Nevada Gubernatorial Primaries to Set Stage for Tight Race in November

By Nanette Holt
Nanette Holt
Nanette Holt
Nanette covers a wide range of issues, mostly in Georgia and her home state of Florida. She started as a journalist in a competitive, daily-newspaper market, and later launched a community newspaper in a geographic area ignored by other media. She spent many years writing and editing for a variety of national and international magazines, and has been hired to coach best-selling authors for book publishers. When she’s not chasing news, Nanette enjoys cattle ranch life with her husband, three children, and far too many horses, goats, cats, and dogs.
June 9, 2022 Updated: June 9, 2022

Nevadans’ decisions in the June 14 Republican and Democratic primaries for governor will set the stage for a heated race to the general election on Nov. 8, analysts predict.

Analysts say that incumbent Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, likely will glide past his lone primary challenger, even though voters’ thoughts on the race haven’t been well-tested in polls.

If he advances, Sisolak could be in for a tough reelection fight, especially if he faces Clark County’s Republican sheriff, Joe Lombardo, some polls suggest.

There are 15 GOP candidates vying for the party’s nomination to the general election.

If one succeeds in ousting Sisolak, that victory would break the Democrats’ state government trifecta, which refers to when one political party controls the office of governor and both chambers of a state’s legislature. Across the country, there are 23 Republican trifectas and 14 Democratic trifectas. Thirteen states have governments that aren’t controlled by one party.

Steve Sisolak
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak holds up newly signed legislation in Las Vegas on June 11, 2021. (John Locher/AP Photo)

In the 2020 presidential election cycle, Nevada was considered one of 13 battleground states.

Ultimately, Nevadans handed six Electoral College votes to President Joe Biden, who carried the state over incumbent President Donald Trump by 2.4 percent of the vote.

Many Americans still feel that the election was rife with fraud and that it possibly put Biden in the White House erroneously. When asked about the 2020 election results, 58 percent of Nevadans surveyed said they felt “confident” the votes were “counted fairly and accurately throughout the U.S.,” a recent survey by The University of Nevada found. Only 62 percent said they felt that Biden won enough votes to be elected president.

In a University of Nevada survey about the governor’s race, 47 percent of Republican respondents said they “planned to vote for” Lombardo in the primary. Fourteen percent chose former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and 12 percent pointed to Joey Gilbert, a trial attorney, boxing champion, and veteran of the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Other polls have suggested that Gilbert leads Heller, but both trail Lombardo.

A RealClearPolitics average of polls conducted between April 25 and May 12 predicted Lombardo 17 points ahead of Gilbert and 18 points ahead of Heller.

As of June 7, November’s gubernatorial election in Nevada is considered a “toss-up” by Cook’s Political Report and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball. In their view, neither party appears to have a clear advantage in the race.

Political analysts at Inside Elections With Nathan L. Gonzales disagree, saying Nevada’s race for governor “tilts” Democratic, meaning that there’s a slight edge in that direction, but the race still is considered competitive.

In a possible preview of the general election, Lombardo holds a 2 percentage point lead over Sisolak, a poll released on April 12 by Suffolk University and the Reno Gazette-Journal suggests. Respondents in the University of Nevada survey favored Sisolak over Lombardo by a double-digit margin.

The top five Republicans in the primary contest gathered on May 25 for a debate presented by Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS-TV.

Heller and Gilbert took turns criticizing Lombardo and his record as sheriff over the area that includes the Las Vegas Strip gambling and entertainment mecca. Clark County, the nation’s 13th largest county, is roughly the size of New Jersey, with more than 2.3 million residents and nearly 46 million visitors each year.

Lombardo’s opponents insist that he has been too soft on crime and has turned the county into a sanctuary for immigrants who have entered the country illegally. They said he hasn’t taken a strong enough stand to protect the unborn to be considered “pro-life” and accused him of being too similar to Sisolak and too friendly with him to be considered a conservative option.

“This is ridiculous that we have two people identical—Sisolak and Lombardo—when you can actually have a proven conservative, that has cut taxes, has reduced the size of government, who’s pro-life,” Heller fumed in his closing statement.

Throughout the hour-long debate, Lombardo countered that the accusations lobbed at him were nothing more than typical campaign attacks and said it was time for Republicans to come together to defeat Sisolak in the fall.

“Let’s be honest with each other,” he said in his closing remarks. “For all practical purposes, this primary is over. There’s nothing more to argue about.

“I’ve weathered 12 months of attacks from Steve Sisolak and his PACs and from most of the individuals standing here next to me, and why? … They’re all bogus. They’re not working.”

Lombardo is leading in “all the polls,” he said, and he has raised the most money “associated with a successful campaign.” He touted endorsements from Trump and 16 of the state’s 17 sheriffs.

“We need to go after Sisolak,” Lombardo said. “He has ruined our economy. He has ruined our schools. He’s ruined our safety. And I’m the only one that has the leadership and experience that Nevadans can trust.”

Epoch Times Photo
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, left, and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson speak at a press conference on Dec. 21, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Republicans say Sisolak has crippled the economy and hurt children by shutting businesses and schools for too long during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sisolak has insisted that he was making tough calls to keep people safe. He dropped the state’s mask mandate in February.

Sisolak’s campaign spokesman declined to comment to The Epoch Times.

Sisolak, who had a war chest of less than $9.6 million on April 15, is expected to have an easy primary victory over challenger Tom Collins. Collins is a colorful cowboy and consultant in the electrical industry who served in the Nevada State Assembly and, more recently, on the Clark County Commission. Collins had a little less than $6,900 in his campaign account on April 15.

Sisolak was elected in 2018 in a contest with former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year. Polls show that Laxalt in a tight race to win the GOP primary and, if he prevails, would go on to challenge incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

Early voting for the Nevada primaries began May 28 and runs through June 10. In the first week, 39,921 Nevadans voted in person, according to a report from the Office of Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. Of those, 34 percent were Democrats and 57 percent were Republicans. The remainder were cast by voters with another affiliation, who receive a ballot that includes only non-partisan races such as sheriff or school board.

In that first week of voting, 71,347 mailed ballots were received. Of those, 43.1 percent were from Democrats, and 36.7 percent were from Republicans.

All registered voters in Nevada receive a ballot in the mail unless they officially ask to opt-out. There are 36 gubernatorial races taking place across the country this election cycle.

Nanette Holt
Nanette covers a wide range of issues, mostly in Georgia and her home state of Florida. She started as a journalist in a competitive, daily-newspaper market, and later launched a community newspaper in a geographic area ignored by other media. She spent many years writing and editing for a variety of national and international magazines, and has been hired to coach best-selling authors for book publishers. When she’s not chasing news, Nanette enjoys cattle ranch life with her husband, three children, and far too many horses, goats, cats, and dogs.