It wasn’t fraud that cost Niger Innis a primary win


There are plenty of conservatives in Las Vegas who are questioning how Niger Innis could possibly have lost his 4th Congressional District Republican primary.

After all, the guy’s a TV personality!

But suspicions were raised after one of the other candidates in the race, Mike Monroe, garnered 5,393 votes — or 22.1 percent of the total — compared with Innis’ 8,077 (33.1 percent) and eventual winner Cresent Hardy’s 10,398 (42.6 percent). Also-ran (and frequent election flier) Carlo “Mazunga” Poliak got 523 votes (or 2 percent).

Innis and his supporters concluded there must be something wrong with the election, and they demanded an “audit” of the results.

Because it must be a problem with the election, right? It could not possibly be that Innis lost this election fair and square.

It couldn’t possibly be that people didn’t like Innis (or Hardy, for that matter)? It couldn’t possibly be that voters took a look at their platforms and found them wanting? Confirmed Monroe voter Tom Grover told the Review-Journal’s Laura Myers that he cast his vote to object to the socially conservative platforms advocated by Innis and Hardy. Grover can’t be alone, can he?

It couldn’t be voters didn’t warm to Hardy and Innis beating each other up over bankruptcies, unpaid bills and the Affordable Care Act, could it?

It couldn’t possibly be that voters saw Innis and Hardy falling all over themselves to defend ranting racist rancher Cliven Bundy and were repelled, could it?

What about Innis himself? Might not some voters have been driven to other candidates, including Monroe, by the hypocrisy of him asking for their votes when Innis himself has barely bothered to cast a ballot in recent years? Might voters have been nervous about turning over the federal purse to a tax dodger who’s still settling his debts with the IRS?

What about Cathie Lynn Gisi, a Hardy supporter who taught at a school affiliated with Innis’ full-time employer, the Congress of Racial Equity? After asking a tough question of Innis at a debate, she was told her services were no longer needed. Couldn’t that have turned off some voters?

What about the simple reality that Monroe had the most normal-sounding name on the ballot? If you didn’t know Cresent, Niger and “Mazunga,” Mike sounds like a safe choice. And let’s not forget he’s more familiar to Nevada voters, having run for Congress in 2006 and 2010. (That first run came before Innis even moved to Nevada, in 2007.)

It couldn’t be that it was a bad primary election for conservatives such as Innis, right? In almost every contested race, the more conservative, state Republican Party-endorsed candidate lost to the less conservative, establishment-backed candidate. (The lone exception: Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Minden, who was famously caught on tape saying he’d reluctantly vote to bring back slavery if his constituents wanted it.)

No, it must be cheating. It must be a plot, involving untold individuals tinkering with the results in multiple Nevada counties (Monroe beat Innis in Esmeralda and White Pine counties, and came close in Lyon). It must have been shadowy forces conspiring to deny Innis a victory.

And for what? A primary win in a district that has 33,212 more Democrats than Republicans, and that will almost certainly be won by Democratic incumbent Rep. Steven Horsford. Who would risk committing a Class B felony and two to 20 years in state prison for that?

None of these facts has stopped Innis, his campaign team and right-wingers all over the Internet from openly speculating — sans evidence, of course — about a rigged election, meeting any skepticism with smug assurances that something just doesn’t seem right here.

But insinuations and suspicions are not evidence. Innis has until Monday to call for (and put up the money to pay for) a recount. We’ll see if he does so.

In the meantime, he may want to consider the idea that there are perfectly legitimate reasons why he fell short in his race, reasons that have nothing to do with election integrity and everything to do with him.

Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-398-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.