Nevada Gubernatorial Candidates Jockey For Trump Endorsement In Crowded Primary

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Nevada’s Republican gubernatorial primary is one of the most wide-open races in the country with candidates including a former senator, a sheriff, an ex-boxer attorney and others vying for a chance to challenge Democrat Gov. Steve Sisolak.

The race is happening in a state that’s leaned Democrats in recent years but could be ripe for a big GOP win amid poor approval ratings for President Biden and backlash against Democrats’ handling of the pandemic.

Among the biggest players in the primary are former Sen. Dean Heller, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore, North Las Vegas Mayor John Jay Lee, Attorney Joey Gilbert, and venture capitalist Guy Nohra.

In a race that’s so wide open, endorsements can make all the difference. And the GOP’s endorser in chief – former President Donald Trump – has yet to weigh in on this state race as he has in several others nationwide.

Former President Donald Trump gives a fist pump to the crowd as he arrives to speak at a rally Saturday, Jan.  15, 2022, in Florence, Ariz.

Former President Donald Trump gives a fist pump to the crowd as he arrives to speak at a rally Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Florence, Ariz.
(AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin)

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That’s something the candidates appear to be acutely aware of.

Nohra, a Lebanese immigrant who came to the US in high school before entering the biotech industry after college, recently hired three Trump-affiliated GOP consultants, a fact he mentioned several times in a press release.

Nohra highlights his business experience as evidence he can make government run more efficiently and leans on his history as an immigrant who escaped a civil war to emphasize that the US is a “land of opportunity” that should be embraced.

He says those qualities will help him “earn” Trump’s endorsement.

“I have the same background, I’m a businessperson, I’m going to solve problems, I’m an America First person,” Nohra told Gadget Clock. “I’m going to earn it because I think the president… is going to see who’s working the hardest, who’s putting all the resources on it, he’s going to see who’s earnest about winning this.”

Guy Nohra speaks during the Republican Nevada gubernatorial debate.

Guy Nohra speaks during the Republican Nevada gubernatorial debate.
(Ty O’Neil / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

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Heller told Gadget Clock that as governor he would focus on fighting crime and improving schools, but that his top issue would be revitalizing Nevada’s economy.

“People want jobs – a strong economy, good jobs, not just good jobs but better jobs,” Heller said. “If you’re the candidate who can prove that you can produce better jobs here in this state, I think that is crosses the spectrum.”

Heller has a rocky history with Trump but said he spoke with the former president earlier in the day multiple times at a debate last month, according to The Nevada Independent. And he told Gadget Clock he thinks Trump should endorse him because the pair collaborated successfully in the past.

“President Trump and I worked together for years,” Heller said. “We’ve had our differences… but needless to say, I helped him on his agenda, his America First agenda. In fact, there’s not another Republican in the state in Nevada that did more on the America First agenda than myself.

In this Sept.  7, 2018, file photo, former Sen.  Dean Heller, R-Nev, speaks during a visit by Vice President Mike Pence at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.  Heller is one of the front-runners in the Nevada GOP primary to take on Democrat Gov.  Steve Sisolak.

In this Sept. 7, 2018, file photo, former Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev, speaks during a visit by Vice President Mike Pence at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. Heller is one of the front-runners in the Nevada GOP primary to take on Democrat Gov. Steve Sisolak.
(Steve Marcus / Las Vegas Sun via AP)

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Lombardo, meanwhile, is leveraging his law enforcement background as he laps the field in fundraising. The sheriff raised over $ 3.1 million for his campaign so far.

“The beautiful thing about Joe Lombardo is that he’s Joe Lombardo,” campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Ray told Gadget Clock. “He’s a law enforcement candidate. He’s going to make sure law and order prevails in Nevada.”

Ray also said Lombardo would aim to improve the school system, diversify the state’s economy and reverse course from Sisolak’s virus policies.

“I think it’s kind of boils down to Nevadans are fed up with his COVID response. They’re fed up with the sagging economy, and it’s clear he lacks the vision that Nevada needs,” she said.

Lombardo is emerging as one of the top contenders in the race with a campaign that focuses less on Trump than other candidates. But Lombardo campaign manager Matthew Brasseaux told Gadget Clock the sheriff would be happy to have Trump’s support.

In this June 28, 2021, file photo, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks with reporters at a news conference announcing his candidacy for Nevada governor in Las Vegas.

In this June 28, 2021, file photo, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks with reporters at a news conference announcing his candidacy for Nevada governor in Las Vegas.
(AP Photo / John Locher)

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“We would appreciate support from anyone willing to support our values ​​and our campaign,” Brasseaux said. “We have already received endorsements and support from party leaders across the state, and would be honored to receive President Trump’s endorsement as well. Wide reaching support will continue building our momentum to successfully put an end to the single-party rule in Carson City this.” year. “

Former boxer and Air Force reservist and current attorney Joey Gilbert is running his campaign heavily on attacks against how Sisolak and the Biden administration handled the pandemic.

“I started fighting against the COVID insanity, as I call it, in March 2020,” Gilbert said in an interview with Gadget Clock. “I was right out of the jump.”

Gilbert railed against the consequences of Sisolak’s pandemic policies, including “massive pain, economic damage, psychological damage to our children and seniors, emotional damage,” high unemployment and more.

And he said he’s the most authentic Trump supporter in the Nevada GOP race.

Joey Gilbert speaks during the Republican gubernatorial debate.  Gilbert touts that he was "Trump from the jump."

Joey Gilbert speaks during the Republican gubernatorial debate. Gilbert touts that he was “Trump from the jump.”
(Ty O’Neil / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

“I’m the only candidate that was Trump from the jump,” Gilbert added. “All these other guys had to do their polling and decide what to do. Go look who was announcing our president at his rallies in 2016 – Joey Gilbert.”

Fiore perhaps took the most creative route to court Trump. When she announced her campaign for Nevada governor last year, she took out television ads in West Palm Beach, Fla.

There are likely very few Nevada voters in that media market. But Trump lives there.

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Trump associate Roger Stone also wrote an op-ed in the right-wing publication Gateway Pundit that boosts Fiore and attacks Lombardo.

Democrats, meanwhile, say Republicans may hand them the election if they pick a candidate in their primary based on Trump’s support.

“The Republican gubernatorial candidates are welcome to fight over who Trump loves the most, but the reality is that Nevada does not love Trump, and his blessing carries no weight here,” the Nevada Democratic Party said in a statement.

“Governor Sisolak outraised all of the Republican candidates combined in 2021, and while we’re not under any illusion that Democrats will have an easy path to victory in 2022, we are very confident that with hard work, we will send Governor Sisolak back to the Governor’s mansion. “

The GOP primary in Nevada is June 14, and the general election will be Nov. 8.