The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday agreed with District Judge James Wilson that Gary Schmidt wasn’t a lawful resident of State Senate District 16.
Schmidt ran against incumbent Ben Kieckhefer in the Republican primary but Wilson ruled he wasn’t actually a resident because the Reindeer Lodge he claimed as his home was uninhabitable.
The roof of that structure half way up the Mount Rose Highway collapsed under heavy snows more than a year earlier and was declared unsafe by Washoe County.
Therefore, Wilson ruled, Schmidt didn’t meet the statutory requirement he actually live in his residence within the district for 30 days before the close of filing for office.
Schmidt took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing Wilson abused his discretion because the lodge had been his home for years. He conceded he wasn’t living there at the time but said he was in the process of rebuilding it so he could move back in.
The state argued Schmidt clearly didn’t live at the address, “and that the evidence does not show that his absence was merely temporary.”
The Supreme Court stayed the disqualification order, allowing Schmidt to remain on the ballot. But he was soundly defeated by Kieckhefer in the GOP primary. Nonetheless, the high court ruled the issue wasn’t moot because of the significant issues raised and should be considered on its merits.
“Schmidt admitted that he did not sleep at the residence and that there was no operating water or power at the property at the relevant time,” the unanimous order issued by the high court states.
They rejected Schmidt’s argument he was working on restoring the building and his forced absences shouldn’t compromise his residency.
“None of the evidence before the court, aside from Schmidt’s own testimony, which the district court found not credible, suggests that anything was done to try to make the residence habitable when Schmidt returned to Nevada in 2017,” the justices wrote. “Instead, the evidence suggests that Schmidt intended to sell the property without him returning to live there.”
This was Schmidt’s second attempt to replace Kieckhefer in the state Senate. He was defeated in the primary four years ago as well by a margin of 2:1.