LAS VEGAS (AP) — Longtime GOP political operative Robert Uithoven has fallen short in a bid to unseat Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald.
Uithoven, who was backed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and other elected GOP officials, congratulated McDonald following the vote by some 300 party leaders Saturday in Las Vegas.
McDonald won a two-year term by a 193-112 vote.
“It’s a new day,” McDonald told the state GOP’s central committee in a brief acceptance speech. “2014 — let’s win.”
McDonald, a former police officer and Las Vegas councilman, took the reins of the state GOP 18 months ago. He said he’s been traveling the state during that time in an effort to unify Republicans.
Uithoven said he challenged McDonald because the purpose of political parties is to help candidates win elections and he fears the Nevada GOP is falling “further and further” behind in its fundraising ability and voter registration efforts.
Democrats hold a statewide registration advantage of 96,705, accounting for 42 percent of Nevada’s active voters compared with the GOP’s 34 percent. Nearly 18 percent of Nevada voters are registered as nonpartisan.
“I think the current leadership (of the state GOP) is not willing to go in an opposite direction,” Uithoven told The Associated Press on Saturday. “They want to continue with the current leadership. But the central committee expressed their views and I’m at peace with the results.”
Uithoven said he also fears Democrats are pulling away from Republicans in the state and that Nevada could lose its status as a battleground state, affecting Republican candidates down the ballot.
Nevada’s GOP has featured divisions for years.
In 2008, a giant split erupted when state GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden shut down the state convention as supporters of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul were poised to win a big chunk of delegates to the national convention.
Four years later, Paul supporters took control of several county Republican parties and carried those victories to the state convention, where they won 22 of 25 at-large delegate slots to the national convention where Mitt Romney was nominated for president.