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PARTY LINES: Vegas Chamber surprises with Sisolak endorsement

Updated August 28, 2022 - 10:17 am

Most of the time, endorsements aren’t that big of a surprise.

But every once in while, an endorsement comes along that is surprising. For example, the Vegas Chamber backing incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in his bid for re-election to a second term.

Why the surprise? Well, Sisolak shut down almost every business in Nevada during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. And the Vegas Chamber is, after all, the voice of business.

Sisolak does deserve some benefit of the doubt: He was facing a global pandemic that was killing thousands of people (the death toll as of Friday was 6.4 million worldwide, and 11,375 in Nevada). No Nevada governor has had to face that kind of a challenge, and he acted with limited information in an environment of panic and fear.

Plus, shutting down the very businesses that helped him get elected — and putting people out of work — certainly was not in his political interest.

Yes, you can argue he should have reopened businesses sooner, or expanded the definition of “essential” businesses. But only Sisolak knows what it was like to have the sole responsibility to make those decisions.

But one thing you can’t argue with is the effects: Sisolak’s order may have saved lives, but it also killed businesses. Thousands of businesses that closed during the pandemic never reopened, taking with them jobs and opportunity. (The governor recently announced that, numerically at least, all jobs lost during the pandemic have been restored.)

So, then, why endorse Sisolak instead of his Republican rival, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo? The Vegas Chamber explained in a release: “The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee based its decision to endorse Governor Sisolak on several key factors,” the release reads. “These included his commitment to making COVID relief funds available to small businesses, his opposition to an unemployment insurance tax rate increase, his support of education reform efforts for the betterment of Nevada’s students, his commitment to workforce development initiatives and his comprehensive understanding of the state’s budget and monetary obligations as the state navigates uncertain economic times in the coming year.”

But would not Lombardo have checked all those boxes, too? That’s definitely a question his supporters were asking after the chamber’s announcement.

In other races, the chamber endorsed all Democrats (Cisco Aguilar for secretary of state, Zach Conine for treasurer and Ellen Spiegel for controller) with one notable exception: The group spurned Sisolak’s handpicked Democratic appointment for lieutenant governor, Lisa Cano Burkhead, and instead backed Republican Stavros Anthony.

Oh, and because the 33-member government affairs committee could not arrive at a consensus, it made no endorsement in the race for attorney general between Democratic incumbent Aaron Ford and Republican challenger Sigal Chattah.

Liberal millionaires vex local woman

April Becker, the Republican nominee in Congressional District 3, wrote with an urgent fundraising plea on Monday.

“(House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is coming to Nevada TOMORROW to fundraise for her favorite rubber stamp, radical footsoldier… my opponent (U.S. Rep.) Susie Lee,” Becker wrote. “She’s having a huge fundraiser with her network of liberal millionaires and billionaires to save Susie from defeat this election.

“I’m launching an emergency fundraising drive to raise $10,000 in the next 24 hours – all from grassroots conservatives like you – to show Pelosi and the Democrat Machine that no matter how much they help my opponent, we are going to FLIP NEVADA CD-3 In 78 DAYS.”

Setting aside the idea that Lee is a “radical” anything — have you met her? — it’s fairly common for legislative leaders to help raise money for candidates of their party. Hell, that’s how most of them become leaders.

And Becker should know this because, on the very night of Pelosi’s fundraiser, another House leader was in Las Vegas to raise money for candidates including — wait for it — April Becker!

That’s right, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., along with Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei, headlined a reception and roundtable discussion at the Ahern Hotel on Tuesday to benefit the Nevada Republican Central Committee Nevada Victory program. Becker was listed on the program along with fellow congressional candidates Sam Peters and Mark Robertson. Tickets ranged from $1,000 to $10,000.

No word on whether conservative millionaires or billionaires showed up.

New term limits chair

David Brog, the second-place finisher in the Republican race for Congressional District 1 this year, has been tapped for a new job: Nevada state chairman for the group U.S. Term Limits.

“The founder’s ideal of the citizen legislator was long ago supplanted by the modern reality of the career politician,” Brog said in a statement. “As the focus of winning reelection has increased, we’ve suffered steep declines in the political courage and civic virtue the founders exhibited in such abundance.”

Brog — who has worked as a corporate attorney, chief counsel and chief of staff to the late Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., — helped launch the group Christians United for Israel. He helped create and still serves as executive director of the Maccabee Task Force, which aims to fight anti-Semitism on college campuses. He’s also written three books.

Nevada voters adopted term limits for state and local offices in 1994 and 1996, and tried to do so for members of Congress as well. But a court ruling in 1995 in the case U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton held that states cannot impose requirements for members of Congress that are stricter than those found in the Constitution. (That is, people must be 25 years old, have been a citizen for seven years and be an inhabitant of the state from which he or she is elected.)

In order to impose term limits on senators and representatives, a constitutional amendment would seem to be necessary. The U.S. Term Limits release says Brog “… will work tirelessly in his role as Nevada State Chair to see that Nevada adopts a resolution for term limits.”

Doesn’t anybody check these things?

A lawsuit filed by Chattah on Wednesday has exposed a real problem in Nevada’s electoral process, one that could easily be fixed: checking qualifications.

Currently, anybody can file for any office, but in general, if they don’t meet the requirements in law, somebody has to challenge their candidacy before they can be removed from the ballot. In Chattah’s case, she’s contending that Libertarian AG candidate Bruce T. Kennedy is ineligible to hold office, because he’s not a member of the Nevada State Bar in good standing, which was a requirement added to the law in 2021.

But it’s not just limited to that race: Several candidates filed to become the next Clark County sheriff who failed to meet the legal requirements of POST certification and five years of continuous service as a law-enforcement officer. Those candidates were challenged and thrown off the ballot. Soon-to-be-former North Las Vegas Constable Robert Eliason served for years without the required POST certification, even after he was challenged. (A lawsuit prevented his removal from office.) And many Nevada legislative candidates have over the years failed to meet the requirement that they live in their district.

So, why not just fix it? If somebody files to become attorney general, he or she should be required to show their State Bar card, with paperwork attesting they are in good standing. Filing for sheriff? Attach a copy of your agency credentials and your POST certification. Filing for the state Senate or Assembly? A utility bill in your name, a mortgage statement or some other proof of residential address should be a requirement.

The bottom line: It shouldn’t be up to Chattah or other candidates to force the state to enforce the qualifications found in the Nevada Revised Statutes. The government should do that, not during the election, but before filing is accepted in the first place.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0253. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

A previous version of this story misidentified the political affiliation of California U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy. He is a Republican.

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