The Nevada Republican Party’s biennial convention April 11-12 is shaping up to be a lonely affair: It turns out, some of the top Republicans in the state aren’t even going to be there.
A spokesman for Gov. Brian Sandoval said the governor won’t be attending. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said he’ll be traveling and thus won’t be able to attend. And a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Dean Heller says he won’t be attending the event, either.
(Heller will, however, attend the Clark County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner, which was inexplicably scheduled for the same weekend as the state party convention, even though the state party set its convention date last year.)
So, what gives? Why would the guy who’s the titular head of the party not attend its annual convention?
It may have something to do with the fact that the state party and elected leaders in Nevada haven’t seen eye to eye in a long time, ever since libertarian-minded supporters of former Texas Congressman Ron Paul took over in 2012. Sandoval didn’t attend that convention (held in Sparks), either, although Krolicki and Rep. Mark Amodei did. The governor has since alternated between ignoring the state party or unsuccessfully trying to take it over.
After he failed to install his handpicked choice as state party chairman last year, Sandoval made it clear he intended to go it alone. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be bad for the Republican Party,” Sandoval said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. “It is what it is. We’re just going to move forward. I am going to be focused on my personal re-election efforts as well as legislators’ (campaigns).”
During the 2012 election cycle, the Mitt Romney for president campaign teamed up with Nevada Republicans to essentially create a “shadow party,” working outside the usual structure, since so many Nevada Republicans were considered loyal to Paul and hostile to Romney. (To be sure, some Nevada delegates, upset at what they saw as heavy handed rulemaking on the part of the Romney campaign, broke rules in order to cast votes for Paul rather than Romney on the national convention floor in Tampa.)
In addition to the intraparty struggles, Sandoval and other top Republicans were offended by a party plan to endorse candidates in primary elections, a plan that required even incumbents to fill out a questionnaire and submit to grilling from an endorsement committee. Sandoval and other top Republicans said they’d boycott that process, which under an original version would have left them ineligible to win the party’s endorsement. That provision has since been changed, and the party intends to issue endorsements at its convention.
And then there’s the ongoing civil war within the Republican Party between what can loosely be grouped into “establishment” and “libertarian” camps, a war that has seen several incumbents, even leaders, challenged in GOP primaries.
Things might have changed when the filing period for elections closed, and Sandoval found himself without a single major Democratic challenger. With virtually nothing to lose, Sandoval might have decided now was the time to confront those people in the party who think he’s too liberal (for, say, extending an expiring package of taxes, or expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act) and remind them — as Gov. Chris Christie recently did — that politics is about winning offices, not arguments. He might have marched to the stage of the convention and told the (probably half-booing) crowd that it was time to find a way for all who call themselves Republicans to work together instead of fighting each other.
But, not so much.