Nevada’s Secretary of State and the chairman of the Rural Caucus headlined this year’s Churchill County Democrats’ Sawyer-Bryan Dinner at the Fallon Convention Center.
The dinner and silent auction featured Cisco Aguilar, who was elected Secretary of State in November to succeed the termed-out Republican Barbara Cegavske. The dinner was held on May 6 for the first time since 2019, but during the past two years, the local Democrats sponsored a picnic.
The dinner is named for former Gov. Grant Sawyer, who served from 1959-1967, and former attorney general, governor and U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan who held statewide offices from 1979 to 2001.
Churchill County Chair Scott Tudehope welcomed this year’s guests and introduced the officers of the local central committee.
Aguilar, the keynote speaker, posted a close win in November over Republican Jim Marchant. Aguilar attended the University of Arizona where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting, a master’s in business administration and a law degree. Aguilar said he was a special counsel to Jim Rogers, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, and also general counsel for the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. Former Govs. Jim Gibbons and Brian Sandoval both appointed Aguilar to the Nevada Athletic Commission.
Aguilar said the campaign for secretary of state was his first in seeking public office. He gave an overview of his career and the influence his family had with his education, especially his father, who was involved with the mining industry’s labor unions.
Aguilar said he’s implementing a $30 million voter registration system that will be the same for the state’s 17 counties. Aguilar added the new system will be able to track every ballot.
“I will protect universal mail-in ballots,” Aguilar said, adding a majority of Nevada’s voters cast mail ballots.
Aguilar then drew applause when he announced the introduction of a bill that will make it a crime to harass election officials and workers in Nevada. He also commended Cegavske for maintaining the integrity of the Secretary of State’s office.
Aaron Sims, chairman of the Nevada Rural Caucus, encouraged local Democrats to become involved with the next election. He said one important statewide office up for re-election is for U.S. Senate, which is held by Jacky Rosen.
Sims, whose family moved to Gardnerville in 2003, said he first grew an early appreciation for public service after attending city council meetings with his father. At age 16, he managed his first campaign for a candidate seeking county commission. In November, he lost the State Senate District 16 race to Republican Lisa Krasner.
According to his biography, he has been affiliated with many organizations including the Carson City Democratic Central Committee, the Washoe County Democratic Central Committee, the Nevada Democratic Party, Forward Nevada and the Sierra Club.
“It is so nice to be in a room with Democrats … so many friends,” he said in his opening remarks.
Sims said he has met many people during his trips across Nevada and has noted a common trait among the people.
“We love (the) party, we love our communities, we love our state and love our country, and we care about everything going on,” he said.
Sims said he was thrilled to meet Bryan, calling him one of the most personable people one would ever meet. He said the former governor and senator provided tremendous leadership in the 1980s and 1990s.
Referring to the U.S. Senate office held by Catherine Cortez Masto, he said half of the state’s constitutional offices and the U.S. congressional seats in Southern Nevada are held by Democrats. Additionally, the Democrats are the majority party in the state Assembly and Senate. Sims said the state has many good and strong Democrats governing the state.
Kate Marshall, former state treasurer and lieutenant governor, said Democrats must do everything possible to ensure a Rosen win. She said the party must be unified to re-elect the first-term senator.
Bryan has been the main speaker at several Churchill County Democrat dinners and remains as one of the Democratic Party’s most popular standard bearers. He easily won election and re-election as governor, and defeated incumbent Chic Hecht for Senate in 1988 and won re-election in 1994. In 2000, Bryan announced his retirement and said he wanted to return home to the Silver State.
Bryan, who also gave a shout out to Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford, said he has attended many functions and dinners during his political career and in retirement. The former senator gave some insight into the late Sawyer and his political history.
Bryan’s remarks turned to politicians who can work together. He mentioned the bipartisanship he found in state politics and said Carl Dodge, a Republican lawmaker from Churchill County, was the author of the collective bargaining act for teachers and public officials in Nevada. He said Republican Assemblyman Virgil Getto and his counterpart, Democrat Joe Dini of Yerington, worked well together.
“They did great work. I think it’s possible to rekindle that bipartisanship,” Bryan said to applause.
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