With the deadline to formally enter the governor’s race still a year away, at least five Republicans are reported to be taking a serious look at opposing Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in 2022.
Sisolak won the governorship in 2018 over Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt by a narrow 4% margin, falling short of a majority (49.4%).
Sisolak has already amassed a campaign war chest for 2022 of $4.53 million through year-end 2020. He raised a record $11.3 million for his race in 2018.
The Democratic governor survived several failed recall efforts after his “non-essential” shutdown orders resulted in an April 2020 unemployment rate of 29.5%. That’s the highest ever recorded for a state. The jobless rate exceeded the Great Depression when unemployment peaked at 25% in 1933.
With the economy moving in a better direction, a March Nevada Poll done for the Las Vegas Review-Journal showed Sisolak with a positive job approval rating, an improvement from October when nearly half of Nevadans disapproved of him.
Defeating Sisolak will be a difficult task for a Republican, even in what remains a swing state.
Rep. Mark Amodei, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, former Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and North Las Vegas Mayor John Jay Lee are seriously evaluating entering the Republican primary for governor, according to multiple sources.
Political newcomer Derek Stevens is also reportedly considering a Republican candidacy. Stevens is the downtown Las Vegas owner of Circa, D Las Vegas and Golden Gate hotel-casinos.
Amodei confirmed his interest in the governor’s office in December. He is the only Republican in the Nevada congressional delegation, representing Nevada’s 2nd district since 2011.
First elected to Congress in a 2011 special election, Amodei was re-elected in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020, winning every county in his district in each election.
Amodei notes that Republicans are the No. 3 group in Clark County and that to win statewide, Republicans must appeal to nonpartisans. The GOP must also adapt to the fact that legislative Democrats likely will make mail voting permanent in Nevada.
Lombardo has won two races in Clark County that were nonpartisan. He is Clark County sheriff and head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
A registered Republican, Lombardo was elected sheriff in November 2014 by a 51%-49% margin, defeating Larry Burns, a registered Democrat LVMPD captain. He was re-elected sheriff in the June 2018 primary with an impressive 73% of the vote, defeating four challengers.
Hutchison completed one-term as Nevada’s lieutenant governor, 2015 to 2019. He served under Gov. Brian Sandoval and did not seek re-election in 2018.
John Jay Lee is the current mayor of North Las Vegas, first elected in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. He previously served in the Assembly (1996-2000) and State Senate (2004-2012) as a Democrat.
Lee gained national attention on April 6 with an announcement on “Fox and Friends” that he was changing parties to become a Republican. He said he was leaving the “elitist” and “socialist” Democrats to join the GOP.
There is a belief in Republican circles that the potential candidates will come to an agreement by June and not compete against one another in a primary.
Lombardo and Hutchison are seriously exploring a run through Republican political consultant Mike Slanker.
Slanker also represents former Sen. Dean Heller, another potential 2022 gubernatorial candidate. Most Republican operatives believe Heller is content to sit out the 2022 election cycle, unless the political landscape changes.
Multiple sources within local and national Republican politics say former Attorney General Laxalt has his eye on the Nevada Senate race in 2022 — not governor — according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. With Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s seat being of critical importance in a tied 50-50 seat Senate, the Nevada GOP party nomination is Laxalt’s to have should he want it.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa. Email email@example.com.