After delaying an official announcement for about a month following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt told crowds in Las Vegas and Sparks Wednesday that he will indeed run for governor. The move ended months of speculation that Laxalt, one of the state’s most prominent Republicans, would throw his hat into the ring.
At his stop at a Sparks Peterbilt facility Wednesday afternoon, Laxalt spoke for about twenty minutes in a speech that covered both his family history and his record as attorney general.
“I am running for Governor so that future generations of Nevadans can dream and thrive in the years to come,” Laxalt said.
As the state’s top law officer, Laxalt helped spearhead a commission to address Nevada’s extensive backlog of untested rape kits, as well as prosecuted cases involving human trafficking and elderly guardianship. However, he’s also sometimes been at odds with his own party, especially over internet gaming and taxes, and contended with a pay-to-play controversy involving the state’s gaming commission and longtime GOP donor Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson.
Next June, Laxalt will face two GOP primary challengers: Dan Schwartz, the state’s treasurer, and activist and bike-shop owner Jared Fisher. Both appear to be underdogs against a well-funded Laxalt, and will likely run smaller, grassroots efforts in the run-up to the primary itself.
In an unusual move, both Laxalt and Schwartz appear to be distancing themselves from sitting Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, at least when it comes to policy. Each has promised to repeal the state’s commerce tax, a 2015 measure that taxes companies making more than $4 million per year. The tax, shepherded through a GOP-controlled legislature, has become a landmark of the popular Sandoval’s tenure and has become a point of tension between the governor and his attorney general.
“I think if somebody’s going to make a proposal like that, they’ve got to stand in a schoolroom with a room full of parents and teachers and be able to explain who they’re going to cut,” Sandoval told reporters at a Las Vegas climate summit last month. “You’re going to cut autism funding? You’re going to cut special [education]? You’re going to cut gifted and talented? You’re going to cut technology? Are you going to cut career and technical education? All those are things that we’ve been able to fund in an unprecedented way, and with a proposal like that, it’s gone.”
The winner of next year’s Republican primary will face off against one of two Democratic challengers: Clark County commissioners Steve Sisolak, the commission chair, and Chris Giunchigliani.
While Nevada’s governor’s mansion has been held by Republicans since Kenny Guinn was elected in 1999, the Cook Political Report is rating next year’s contest as a toss-up. Democrats surged statewide in 2016 and will be looking to recapture a seat that stymied their legislative agenda in 2017.
Jacob Solis can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.