For the first time since Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn took office in 1999, Nevada Democrats may have a real shot at taking back the state governor’s mansion.
This year’s gubernatorial primaries are scheduled for June 12 and swaths of as-yet undecided voters could, theoretically, make it anyone’s game. There are two major frontrunners, Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Democrat Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, but each are facing inter-party challenges.
Fellow Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is the lone challenge to Sisolak, while Laxalt is facing bids from Treasurer Dan Schwartz and businessman Jared Fisher.
Nevada has a closed primary system, so only registered members of a given party may vote in that party’s primary. So if you’re one of the nearly 300,000 registered, active non-partisans in Nevada, you’ll have to wait until November to cast your ballot.
Below is a quick breakdown of each candidate’s policy positions.
Sisolak is a familiar face in Southern Nevada politics, and he currently chairs the Clark County Commission — one of the most powerful elected bodies in the entire state. In his time in politics, he’s taken a stance on a number of issues and not all of them have been popular.
Perhaps most recently, Sisolak has publicly tied himself to the Las Vegas Stadium deal, which saw more than $700 million of public money given to a new stadium project meant to lure the Raiders, an NFL football team, away from their current home in Oakland.
Sisolak’s platform emphasizes the importance of education, economy, healthcare, the environment and gun safety. As a former member of the Board of Regents for 10 years, Sisolak believes in raising teachers salaries, lowering classroom size and prioritizing the fight against the divergence of funding from public schools into private institutions, a stance similar to his Democratic opponent Giunchigliani.
Moreover, Sisolak also advocates for gun safety in Nevada by planning to ban bump stocks, silencers, assault weapons, and high-capacity magazines.
This will be the first time Sisolak will run for a state-level office such as Nevada governor. Back in 2014, Sisolak was in talks of running for the job, but ultimately decided against it.
Sisolak has faced backlash this cycle after a “political courage test” from over two decades ago resurfaced. It purportedly showed that the Democratic candidate was not always in support of the ideals he advocates today, and the specific survey in question detailed that Sisolak was not in favor of decriminalization of medical marijuana, expansion of gun control legislation and legalization of same-sex marriage.
“This was a survey from 22 years ago,” Sisolak wrote in a statement to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Like many people, you learn and grow as times change. And I think that’s important.”
Sisolak’s democratic opponent Giunchigliani has since used this survey to her advantage and expressed her ongoing political support for these topics.
“(Giunchigliani) consistently advocated for marijuana legalization and marriage equality, not just when these things became politically easy to support,” campaign manager Eric Hyers told the RGJ. “Chris is a leader who doesn’t need to read a poll or put her finger in the wind to see what she will say on any given day.”
Besides holding a similar stance on education as Sisolak, Giunchigliani also expressed on her platform her concern for the economy and immigration. Staking herself as the progressive choice, Giunchigliani hopes to increase the minimum wage in Nevada in order for individuals to be able to provide for their families and themselves. Moreover, Giunchigliani says that she is in full support of developing immigration reform with a reasonable path to citizenship. She is also in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients, also referred to as dreamers. Giunchigliani believes in reasonable gun safety and reform in Nevada.
If elected, Giunchigliani will become the first female governor of Nevada, but the race is an uphill one. In a Nevada Independent/Mellman Group poll from April, Giunchigliani trailed the well-known Sisolak by 28 points. However, 40 percent of Democrats likely to vote in June said they were still undecided, so Giunchigliani is still technically in the hunt.
Laxalt, a Navy veteran, is a well-known name in Carson City. Adam Laxalt’s grandfather, Paul Laxalt, was an influential politician in Nevada for decades, having served as governor, senator, and even chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Laxalt the younger is a relatively recent transplant to Nevada, having been elected to the Attorney General’s office in a close contest in 2014. In the time since, he’s made his name as a stalwart conservative as he’s signed on to a number of national lawsuits aimed at challenging Obama-era rules and regulations and liberal laws from states like California.
In that same Nevada Independent/Mellman Group poll from late last month, results show Laxalt pulling far ahead of his primary opponents. With a 5 percent margin of error, approximately 55 percent of Republican respondents were in favor of Laxalt, while just 4 percent were in favor of Schwartz and 2 percent would vote for business owner and political newcomer Jared Fisher.
Laxalt’s platform emphasizes the importance of ensuring that every Nevada child has access to a quality education, a Nevadan’s Second Amendment right is not infringed upon and removing barriers to job creation and business expansion. Laxalt is also the grandson of former Governor of Nevada from 1967 to 1971 Paul Laxalt who also served as a United States Senator from 1974 to 1987.
Dan Schwartz is a businessman whose platform focuses on providing jobs to Nevadans by welcoming new industries to the state such as those involved in the field of drones, alternative energy and water tech. Furthermore, other major points of Schwartz’s platform is finding a solution to affordable healthcare and allowing more parents to have a say in their children’s education.
As the state’s treasurer since 2014, Schwartz has also staked his name on a few high-profile political fights. Most notably the state budget in 2015, and the funding for a controversial educations savings account program in 2017.
Also running for governor as a Republican is businessman Jared Fisher. Fisher is a newcomer to the political scene in Nevada and runs similar platform ideas to those of his opponents. Polls show it will be difficult for Fisher to win out, as just like Schwartz, he trails Laxalt by more than 50 points.
Karolina Rivas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @karolinarrivas.