Clark County Republicans are fighting one another again.
This time, party regulars are taking sides in a mudslinging battle over who should become the new chair of the Clark County Republican Party.
Cindy Lake, a supporter of Republican Ron Paul, the former congressman from Texas who ran for president, is running for re-election as chairwoman. David McKeon, a businessman who has come under personal attack during the race by Lake’s backers, is running to replace her.
McKeon is the GOP establishment pick in an election that will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at South Point.
The election is drawing huge attention with voting members of the Clark County GOP growing from about 400 last year to more than 900. Both candidates said they’ve recruited new voting members to support them. And both predicted they have enough votes to win a race that will determine the direction of the state’s largest local GOP organization.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Lake said her goal if re-elected is to organize Republicans to win 2014 races, particularly for the state Senate as the GOP seeks to win majority control of the body now held by Democrats 11 seats to 10.
“We’re ready to tackle the midterms and win a lot of races,” Lake said. “That’s my goal ... to get Republicans elected.”
Her opponents, however, continue to cast Lake as a Ron Paul supporter who doesn’t get along with the mainstream of the party and thus should be ousted. Last year, Ron Paul backers took over leadership of the Clark County GOP and were at odds with the state party and national GOP during the 2012 election cycle.
Lake said she no longer supports Ron Paul because the retired congressman is no longer running for office.
“I don’t consider myself a Ron Paul supporter,” she said. “The person running against me wants to make it about that, but it’s not about that. I’m really excited about the future” of the party.
McKeon, who is the son of U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said he doesn’t want to work with Lake if he is elected chairman because he sees her as a disruptive force. Lake has said she would work with McKeon, however.
At the same time, McKeon said his goals include uniting the party, registering more Republicans, raising money and getting members of the GOP elected to office.
He said he was recruited by about 30 to 40 GOP establishment members who held a meeting in Laughlin in December.
Those present included Sue Lowden, a former state party chairwoman who lost a 2010 U.S. Senate race, and Dan Schwartz, finance director of the Nevada Republican Party. McKeon attended the meeting as well.
“They were talking about how they can fix the party,” McKeon said, adding the Republicans present said he should run for chairman. “They said, Dave you should do this. As chairman I would represent all of the different groups.”
McKeon said he didn’t expect to come under personal attack. Lake supporters began circulating documents from McKeon’s messy 2007 divorce. During a nasty custody battle for their two boys, Monica McKeon accused McKeon of abusing her, including forcing her to have sex. She said he was abusive to their sons as well. She got a temporary restraining order against McKeon that was renewed several times in California, where the couple lived at the time.
McKeon denied the accusations, noting that his ex-wife never filed a police report documenting any abuse and that he was never arrested on such allegations.
“The accusations coming from my wife were getting worse and worse,” McKeon said, adding he finally agreed to a custody arrangement that allows him to see his boys every other week and some vacations. “I just wanted the divorce to be done. I was going through bankruptcy at the time and I didn’t have an attorney.”
McKeon said Lake’s backers brought up his personal troubles to try to sink his candidacy.
“The fact that they would make this an issue is disgusting,” McKeon said.
Lake said she has nothing to do with the personal attacks on McKeon.
“I don’t like personal matters being brought into a campaign,” Lake said. “I don’t know who released it. I wish I could unhear a lot of the stuff that I heard. I started to read them and I was very upset as a mother and as a woman.”
A relative of Monica McKeon said she didn’t want to talk about the allegations, but stood by them. She’s now living in Utah with her parents and sons.
The battle for leadership of the Clark County GOP is just the latest example of turmoil within the party. Last year, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee lost faith in the Nevada Republican Party and set up a shadow party dubbed “Team Nevada” that took over organizing for the November election.
STRONG LEADERSHIP LACKING
Romney lost Nevada to President Barack Obama. U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., won a close race against then-Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., but his campaign ran its own organization to ensure victory. Republicans also failed to take over the state Senate from Democrats, who rule both houses of the Legislature.
Republicans in Nevada lack a strong leader. That’s unlike Democrats, who look to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., for guidance on all election matters. Reid stepped in to rebuild the party over the past decade. It paid off with Democrats leading Republicans in voter registration. It also helped Obama win Nevada twice and Reid win re-election in 2010.
In contrast, neither Heller nor Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has taken leadership roles in the party.
The Clark County chairman’s race has even divided the tea party factions in Nevada.
Vicki Dooling of the Las Vegas Valley Tea Party supports Lake for re-election.
“I think Cindy has a well thought out plan to elect Republicans,” said Dooling, who is running to become community relations director for the local party. “She is reaching out to a lot of groups.”
Cathie Lynn Profant, a leader of the Grass Roots Tea Party of Nevada, supports McKeon.
“Cindy has not done a good job in running the Clark County Republican Party,” Profant said. “We need to unite because I’m really tired of the divisions she has created within the CCRP.”
Profant dismissed allegations against McKeon as “lies, half-truths and gossip.” She said the personal attacks on him have just encouraged his supporters to show up at the election to ensure his victory.
Dave Gibbs, the former Clark County chairman who resigned last year after Ron Paul folks took over, on Saturday urged a change in leadership.
“It’s time to stop the subtracting and start adding to our party,” Gibbs said in a statement.”
“It’s time for a change to leadership that is open-minded. It’s time for a change to leadership that wants to expand that tent. It’s time for a change to leadership that will make the CCRP a recognized, reputable organization that people will want to be a part of, that people will turn to for advice and help,” he said.
Leaders of the Nevada Republican Party haven’t gotten involved in the local turmoil, but said it doesn’t do much for the party’s reputation.
“It’s something we have to take very seriously,” said Jesse Law, the political director of the state party. “We have to consider not only how this looks to each other, but how this looks to the public.”
Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal .com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.