A gubernatorial field of candidates that includes 15 Republicans and two Democrats marked the close of filing March 18.
Entrants have until March 29 to withdraw their candidacies for the June 14 primary election, but the field is essentially set.
Polls show Gov. Steve Sisolak vulnerable to a credible Republican challenger in November. In a Mellman Group survey last year, Sisolak was “upside down” with voters.
Sisolak’s Draconian lockdown orders and masking mandates had a devastating impact on Nevada’s economy and his popularity.
In April 2020, Nevada set a record with the highest unemployment rate ever recorded – 30.5%. During 2021, Nevada’s top-ranked unemployment continued.
Leading national political handicappers (Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Real Clear Politics) rank the Nevada governor’s race as a “Tossup.”
Sisolak headed into 2022 having raised more than $4.5 million in 2021, with $8.28 million cash on hand. That’s more cash than all his GOP opponents combined.
Sisolak has drawn a Democratic June primary opponent – former Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins (2005-15). Collins, 72, is a colorful, outspoken critic of Sisolak and a longtime political figure in Southern Nevada. He served in the Nevada Assembly (1993-2001).
Progressive Democrats are unenthusiastic about Sisolak. Collins’ vote total in the primary will be a measure of Democratic voter dissatisfaction with the governor.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo is now the clear Republican frontrunner for governor.
Lombardo is a 34-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, joining Metro after serving in the U.S. Army. Narrowly elected Clark County sheriff in 2014 (51%-49%), Lombardo easily won re-election in 2018 to his non-partisan office with 73% of the vote, defeating four challengers.
A Nevada Independent poll last fall identified Lombardo as the most likely Republican to beat Sisolak. He has been the target of Democratic groups seeking to defeat him in the GOP primary.
Lombardo’s fundraising haul since launching his governor campaign in June was an impressive $3.1 million by year-end , with $2.65 million cash on hand. That far outpaced fundraising by his GOP rivals.
Former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller’s political comeback campaign for governor is flagging. Initially considered among the frontrunners, Heller’s poll numbers have sunk to single digits and his fundraising is dwarfed when compared to Lombardo’s.
Heller’s failure to support Donald Trump in 2016 alienated strong Trump supporters and his 28-year history in political office may be more a liability than an asset among Republican voters.
North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee and venture capitalist Guy Nohra have promoted their candidacies with strong advertising campaigns but struggle to win any significant GOP voter support.
Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore made news as a surprise last minute dropout in the governor’s race. Instead, the splashy pro-gun firebrand filed for state treasurer.
Fiore calculated Lombardo to be the prohibitive GOP favorite for governor and that running on a potential Lombardo-led “Red Wave” ticket might sweep her into office as state treasurer.
Fiore’s withdrawal gives a boost to Joey Gilbert’s fringe candidacy. Gilbert, an ardent Trump supporter, is an alt-right personal injury and criminal defense lawyer. He’s a former professional boxer, reality TV participant and marijuana dispensary owner.
Gilbert, a self-described “battler,” was on the Capitol steps during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot. Without proof, he claims Trump won Nevada by 44,000 votes in 2020, despite certified election results showing Biden winning by 33,596 votes.
While Lombardo is acknowledged the most “electable” Republican in November, a Gilbert primary win would almost certainly result in Sisolak’s re-election – probably in a landslide.
Democrats now have a Nevada Democratic Party run by far-left members of the “Democratic Socialists of America.” Republicans have a Nevada Republican Party for over a decade dominated by far-right extremists.
The governor’s race will be decided in November by the more mainstream entire Nevada electorate.
E-mail Jim Hartman at lawdocman1@ aol.com.