Primary Underdogs: Nevada ‘Establishment RINOs’ Don’t Want Red Wave Newcomers in Their Tent

Primary Underdogs: Nevada ‘Establishment RINOs’ Don’t Want Red Wave Newcomers in Their Tent
Nevada Republican gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert on June 12 calls on supporters to redouble their efforts in the final days before the June 14 primary because they are very close to upsetting the “establishment” frontrunner, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)
John Haughey
6/13/2022
Updated:
6/13/2022
0:00

LAS VEGAS, Nev.—Surging Republican voter registration numbers portend a swelling red tide set to sweep incumbent Nevada Democrats from the governor’s office, the U.S. Senate, and three of the state’s four congressional districts come November.

But former president Donald Trump missed the undercurrent driving the wave when he endorsed Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo for governor and former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt for U.S. senator in Nevada’s June 14 primaries, their GOP rivals said.

“I think it is unfortunate, because Joe Lombardo is going to get crushed,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert said during a June 12 rally in front of about 200 supporters in a shopping center circus tent two days before Election Day.

Lombardo is a “walking gaffe machine” who made a “crucial error,” he said, during a May 25 debate by declaring that “for all practical purposes, this primary is over.”

Pam Bennetts touts a "No Show Joe" placard on June 12 at a West Las Vegas circus tent rally for GOP gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert. Bennetts was among Gilbert supporters booted out of a June 11 rally for Trump-endorsed Republican governor contender Joe Lombardo. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)
Pam Bennetts touts a "No Show Joe" placard on June 12 at a West Las Vegas circus tent rally for GOP gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert. Bennetts was among Gilbert supporters booted out of a June 11 rally for Trump-endorsed Republican governor contender Joe Lombardo. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)

The sheriff was citing a 13-point mid-May poll lead over Gilbert, second amid a crowded GOP gubernatorial primary slate that includes former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee.

Gilbert, a former professional boxer and Reno attorney, insists he—not Lombardo—represents the newcomers who are animating a GOP primary dust-up in the desert between “establishment RINOs” and “we, the people.” RINO is short for “Republican in name only.”

“We’re seeing all these new voters coming into the party” who are not from the party’s former mold, he said, adding that he’s “not just running for Republicans but for all the people,” including Democrats defecting from a party “that has gone too far to the left.”

“We, the people, are going to be strong” on Election Day, Gilbert predicted, not only in the governor’s race but across the primaries, from congressional district contests to local school board elections.

Nevada GOP gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert and Third Congressional District hopeful Clark Bossert (R) told rally-goers on June 12 that they are the true America First candidates in their respective races and will outperform prognosticators in the June 14 primary. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)
Nevada GOP gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert and Third Congressional District hopeful Clark Bossert (R) told rally-goers on June 12 that they are the true America First candidates in their respective races and will outperform prognosticators in the June 14 primary. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)

Also meeting and greeting rally-goers were GOP primary U.S. Senate candidate Sharelle Mendenhall, U.S. Third Congressional District candidates Noah Malgeri and Clark Bossert, and aspirants for Las Vegas City Council, Clark County Sheriff, and Clark County school board.

The slate of Republican primary contenders who gathered inside the stretched PVC/polyester-membrane Big Top anchored in the broiling blacktop of a discount store’s parking lot on June 12 wasn’t the roster of blue-ribbon Republicans touted by MAGAverse luminaries at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country on June 10.

Donald Trump Jr. headlined a lineup that included former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, former Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker, and former U.S. Department of Defense chief of staff Kash Patel, of EpochTV’s “Kash’s Corner,” in support of Lombardo and Laxalt.
Nevada Republican US Senate candidate Sharelle Mendenhall poses with supporters during a June 12 rally at the Poema Circus tent in West Las Vegas. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)
Nevada Republican US Senate candidate Sharelle Mendenhall poses with supporters during a June 12 rally at the Poema Circus tent in West Las Vegas. (John Haughey/The Epoch Times)

Pam Bennetts was at Stoney’s on the night of June 10 and was among the dozen Gilbert supporters booted out when they unfurled a Gilbert banner and began chanting “Joey, Joey, Joey.”

She was handing out “No Show Joe” placards on June 12 inside the tent.

“No one wants Joe Lombardo,” she said, noting that Gilbert has the state Republican Party’s endorsement after outpolling Lombardo 96–7 in a Lincoln Day dinner straw vote.

But the party’s old guard is rejecting the choice of the people and, instead, backing lackeys who will continue to do their bidding, Bennetts said.

“We’re tired of the establishment telling us who to vote for,” she said. “They don’t like that we are for someone else and not voting for who they want us to vote for.”

Gilbert campaign volunteer John Ballesteros, a “California refugee” who moved to Las Vegas from the Bay Area “with the Raiders,” was working the grill outside the tent amid furnace-blast Zephyrs.

“This is grassroots. They’re the establishment,” he said. “We wish we could have gotten an endorsement from The Donald. He has his reasons, but we’re stubborn rebels.

“We can think for ourselves, which is what makes us rebels.”

Paul Haack, also a Gilbert campaign volunteer, said that, unlike Gilbert and Mendenhall, Lombardo and Laxalt aren’t endorsed by CandidatesForFreedom.com and thus may be in for a surprise in the primaries.

“We are the grassroots movement. We are the people,” Haack said, calling Lombardo and Laxalt “total RINOs.”

Mendenhall said Nevadans are tired of voting for “Republicans who are politicians who make promises” when running and then “vote against everything I believe in” when in office.

She is one of six GOP U.S. Senate primary candidates in a race that has largely focused on Afghanistan War veteran Sam Brown’s surprising run against the heavily favored Laxalt.

That was by design, Mendenhall said, because she was blocked from debates and other events by both campaigns.

“I was polling in the top three. I should have had a seat at the table,” she said.

But voters have been receptive to her “Mend The Nation” message throughout the campaign, and Mendenhall predicted she would capture a significant share of primary voters because “each one of these issues is human issues, not party issues.”

Malgeri, an attorney, engineer, and U.S. Army Iraq War veteran, is among five Republicans vying for the party’s nod in the Third Congressional District. The winner will face two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) in November.

Las Vegas real estate attorney April Becker is regarded as the front-runner in the race, but Malgeri—who arrived at the rally in shorts on a motorcycle—said: “I am the American First candidate. April is the establishment candidate.”

He said Becker will sustain “the old legacy GOP apparatus that wants to hang on to power” while he and others coming into the party aren’t political partisans but “a movement that’s not Republican or Democratic, not liberal or conservative, but freedom.”

Malgeri said he’s among an emerging cadre of Afghan–Iraq war veterans running for office.

“People don’t want to send billions to Ukraine. The establishments of both parties won’t let us pull back; they want” a conflict, he said. “The military-industrial complex is insatiable. That is not acceptable. We’re not going to feed it anymore. We’re done with these wars. Veterans are changing the face of politics.”

Malgieri praised fellow CD 3 candidate Bossert as “a nice guy, a smart guy” before chiding the recently minted 30-year-old as too young for Congress.

Bossert, dressed in a white shirt and black pants because he’d been speaking in churches that morning, acknowledged that he didn’t change into his campaign T-shirt “because I look like a 14-year-old in it.”

A UNLV machine shop manager and Liberty University graduate, Bossert said he’s among America First candidates who had difficulty “getting off the ground” because they weren’t ensconced with party apparatchiks.

He said Becker’s campaign manager withdrew her from a debate with him.

But Gilbert has broken through, he said.

“All the Joey followers are not very political. Joey made politics make sense to them the way no one else had done before,” Bossert said. “There’s a good chance he’s going to take it.”

Gilbert cited the economy, schools, the Second Amendment, water, parents’ rights, and medical privacy among his top issues.

Critics say “Joey Gilbert is radical,” Gilbert said. “He’s too far right. What’s radical? People putting kids in masks for eight hours a day, that’s radical.

“The government has no business” dictating to parents about their children, especially when Nevada’s public school system is poorly educating the state’s children.”

“Our schools are the worst in the nation. It will be my hill to die on to improve education in this state” by pushing a complete voucher program for all students, he said.

Gilbert said that as governor, he’d aggressively support desalination development, weather manipulation, cloud seeding, and address issues in the Colorado River Compact that allows California “to take eight times its allotment. That is going to stop.”

He got the most rousing cheer when he declared that Nevada would have “full constitutional carry on day one in office.”

Gilbert said he’s been traveling the state for 27 months and meeting with everyday Nevadans daily. On June 11, he was in Elko, Ely, and at a barbeque in Hawthorne. On June 12, he was at the Incline Village Airport at 4:45 a.m. to get to Las Vegas for a Philippine Independence Day Parade, a convoy, and the circus tent rally.

It’s been a grueling grind, he told supporters, but that’s what it’s going to take if the people are to defeat the establishment.

“We’re not done yet. We have two more days. Speak to 10 people and tell them to speak to 10 people,” Gilbert said. “It’s not over. We can win this thing by 15 votes.”

John Haughey is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers U.S. elections, U.S. Congress, energy, defense, and infrastructure. Mr. Haughey has more than 45 years of media experience. You can reach John via email at [email protected]
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