Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that he had raised a record setting $4.5 million for a tough re-election campaign in 2021. That gives Democrat Sisolak a political warchest of $8.28 million cash on hand, more than all his Republican challengers combined.
The second-biggest fundraiser for 2021 in the governor’s race was Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, a Republican, who raised $3.1 million since announcing his campaign for governor in June. He has $2.65 million cash on hand.
Lombardo’s campaign claimed this fundraising “cements his status as the front-runner in the Republican gubernatorial field” touting the haul as “more than any Republican or Democrat candidate in Nevada history has ever raised in a non-election year,” until later eclipsed by Sisolak.
A Mellman Group poll done for the Nevada Independent in September showed Lombardo as the most likely Republican to beat the politically vulnerable Sisolak — assuming he wins the GOP nomination. That poll showed the race essentially even (Sisolak 45%, Lombardo 44%). Lombardo has been the target of Democratic groups seeking to defeat him in the GOP primary.
Last September, former Sen. Dean Heller announced his gubernatorial candidacy as another expected frontrunner. Heller reported raising roughly $650,000 in 2021 and having $265,000 cash on hand. Included in that total was the transfer of $176,000 from his leftover federal campaign account, and a personal loan to his campaign of $100,000.
Lombardo enters 2022 with clear political advantages over Heller.
Even with a 30-year history as a Republican in Nevada politics, Heller continues to suffer from his failure to support former President Donald Trump in 2016, a position he later awkwardly reversed with expressions of strong support for Trump. His “Trump problem” persists and was underscored by Heller drawing boos at a GOP gubernatorial debate in January.
Importantly, Lombardo raised nearly five times more campaign money than Heller did in 2021. And, Lombardo has a tenfold advantage in cash on hand going into the 2022 election year ($2.65 million v. $265,000).
Heller initially led Lombardo among Republican voters in early polls, based on greater name I.D. In a July Tarrance Group survey (Republican-sponsored), Heller led Lombardo 27% to 22%. Heller also beat Lombardo in the September Mellman Group poll, 31% to 23%.
However, in a major reversal the most recent Tarrance poll in November showed a dramatic shift to Lombardo. Lombardo led Heller by a wide margin, 37% to 19%.
After announcing for governor before a national audience on “Fox & Friends”, North Las Vegas Mayor and GOP candidate John Lee reported raising nearly $1.6 million in 2021, loaning his campaign $1 million. A conservative former Democrat, Lee previously served in the state legislature. He ended 2021 with $798,000 in cash on hand. The November Tarrance Group poll found Lee with 5% support among Republican voters.
Two firebrand far-right Republicans are also in the governor’s race.
Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michelle Fiore, who announced for governor in October, raised nearly $600,000 in 2021 and has about $190,000 cash on hand. A former Assemblywoman and Republican National Committeewoman for Nevada , Fiore made a splashy announcement video firing her handgun shooting beer bottles to illustrate her policy plans. Fiore won 8% support in the Tarrance poll.
Reno personal injury and criminal defense attorney Joey Gilbert reported raising about $325,000 and ended the year with $65,000 in cash on hand. A former professional boxer, marijuana dispensary owner and reality show participant, Gilbert polled 7% in the November Tarrance survey.
Other Republicans in the field include:
Venture capitalist Guy Nohra, a Lebanese-American, reported raising $1.3 million, 94% contributed to himself.
Dr. Fred Simon, a Minden surgeon and businessman, raised $183,000 in 2021, two-thirds of that money donated to himself.
And, Tom Heck, an Air Force veteran and twice an unsuccessful candidate for GOP Senate nominations. He raised $97,000 in 2021.
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