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The Lombardo Machine? Election season officially begins for state legislators, hopefuls

(Credit: Richard Bednarski/Nevada Current)

April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
March 6, 2024

While he is not up for reelection, Gov. Joe Lombardo will hardly be a bystander in this year’s election cycle, and political observers believe his influence could play a role in the handful of races that decide whether he maintains veto power over the Nevada State Legislature.

The Republican governor has largely embraced the narrative that he is Nevada’s last line of defense against unfettered Democratic control. Last year, he racked up the most gubernatorial vetoes issued during a single legislative session, a distinction he has welcomed.

Lombardo told Nevada Newsmakers in November he is doing what he can to stop Democrats from gaining supermajorities in both chambers. Two-thirds supermajorities would allow Democrats to override any gubernatorial veto.

Democrats currently hold 13 of 21 Senate seats — one shy of a supermajority. This year, 10 of the seats are up for reelection. Democrats could gain a supermajority by maintaining the six of those seats they currently control and flipping one of the four Republican seats.

Democrats currently have the bare minimum for a supermajority in the Assembly — 28 of 42 seats. If Republicans can maintain their existing 14 seats and flip one Democratic seat, they will break the supermajority.

“The super-majority has to be prevented, whatever partisan side of the aisle you’re looking at,” Lombardo told Newsmakers. “And so we’re proactive as a campaign and as me, personally, as the governor, in identifying candidates, supporting candidates and helping them be successful in their election time.”

The result has been a slate of Republicans who announced their candidacies early, well before the start of candidate filing this week, and immediately became the frontrunners in their primary races. Many of the candidates have also been boosted by the well-funded pro-Lombardo political action committee Better Nevada PAC.

For many, the effort feels better coordinated than in previous election cycles and more reminiscent of Democratic campaign operations. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“They’re trying to take pages from our playbook,” said Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas), who also chairs the Nevada State Democratic Party. “Because we have a winning system.”

Monroe-Moreno said she’s not threatened by it and referenced an old political adage about elections: either run scared, or run unopposed.

“They certainly have more money than they’ve had in the past,” said Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas). “Governor Lombardo has been raising a lot of money. But I’m not particularly worried. We are going to do what we always do. I think as Democrats we win at the doors because we actually have ideas.”

The Republican party is divided, continued Yeager, adding that the days of moderate, broadly liked Republicans like Brian Sandoval are gone.

“Whatever candidates they’re putting forward, they still have to be able to win primary elections, and so far the Republican party here in Nevada has shown that they are clearly on Donald Trump’s side of the line.”

Through his spokesperson, Lombardo declined to comment on his efforts to boost fellow Republicans this election cycle.

Better Nevada PAC declined a request for an interview, but in a statement Ryan Erwin said the governor has “personally made it a priority to recruit stronger candidates for the state legislature.”

He continued, “Nevada needs a more transparent, and less partisan, legislature that begins with serious candidates dedicated to policy over partisanship and to more accountability and transparency in the legislative process. Governor Lombardo will continue to do everything he can to advance those goals.”

Candidate filing begins

The filing period for non-judicial candidates opened Monday and runs until 5 pm on March 15. After the filing period ends, there will be a withdrawal and challenge period. The secretary of state’s office expects the official list of candidates to be released no later than April 3.

The unofficial list of candidates is available online.

As of Tuesday night, nearly 400 candidates had filed, according to the SOS website. That number includes candidates who have filed for the state’s numerous judicial offices, whose candidate filing period was held in January.

In Clark County, Assembly Democratic Caucus members and their endorsed candidates met midday Monday with supporters to file.

Assemblywoman Britney Miller, a Democrat whose District 5 in Las Vegas is considered competitive, said she was proud of the diversity of her caucus.

“Our legislature should look like the people we represent,” she said. “We know how extremely diverse we are here when it comes to race, religion, color, ethnicity, income, profession — all the different ways that humans are beautifully diverse.”

The Assembly Republican Caucus similarly gathered its Southern Nevada members and endorsed candidates on Monday to file as a group. On social media, the caucus highlighted the event, saying, “our incumbents and candidates showing unity and leading right out of the gate.”

Lombardo has endorsed all of the caucus’s returning incumbents, as well as several new candidates.

“Secure the veto, secure Nevada,” reads an image shared by state Assemblyman Toby Yurek, a Henderson Republican running for reelection, on social media this week.

Republican Brittany Hausle, who is running for an open seat in Assembly District 35, said on social media that the party will flip the seat red “to protect” Lombardo’s veto power.

Democratic Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow, who currently represents AD35, announced she would not run for reelection. Her announcement came after Republicans, and especially the Lombardo-aligned Better Nevada PAC, publicly attacked her for taking a job as director of a disability advocacy nonprofit that months earlier had received $250,000 in funding through a bill she voted on.

The Nevada Ethics Commission ruled that Gorelow did not commit an ethics violation by taking the job or when voting for the bill, which also gave funds to dozens of other nonprofit organizations.

Yeager, who has also been criticized by Republicans for excessive traveling and perceived conflicts of interest, defended Gorelow and the nonprofit funding bill.

“I won’t apologize for allocating money to nonprofits that do things like feed hungry seniors, make sure kids have child care and tutoring,” he said.  “I would challenge anybody who wants to make that argument to spend a day or two with some of the nonprofits that we funded and see the work they do. Then tell me who is going to do that work if the nonprofits don’t? Because the answer is nobody. We don’t have the state capacity to do it because we’re one of the leanest state governments in the country.”

He added, “And a reminder, there’s only one constitutional officer who was found to have intentionally violated ethics provisions. That’s the governor himself. So there’s a bit of irony that his henchmen would attack us.”

The Nevada Ethics Commission last year found Lombardo willfully violated Nevada’s ethics laws by repeatedly wearing his Clark County sheriff’s badge and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department uniform in advertisements and promotions for his gubernatorial campaign.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.