always stand up for the rights of anyone to peacefully protest. But if you intend to bring harm to our people, our communities, or those visiting in our community, you will face the full force of the law.”

At least six people face charges for graffiti, breaking windows and other property damage to a federal courthouse at one of the protests in Las Vegas last summer. Las Vegas police say they handled 318 protests last year, and updated their police and protest response protocols that year, including only deploying pepper spray if approved by a supervisor.

Death penalty

Lombardo expressed support for the continued use of the death penalty as a way to curb crime, as the Clark County district attorney's office is currently pushing for the execution of Zane Floyd, who was convicted of killing four people inside a Las Vegas grocery store two decades ago. Floyd would be the first execution in the state since 2006.

“I believe that there's a need for it,” Lombardo said. “I believe that it's a natural deterrent in the mindset of a criminal, and it's a solution for individuals that have committed egregious crimes against society.”

Lawmakers made the most significant progress to date on an effort to repeal the death penalty during the 2021 session, as members of the Assembly voted 26-16 along party lines to pass a bill that would abolish the penalty. However, the measure was spiked by the governor and Democratic leaders in the Senate, after Sisolak said that the penalty was warranted in extreme circumstances.

Education

Lombardo criticized Sisolak on education policy, saying the Democratic governor has failed to provide a plan to reduce class size and opposes school choice, although the sheriff offered only broad-strokes statements about his own plans for K-12 and higher education.

On his website, Lombardo says he supports school choice and wants to expand Opportunity Scholarships, a tax credit-funded program that gives lower-income students scholarships to attend private K-12 schools. Democrats backed legislation in 2021 to preserve funding for the program as part of a compromise to raise taxes on the mining industry, after previously barring new entrants to the program.

Lombardo also nodded to building out workforce development programs.

“We must bring back and focus on trades so Nevada can attract good paying manufacturing jobs, and we must do a better job of keeping our best and brightest right here in Nevada,” Lombardo said.

He also invoked a topic that in recent months has exploded in popularity on conservative media outlets such as Fox News and has spurred states to limit how teachers approach issues such as racism and sexism — critical race theory. State officials have said the decades-old academic study area of critical race theory is not included in state academic standards, although concepts such as social justice and diversity are.

“As governor, I will block any time to force critical race theory on our public school children,” Lombardo said. “We can teach our children to respect each other, and treat everyone with dignity.”

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo announces his candidacy to run for Nevada governor during a news conference in Las Vegas on Monday, June 28, 2021. Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)

Background

Lombardo, the son of an Air Force Veteran, was born in Japan before moving to Las Vegas in 1976 and graduating from Rancho High School in 1980. Hired by Metro in 1988 after serving in the Army and National Guard from 1980 to 1986, Lombardo steadily rose through the ranks of the state’s largest police force before being hired as assistant sheriff in 2011.

After nearly 30 years at Metro, Lombardo opted to run for Clark County sheriff in 2014. Described as a “policy wonk” by the Las Vegas Sun, Lombardo won endorsements from multiple former sheriffs including Doug Gillespie, Bill Young and Ralph Lamb, and ultimately won the nonpartisan race on a narrow 51 to 49 percent split over Retired Metro Captain Larry Burns — who was endorsed by the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which represents rank-and-file Metro officers.

In his first term, Lombardo took steps to decentralize operations for detectives and to re-open shuttered substations closed because of budget cuts.

Lombardo also attracted international attention and notoriety as the face of law enforcement response to the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, which left 60 people dead and nearly 550 people injured. For weeks, Lombardo oversaw the investigation and provided information to the public and news media on details of the mass shooting, though his office fought efforts by the Las Vegas Review-Journal to release public records related to the event.

Lombardo won re-election to a second term in 2018, winning the nonpartisan race outright with more than 73 percent of the vote. His first campaign ad included appearances by former Gov. Brian Sandoval, and prominent state Democrats including former state Sen. Yvanna Cancela and Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick.

Sources: Lombardo set to announce for governor

Undaunted by newly minted Republican Mayor John Lee’s announcement, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has made the decision to run for governor, sources confirmed Thursday.

Lombardo will formally announce next month and has hired a trio of high-profile GOP operatives, including a former political director for Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee.

The campaign team will be led by Ryan Erwin, a well-respected consultant who oversaw Cresent Hardy’s shocking upset of Rep. Steven Horsford in 2014 and helped Joe Heck win a seat in Congress (and almost secure a U.S. Senate seat). Erwin was involved in efforts to pass Marsy’s Law here and elsewhere and recently was retained by Caitlyn Jenner’s campaign to oust California Gov. Gavin Newsom. I don’t know of a more even-keeled, thoughtful and straight-shooting consultant who has been involved in Nevada politics.

Erwin will be joined by his former partner, Mike Slanker, who has been a consultant to the likes of Brian Sandoval and Dean Heller and is a media expert whose ads have been known to cut (and cut deeply), and Chris Carr, an ex-Trump and RNC operative who will oversee the grassroots/ground game and is as well-regarded as anyone I know across partisan and geographic lines.

It’s a formidable team enhanced by ex-Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, who was interested in running for governor but has agreed to chair Lombardo’s campaign. Hutchison is a formidable fundraiser; his PAC helped the GOP pick up legislative seats last year.

I am reliably told that some gaming companies have informed Lombardo they will give him substantial support, although some will have to play both sides because Gov. Steve Sisolak has such power over their enterprises. It will be interesting to see, especially after a legislative session controlled by Democrats and one that has intermittently infuriated the Strip, whether any companies give only to Lombardo. (This would surprise me.)

The industry’s campaign contributions could well hinge on how the session ends and the resolution of a so-called right to return bill that is the Culinary union’s main objective and has caused a serious rift with and within the industry. 

Lombardo would have to be seen as a favorite in the primary with this kind of firepower and Lee's recent entry into the Republican party. The North Las Vegas mayor also has baggage, including a raft of votes as a Democratic legislator. But Lombardo’s two terms as sheriff notwithstanding, the sheriff’s ability to perform statewide and handle non-law enforcement issues remain uncertain. And he will have to deal with his own record as sheriff, too.

Filing does not open until next March, and I am still not persuaded that candidates who announce this early will actually file. And I am not convinced that Lee, who has floated more trial balloons than anyone in Nevada history before they lost ballast, will sign on the dotted line next year. At least, that is, for governor.

Sisolak is seen as vulnerable by the GOP here and nationally because of criticism he absorbed during the pandemic for health care protocols that were deleterious for the economy. But Democrats are banking on a rebounding economy to put some wind at Sisolak’s back, and a potential GOP primary is not optimal for Republicans. And who knows whether a Trumpian contender (who has not recently switched parties) might get in, making it even more interesting.

Lombardo’s decision, though, ensures this is going to be a very interesting year in Nevada politics, which, as one who has followed it for three and a half decades, almost goes without saying.

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee announces run for governor as Republican, weeks after switching parties

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee launched his campaign for governor on Monday, framing himself as a candidate who will fight socialism and cancel culture in Nevada.

His announcement featured an 80-second video that showed Lee riding a bicycle through the desert and included images that accompany his narration about his life. In the short “ride,” Lee tells his story — from starting up a plumbing business to being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer to running and being elected mayor of North Las Vegas to recently switching from Democrat to Republican.

“I’m running for Governor of Nevada because I want to stop our state’s tightening embrace of socialism and make Nevada the best state in the nation to work, raise a family, and visit,” Lee said in a tweet announcing his run for governor

In a press release, Lee said that Gov. Steve Sisolak has “mismanaged” the economy of Nevada, while he as mayor has “turned around” North Las Vegas from an “economically broken city” to one with a better environment for investors and new businesses, and said he plans to apply that philosophy with the rest of the state.

“I’ve always made my own path. Socialism is a cancer, and if we don’t fight back … it’ll kill us,” Lee narrates in the video. “By the grace of God, I beat cancer, and together as Republicans, we’ll beat this, too.”

In April, Lee announced that he was switching parties because of the state Democratic Party’s recent leadership takeover by members of the Democratic Socialists of America. 

Lee was first elected as mayor of North Las Vegas in 2013. Prior to becoming mayor, he served as a Democratic member of the Legislature for 15 years – two terms in the Assembly from 1996 to 2000, and two terms in the state Senate from 2004 to 2012. Lee lost a state Senate re-election bid in 2012 in the primary to Democrat and current office-holder, Sen. Pat Spearman, whose campaign was supported by party members and advocates who believed Lee was too conservative.

In 2011, Lee said he was going to run for Congress but later dropped out, citing support for his colleague, Rep. Steven Horsford, as the reason.

Lee also said in the press release that he will stand up for Nevadans’ constitutional rights and focus on embracing small government, as well as defending free speech, protecting unborn life and supporting the right to bear arms.

Lee is the only announced candidate against Sisolak, who is seeking re-election in 2022. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Rep. Mark Amodei and former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, all Republicans, have also said they are considering running for governor.

In 2020, Sisolak reported raising upwards of $2.4 million for his re-election bid.  

Nevada’s gubernatorial election candidate filing period is not until next March.

Lawyers argue before Nevada Supreme Court over close Clark County Commission race

The front of the Nevada Supreme Court Building

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday morning in a months-long case over an exceptionally close Clark County Commission race, with lawyers arguing whether discrepancies in the voting process met the definition of an election being “prevented.”  

Las Vegas Councilman Stavros Anthony, a Republican, filed for a recount on Dec. 4, three days after the Clark County Commission certified the results of the District C election in spite of 139 ballot discrepancies in the district. Those discrepancies had caused the board to consider a special election, but then it reversed course. 

The recount resulted in 74 new ballots included in the count, which found that former Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, won by 15 votes, more than the 10-vote margin from the original results. Miller was ultimately sworn in as commissioner.

In Wednesday’s appeal hearing, Anthony’s attorney, Michael Wall, hewed to the same argument he made at a November lower court hearing, when his request to stop results certification was denied. Mark Hutchison, another Anthony lawyer, said that comments made by Clark County Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria showed that an effective election had been “prevented” in the district because of ballot discrepancies.

“As a result [of the discrepancies], I cannot certify that the vote is an accurate representation of the will of the voters in that district,” Gloria said in the affidavit. “In my professional opinion as an election official, it raises a reasonable doubt as to the outcome of the election.”

Hutchison said that these discrepancies entitle Anthony and District C voters to a new election according to NRS 293.465, which says that a new contest is appropriate if “an election is prevented in any precinct or district by reason of the loss or destruction of the ballots intended for that precinct, or any other cause.” 

Chief Justice James Hardesty, however, pointed to the district court’s decision to stick with Gloria’s affidavit, which did not indicate that the election was prevented. 

“What the registrar said, to the logic to the Commission, was he could not certify the election,”  Wall said. “Nothing in the statute says that the registrar has to use the words ‘the election was prevented.’ The registrar used words which indicate, in his opinion, that there is no winner, there is no election that can be certified.”

Ballot discrepancies can occur when voters cast multiple ballots, when check-in numbers at voting sites don’t match up with the number of ballots cast at that site or as a result of various mail-in ballot issues. Gloria previously said that these discrepancies occur in every election.

Bradley Schrager, representing Miller, argued that neither Gloria nor the District Court, in its findings and conclusions, saw this as a “293.465 election.” 

“There was no election prevented here. What there was was statistical anomalies,” he said. “Mr. Anthony has not placed any ballots in question. There is no allegation that any ballot was counted that shouldn't have been. There's no allegation that any ballot wasn't counted that ought to have been. Neither is there any indication of any incident that can be directly linked to harm or prejudice to Mr. Anthony.”

However, Schrager suggested another statute — NRS 293.410 — would fit the case better as it includes instances in which the election board “made errors sufficient to change the results of the election, as to any person who has been declared elect.” 

“That's the terrain that Mr. Anthony ought to have been fighting,” Schrager said. “293.465 is a voter access statute; it is not a candidate protection statute.” 

The Supreme Court did not immediately issue a ruling after arguments.

Commission candidate’s motion to stop vote certification in District C race denied

A judge in Clark County has denied Republican candidate Stavros Anthony’s motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent the County Commission from reconsidering certifying results in the District C race.

The motion was filed on Wednesday after the commission released an agenda that included a motion to reconsider requested by Commissioner Tick Segerblom allowing board members to vote on canvassing and certifying results for the race. The commission chose not to certify those results at its initial canvassing meeting because the 139 ballot discrepancies noted in the region outnumbered the 10-vote margin of victory held by Las Vegas City Councilman Anthony’s Democratic opponent Ross Miller, a former secretary of state.

Miller filed a suit against the county after the decision not to certify, which he said exceeded the board’s “authority under law.” Anthony is an intervening plaintiff in the case. 

The candidate’s motion for preliminary injunction referenced a stipulation agreed to by the county that the board would not proceed with a special election until the court made a decision. Anthony said that preventing the county from reversing its certification decision would also violate that stipulation which was the motion said was intended to “preserve the status quo.”

Anthony’s attorney, former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, argued at Monday’s hearing that comments made by Registrar of Voters Joe Gloria showed that an effective election had been “prevented” in the district because of ballot discrepancies.

“As a result [of the discrepancies], I cannot certify that the vote is an accurate representation of the will of the voters in that district,” Gloria said in the affidavit. “In my professional opinion as an election official, it raises a reasonable doubt as to the outcome of the election.”

Hutchinson said that these discrepancies entitle Anthony and District C voters to a new election according to NRS 293.465 which says that a new election is appropriate if “an election is prevented in any precinct or district by reason of the loss or destruction of the ballots intended for that precinct, or any other cause.”

However, Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez did not agree that ballot discrepancies qualified as “cause” under the statute.

Ballot discrepancies can occur when voters cast multiple ballots, when check-in numbers at voting sites don’t match up with the number of ballots cast at that site or as a result of various mail-in ballot issues. Gloria previously said that these discrepancies occur in every election.

Without an injunction from the court, the Clark County Commission will meet on Tuesday to canvass results in the District C race and discuss certification.

Even amid Trump’s Nevada loss, PAC led by former Lt. Gov. Hutchison touts success for down-ballot Republicans

Though President Donald Trump fell short of victory in Nevada’s 2020 election, state Republicans still saw quite the silver lining in election results — the first major gains in legislative races since the 2014 midterm elections.

Once the election dust had settled, Republicans had gained three Assembly seats and a state Senate seat previously held by Democrats, dragging the party out of a super-minority in the state Assembly and blocking a two-thirds majority in the state Senate.

Though election results are being contested (including a request for a special election in one close state Senate race), a substantial amount of credit for Republican success in down-ballot races is being attributed to a well funded political action committee called “Stronger Nevada PAC.”

The group, headed by former Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison, raised and spent nearly $2 million through the course of the campaign season, focusing on television, digital and mail advertising spending in a state Supreme Court race and a handful of key swing Assembly and state Senate races.

Though the group was not successful in all of its targeted races, Hutchison said in an interview that he was pleased with the down-ballot results of the election, saying it has justified his belief that Nevada was still very much a swing state despite recent strings of victories by Democrats.

“Nevada is much more of a purple state (and) still is, I think now as a result of this election,” he said. “A lot of people were talking about it becoming a blue state, and really having sort of left the ‘purple stage.’ I really feel like this election is putting the data back into what we’ve known for years, a purple state. Nevadans care about candidates and they care about policies, and they're going to vote for those kinds of policies, not necessarily straight party line.”

The PAC made some limited television ad buys, but largely focused on digital and mail advertising in down ballot races, including Doug Herdon’s state Supreme Court race against attorney Ozzie Fumo, three state Senate races (Districts 5, 6 and 15) and four Assembly races (Districts 4, 29, 31 and 37). It reported spending more than $130,000 on Facebook ads, according to the social media company’s repository of advertisements on its platform — more than either Steve Sisolak or Adam Laxalt spent on the platform during their respective runs for governor in 2018. 

Creation and use of a political action committee to help boost legislative Republicans isn’t a new trend; former Gov. Brian Sandoval did it in 2014 and 2016 through the “Nevada Jobs Coalition,” a similar independent expenditure-focused committee that ran advertisements boosting Republican candidates.

But the 2020 effort was notable both in the size and source of the contributions (more than half of the PACs contributions came from 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofit groups, which aren’t required to disclose donors) but also in leadership structure; Hutchison left office in 2018, but worked with several currently-elected Republicans including state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer and Assembly members Jill Tolles and Tom Roberts.

In an interview, Kieckhefer called the PAC and leadership arrangement a “good partnership,” and said it had proved an effective counter to Democratic advertising against Republican candidates. He said the PAC’s success bodes well for the upcoming 2022 midterms, and that some of the financial relief it offered was a product of businesses pushing back against the prospect of Democratic supermajority control of the two legislative chambers.

“This was an instance where businesses that were feeling under attack by their state government decided to step up and take a stand,” he said. “And part of that was investing in the effort to gain legislative seats for Republicans. And we did that. So, this was a statement, and hopefully people are paying attention.”

As for Hutchison, his continued political involvement while out of office continues to fuel speculation about a potential future candidacy — Gov. Steve Sisolak and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto are both up for re-election in 2022. Hutchison said he plans to “think about my political future later,” but hinted that Republicans need to expand beyond the normal base to see success in the upcoming midterms.

“Republican candidates, particularly for statewide office, need to have as big a tent as possible,” he said. “We need to be a party that is inviting and a party that is attractive to as many voters as possible. We need to be attractive to our base, we need to be attractive to moderate voters, we need to be attractive to crossover voters. Just given the registration advantage in favor of Democrats, there has to be a focus on all three of those areas.”

PAC Funding

According to campaign finance reports, the Stronger Nevada PAC raised more than $1.8 million cumulatively through the first nine months of the calendar year, while spending more than $1 million over that same time period. Actual spending and contribution levels are likely to be higher, given that currently-reported fundraising totals don’t include the final month of campaigning.

Much of the group’s funding is obscured through the use of 501(c)4 nonprofit advocacy and social welfare organizations — which are not required to reveal their donors — for contributions. Hutchison helped fund the PAC’s initial wave of spending in the spring through a nonprofit called “Nevada Foundation for Judicial Engagement,” which contributed about $150,000 to the PAC in April.

That nonprofit was created in February of 2019 and is registered to Hutchison’s private-practice law office. It has reported no other contributions to Nevada-level or federal candidates since it was created.

But the group’s largest contributions have come from a similar 501(c)4 nonprofit organization called American Exceptionalism Institute Inc., which contributed a sizable $985,000 to the PAC in October and September — more than half of its listed contributions. The group has few public footprints; it lists an Alexandria, Virginia P.O. Box as its mailing address, and its listed chairman is an Ohio conservative activist named Chris Macisco.

According to government ethics group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the group was founded by an Ohio lawyer named James G. Ryan who is also involved in other “dark money” 501(c)4 nonprofits that engage in heavy political spending.

Outside of a publicized television ad campaign urging Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to support the nomination of CIA Director Gina Haspel in 2018, the nonprofit has not attracted much interest or public attention. More recently, it contributed $150,000 to a Super PAC supporting Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler in July 2020.

Other major donors to the Stronger Nevada PAC include the Republican State Leadership Committee, which contributed $200,000, and $250,000 from Nevada Gold Mines, the joint partnership between mining conglomerates Barrick and Newmont. The state’s mining industry soured on legislative Democrats after the 2020 summer session, where lawmakers pushed through three proposed constitutional amendments that would remove the cap on net proceeds of minerals.

Special election plans on hold in Clark County Commission race decided by 10 votes

Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez heard from both parties involved in Democrat Ross Miller’s lawsuit against Clark County on Friday to determine what is needed as evidence in the case and to set a date for the next hearing. 

Miller is suing the county after the Clark County Commission decided not to certify the results of the commission District C election which Miller won by 10 votes. The decision came after Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria identified 139 discrepancies in ballots cast in the district, which county leaders said was a margin that could cast doubt on the ultimate result.

During the short conference on Friday, Gonzalez granted a request by Miller’s attorney Dominic Gentile to include a deposition of Gloria of less than three hours as evidence in the hearing. Additionally, county counsel Mary-Anne Miller agreed to a stipulation by Gentile that the Clark County Commission will not take any action to hold the special election until after the suit is settled.

Additionally, Republican former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, attorney for Ross Miller’s Republican opponent Stavros Anthony, intervened in the case. Although Gentile objected to Hutchison’s intervention, Gonzalez overruled his objection and allowed Hutchison to intervene and represent Anthony’s interests in the suit.

A date was not set for the next hearing, but all parties were directed to meet independently to determine a date and report that date back to Gonzalez the week of Nov. 30.

Election Preview: State Senate races will determine Democrats’ chances at reaching a super-majority

All it takes is one.

After the 2018 election, Democrats controlled 13 of 21 seats in the state Senate — enough for a clear majority, but one short of a supermajority that could give the party the power to raise taxes and take other major procedural action without a Republican in support. The arrangement was brought into laser-sharp focus through Democrats’ multiple failed attempts to raise mining taxes during the summer special session because they failed to notch a Republican vote.

Now, with less than a month before Election Day, state Senate Democrats are aiming to flip two Republican-held districts while defending two suburban Las Vegas districts they won narrowly in the 2016 election.

It’s unlikely Republicans will gain a majority in the Senate without a major wave that gives them victory over essentially all seats in play and a fifth seat that’s considered generally out of reach. Democrats enjoy a 13-8 advantage in the Senate, and Republicans are aiming to both pick up seats and defend potentially vulnerable districts to ensure that Democrats don’t obtain a supermajority.

As members of the 21-seat state Senate serve four-year terms, only 11 districts are up for re-election in 2020 — and only four are considered to be up for grabs, given relative closeness in voter registration totals. 

Democrats are playing defense in two suburban Las Vegas Senate districts, with Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro running against Republican attorney April Becker in District 6, and political newcomer Kristee Watson attempting to keep control of Senate District 5 in a race against Republican charter school leader Carrie Buck (Democratic former Sen. Joyce Woodhouse is termed out of office).

On the flip side, Republicans are fending off challenges to well-funded incumbents Heidi Gansert in Reno (running against Wendy Jauregui-Jackins) and Scott Hammond (running against Liz Becker) in northwest Las Vegas.

Other Senate candidates are facing a much easier walk to re-election — incumbent Democrats Chris Brooks and Pat Spearman didn’t attract a single challenger, while incumbent Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea and Democratic candidate Dina Neal are both running in districts with overwhelmingly favorable voter registration advantages. Former Democratic state party head Roberta Lange overcame robust challenges from sitting lawmakers in the primary election for termed-out Sen. David Parks’ seat, but she does not have a general election opponent.

Some Republican consultants have identified Senate District 11 — where appointed Sen. Dallas Harris is running for the first time against Republican Joshua Dowden — as a potential pickup opportunity in a wave election. However, registered Democrats currently outnumber registered Republicans by a nearly 18-percentage-point margin in the district, making it unlikely that control of the district will flip.

But Republican candidates are for the most part entering the final period before the election with a cash advantage. All four Republicans in swing districts — Gansert, Hammond, Becker and Buck — outraised their opponents over the most recent fundraising quarter, which ran from July to the end of September.

“We've really been focused not only on protecting our incumbents, Sen. Gansert and Sen. Hammond, but really making sure that Carrie Buck and April Becker had a strong team behind them and the resources that needed to compete knowing how close these races have been historically,” said Greg Bailor, director of the Senate Republican Caucus.

The most recent numbers also mean that, save for Cannizzaro, Republicans have cumulatively outraised Democratic candidates since the start of 2019 in three of the four competitive districts. They’re also receiving a boost from several outside groups, including a PAC created by the Las Vegas Police Protective Association that’s raised half a million dollars, and former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison-led PAC (Stronger Nevada PAC) that has raised more than $1.8 million this year and placed substantial television and digital ads attacking Democratic candidates.

But fundraising totals and voter registration data are just some of the factors that determine electoral success, not infallible predictors.

Nevada State Senate Democrats Executive Director Cheryl Bruce said early returns from the first week of mail voting had been a positive indicator, but that candidates and the party would continue pushing hard through the state’s early vote period and Election Day. 

“In races like these that we're playing in, it is always going to be tight, it's always going to be close,” she said. “And so we cannot take anything for granted, and we're not going to. We have reasons to be optimistic, but we're not going to let our foot off the gas.”

While some campaigns got a slower start to door-knocking and canvassing because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, Bruce said that the party recently started using a “hybrid” canvassing system, where volunteers who are comfortable drop campaign literature at doors or have conversations with voters at a six-foot, socially distanced space.

And while the presidential race has sucked up much of the political oxygen, the lack of a statewide race on the ballot (such as governor or U.S. Senate) means that legislative candidates in two races — Cannizzaro and Becker, and Gansert and Jauregui-Jackins — have purchased television advertisements.

No legislative candidates bought television ad time in 2018, and only one — former Sen. Joyce Woodhouse — did so in 2016. Though there are some drawbacks — television ads can’t be geolocated to an individual district and thus likely reach a large number of voters who can’t vote for the candidate — Bruce said that the lack of other major races or a big-money ballot question gave candidates “a little bit more of an opening, both in terms of maximizing our dollars and also cutting through some noise on TV.”

Republicans hope to pin their opponents to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, whose approval ratings have dropped by double digits as economic troubles have carried on, unemployment remains sky high and critics have scrutinized his response to the pandemic. If they block Democrats from holding a two-thirds majority, Republicans can continue to be a relevant part of the policy conversation.

“We're also 200 days plus now into the COVID shutdown and the economic shutdown and seeing the governor continue to struggle to communicate,” Bailor said. “If there is a path to get the Senate back in Republican control, that puts at least a check back on the system of state government. And that is an opportunity to maybe have a more bipartisan conversation when we go to Carson City in 2021.”

Bruce said that even with the governor’s lower approval ratings, Democratic candidates were not shying away from Sisolak’s support or endorsement. She said if anything, voters were more apt to make decisions on down-ballot races based on their reaction to President Trump.

“People are really responding well to the steps and the actions that he's taken to help us weather the storm of the pandemic, both economically and health and safety-wise,” she said. “There is definitely a very strong sense of anger towards the Trump administration right now, and really DC politics in general, that I think is going to probably play a factor in these races.”

As for Republicans? 

“Nobody's shying away from the party ticket,” Bailor said. “But with our messaging, we're not talking about national issues. We're talking about local issues at the state level.” 

Below, The Nevada Independent explores those four Senate races this year. Click here to read more about the Assembly races and check out our election page for more information overall on the 2020 election.

Senate District 5 

Republican former charter school principal Carrie Buck is trying for the third time to win a seat in the swingy Henderson-area district held by termed-out Democrat Joyce Woodhouse. Buck lost to Woodhouse by less than one percentage point in 2016 and proffered herself as a potential replacement in an unsuccessful attempt to recall Woodhouse in 2017.

Currently the head of Pinecrest Foundation, which supports the now eight-school Pinecrest Academy charter school network, Buck raised $211,066 in the latest quarter and spent $60,562, leaving her with $246,023 heading into the final month of her campaign. Her fundraising eclipses that of Democrat Kristee Watson, who reported raising $115,055 and spending $161,266, leaving her with $123,686 to spend in the home stretch.

Buck said her priority bills would require students to read at grade level by fifth grade, and she wants to develop the workforce by identifying available jobs and working backwards to what can prepare middle and high schoolers for those openings. 

Watson is the program facilitator for literacy nonprofit Spread the Word Nevada. She ran for an Assembly seat in 2018, but lost to Republican Melissa Hardy by about nine percentage points.

Libertarian and retired electrical engineer Tim Hagan is also competing in the race and reported $6,000 in contributions last quarter, all from an in-kind donation for video production. All three candidates ran unopposed in their June primaries. 

Democrats hold a roughly 6 percent voter registration advantage in the district over Republicans as of the most recent registration data available, with 37.7 percent registered as Democrats, 31.8 percent registered Republicans and 24 percent nonpartisan. Senate District 5 includes portions of Henderson and southeastern Las Vegas. 

At the same time in 2016, Democrats represented about 38.9 percent of registered voters compared to roughly 34 percent of Republicans, or about a 5 point difference in voter registration advantage (with about 20.1 percent of voters registered as nonpartisan). 

Senate District 6 - Cannizzaro/Becker

Prosecutor and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro is in a fierce contest to keep her swingy Summerlin-area seat this cycle. She faces Republican real estate attorney April Becker in a race that is a referendum on one of the most powerful decision makers in the Legislature and therefore the direction of the body as a whole, including bills passed on narrow margins and late-night hearings on major policy.

“There's plenty to campaign on right now, just over the behavior of the Senate majority, the politics that were played,” Bailor said. “It's unnecessary, especially when we are dealing with such a large economic burden and such a health care crisis.”

Cannizzaro raised $193,131 in the latest quarter and spent $302,972, with a massive war chest of $581,936 cash on hand heading into the final month of the campaign. Becker topped her fundraising haul in the latest quarter, bringing in $248,668, but spent $217,527 and has less cash on hand — $181,011 — heading into the last month of the campaign.

Cannizzaro’s television campaign focuses largely on health care — touting votes for protecting people with pre-existing conditions and ending surprise hospital billing — while accusing Becker of being supported by politicians who support repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Bruce said that Cannizzaro’s campaign was focused largely on the twin points of health care and education, while also addressing the state’s pandemic response and recovery. She said many of the complaints about the rushed legislative process during the special sessions came from lobbyists or other legislative watchers and not from normal citizens.

“It's kind of a disconnect between what the general lobby corp and Carson City insiders would say, versus what every day voter and citizen in Nevada would say about that,” she said.

A centerpiece of Becker’s campaign has been riding around her district in a bright blue ice cream truck meeting voters. Her ads accuse Cannizzaro of voting to raise her own pay (through support of annual legislative sessions) and promises that she’ll donate her legislative salary to teachers.

Becker also criticized moves to scale back Opportunity Scholarships, which give businesses tax credits for donations to scholarships that families can use to attend private schools, and argues that “we need to stiffen penalties on dangerous felons.”

Democrats hold about an 8 point voter registration advantage in this district over Republicans, with the most recent data showing the district’s more than 84,000 voters to have 39.7 percent registered Democrats, 31.8 percent registered Republicans, and 22.4 percent registered nonpartisan.

That’s a slightly smaller percentage advantage than the 8.5 percent registration advantage Democrats enjoyed in 2016, which saw registration made up of 40.9 percent registered Democrats, 32.4 percent registered Republicans and 19.2 percent registered non-partisan. 

In 2016, Cannizzaro narrowly defeated former Republican Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman by slightly more than 1,000 votes out of more than 56,000 cast.

Democrats upped their total registered voter advantage by about 2,000 over the four-year period (4,691 advantage in 2016 and 6,684 in 2020), though the total number of registered voters in the district also jumped by more than 14,000 over the same four-year period.

Senate District 15 

Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert is seeking re-election to her Reno-area district. She raised $201,665 in the last quarter and spent $191,223, leaving her with $282,068 on the eve of the election.

Gansert is the executive director of external relations at the University of Nevada, Reno, and served as chief of staff to former Gov. Brian Sandoval. 

“She grew up in that community, she's served multiple sessions in assembly, and now the Senate,” Bailor said. “People know Heidi. And that's also something that's gonna help — she's (part of the) fabric of that community.”

Bruce said there was a “big difference” in the dynamics of Gansert’s 2020 race after two terms in the Legislature,  as opposed to her initial 2016 state Senate bid, where she defeated attorney Devon Reese by an 11-point margin.

“She can't necessarily paint herself as this moderate this time when she has a voting record to answer for,” she said.

Democrats have endorsed and rallied around Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, a county appraiser and the sister of Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui. Jauregui-Jackins reported raising more than $126,000 over the last three months, spending just under $100,000 and keeping roughly $133,000 in cash on hand. 

Similar to Cannizzaro, Jauregui-Jackins’s television ad focuses largely on health care issues and claims Gansert took campaign dollars from drug and insurance companies and voted against a resolution urging Congress to not repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Gansert has responded directly to that ad, releasing a response touting her votes for drug transparency legislation, birth control access legislation and a vote in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

One possible sign of concern for Gansert comes in voter registration trends; Democrats now enjoy a narrow 841-person voter registration lead over Republicans in the district, a flip from the same point in 2016 when Republicans held a 1,641-person advantage in registered voters.

Senate District 18 

Republican incumbent Scott Hammond is seeking to maintain a seat he’s held since 2012 representing a Republican-leaning, northwestern portion of Las Vegas. He raised $131,762 and spent $65,050 last quarter, holding $90,095 heading into the final leg of the race.

A former teacher who now works as Director of Community Outreach for the Nevada Contractors Association, Hammond’s campaign has involved convening weekly telephone town halls on topics relating to the pandemic.

He will compete against Democratic challenger Liz Becker in November. She is a former teacher and environmental scientist who previously worked with Southern Nevada Water Authority who lists environmental issues and gun violence prevention among her top campaign priorities.  

Becker’s funding falls far short of Hammond’s, though — she raised $24,161, or less than a fifth of what Hammond did in the most recent quarter.

Becker spent $16,493 and had $41,650 cash on hand with a month left to go in the race.

Democrats account for 33.7 percent of active registered voters in the district, while Republicans have 37.5 percent.

Election Preview: Reno Council’s newest member Devon Reese and perennial candidate Eddie Lorton face off for at-large seat

As Election Day approaches, candidates in four nonpartisan Reno City Council races are squaring off in an election that will shape how the city navigates the devastation the pandemic has brought on local revenue, a housing crunch spurred by a burgeoning population, and calls for racial justice reform amid nationwide protests against police brutality.

Well-established incumbents and challengers for three ward positions and one at-large position are reaching out to residents by every means possible to earn votes ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. Though many of the campaigns are separated by large funding gaps favoring the incumbents, challengers are hoping to sway voters with bold policies and fresh perspectives.

In three of the races, incumbents are backed by significant donations from developers. Opponents question the conflict of interest the donations might present given that the council decides the fate of various developers’ projects, but incumbents remain steadfast in their position that they serve the citizens of Reno, not other interests.

Three of the seven council seats, including the mayor who votes on the council but does not represent a specific geographic district, are not up for re-election in the 2020 cycle. Council seats are nonpartisan and council members receive salaries of about $80,000 along with benefits each year.

The Nevada Independent is releasing two Reno City Council election previews Thursday and Friday giving an overview of the two candidates, their campaign funding standings along with each candidate’s platform and stances.

***

Challenging the city’s newest councilman, Devon Reese, is self-funded perennial candidate Eddie Lorton.

The at-large council position represents residents of the entire city, but in 2024, the city will redraw wards, adding a sixth geographically distinct ward and eliminating the at-large position in the process. Lorton is looking to replace Reese on the council for the next four years.

Reese is a civil litigation attorney at Hutchison and Steffen, a firm founded by former Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison. The City Council unanimously selected Reese for the at-large council position out of 144 applicants last year. Reese also serves as the council’s vice mayor.

Previously, Reese ran as a Democrat for state Senate in a tight race in 2016. He said he is running for the at-large position because it is geared toward finding opportunities to collaborate and building unity on the council. He added that it also gives him the chance to help the city where he grew up.

“I always view problems as opportunities to engage our community in finding solutions,” Reese said in a recent interview with The Nevada Independent. “As elected officials, we listen, we need to understand where people are coming from, that we gather a diverse set of ideas and solutions because oftentimes it’s in that listening phase and hearing what people’s issues are that we’re able to identify solutions that maybe weren’t on our radar.”

Reese describes himself as a bridge-builder and says he wants to continue the council’s current trajectory, pushing it further by prioritizing housing, support for housing-insecure populations and help for businesses and working families navigating through the pandemic and recovery. He said another one of his goals is to work with the county and other entities to address problems on a region-wide basis.

Such an approach to addressing homelessness is necessary because many struggles facing the community extend beyond the city’s border, Reese added. He noted that working with unsheltered communities too often falls on the shoulders of law enforcement when more social workers and community advocates should be involved and the county has more funding and resources that could be devoted to that work.

Reese said he recognizes the historical discrimination against Black communities, but does not support removing more funding from the police department. He noted that police officers deserve respect and pointed out that police have lost funding in the last 25 years because of  budget cuts due to a structural problem with property taxes. 

Reese explained that because of the state’s taxation formula, property tax revenue is decreasing while costs for the city are increasing. To change the property tax structure, Reese said the Legislature would need to propose reforms and put it to voters. He added that it would be difficult to increase sales taxes because the city has tapped out that source so many times. 

The Reese-Lorton campaign is perhaps the most vitriolic, as Lorton has consistently attacked Reese in social media posts, the most notable being a video featuring Reese’s brother, Sean Reese, airing family drama and accusing Reese of evicting him after he stopped making rental payments.

Reese responded to the video in a post online, calling it a “tasteless attack video” that exploited his brother who has struggled with mental health issues and substance abuse. He asserted that the video made false claims and that while he wanted to set the record straight, he did not want to make his family collateral damage in a political back-and-forth.

“While I picked a life in the public eye, [my family] did not. Although he has chosen to take part in this sick, baseless smear, I still believe that Sean’s personal struggles do not deserve to be aired further,” Reese wrote.

In an interview with The Nevada Independent, Reese declined to comment further on the attack, citing an adage that his parents taught him: “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get filthy and the pig likes it.”

Donations to Reese’s campaign for the second quarter totaled about $72,400, with one in-kind donation of $1,500 listed as a billboard from Lamar Companies. The largest contributions came in the form of three $10,000 donations from developers in Northern California.

The $10,000 donations, the maximum amount a candidate can receive from a single donor,  came from Lyon Management Group, NPLC BV Investment Company LLC and NPC Investor LLC. NPLC BV Investment shares the same address as Newport Pacific Land Company, the developer in the controversial Daybreak project and a major donor to council members Neoma Jardon and Oscar Delgado’s campaigns.

In response to a question about whether the contributions present undue interest, Reese said campaign finance reform is needed, but right now candidates running for office don’t have much of a choice in terms of sources of funding, and the alternative is that only wealthy people would run.

He also said that he has received broad bipartisan support and funding from individuals, labor unions, businesses and other groups, and he said that the contributions do not influence his decisions and are disclosed and available to the public.

Reese spent around $60,400 during the second quarter, mainly on consultants, advertising, and a $250 donation to the Karma Box project, a community initiative that provides non-perishable food, first aid supplies and toiletries to vulnerable populations. The candidate has a healthy cash on hand balance of more than $76,000.

Lorton has more cash on hand, but that is almost entirely from $100,000 he loaned himself in February.

In the second quarter, Lorton received $15,740 from donations and spent about $11,336 on advertising and consultants. He had a remaining balance of $98,900.

The highest donation Lorton’s campaign received in the second quarter was $5,000 from Don Roger Norman, a Reno real estate magnet and a partner behind the massive Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center that houses the Tesla Gigafactory.

When Lorton, the owner of a carpet cleaning business and investor in real estate, unsuccessfully campaigned against Hillary Schieve for mayor in 2014 and 2018, he ran on a platform advocating that the city sell surplus property and move the homeless shelter out of the downtown area.

Lorton ran for the mayoral seat after he filed a lawsuit in 2013 contending that council members could not run for mayor once they had served a full 12-year term because the mayor was a member of council.

The Supreme Court supported Lorton’s argument, a decision that prevented Jessica Sferrazza, a former councilwoman, from running.

Sferrazza’s departure from the race subsequently made way for Schieve’s candidacy. Schieve held the council’s at-large seat from 2012 to 2014.

Lorton declined an interview for this article, claiming that “the Independent is a bias[ed] news source … incapable of fair unbias[ed] journalism,” because Jon Ralston, the editor, is Sferrazza’s ex-husband.

On Lorton’s website, he has an agenda called the “Reno 2022 Plan,” with almost identical campaign goals and ideas as a “Reno 2022” plan he presented in 2018.

He seems to be reusing other campaign materials, too, listing the position he is running for on his campaign finance report in the first quarter as “Mayor, Reno” and hyperlinking a 2018 Gold Star Families Endorsement on his website — until he removed the link sometime after an op-ed criticizing the candidate and pointing out the link was posted on This is Reno in May. The endorsement is still listed on his website, but the link is no longer there.

Lorton says that homelessness in Reno is a problem the county should take responsibility for, and in a campaign announcement in February said that he also wants to focus on pedestrian safety.

“It is no secret that I have unsuccessfully thrown my hat in this ring before. But it’s not how many times you get knocked down that matters, it’s how many times you get back up,” Lorton wrote in the announcement. “It is my hope that I will be able to continue helping citizens understand matters that come before the Council, while also starting a new chapter in helping community members engage directly and more regularly with our elected leaders.”