Wes Duncan has made it a point on the campaign trail to say that he left the attorney general’s office because he didn’t want to run for public office as a state employee.
But prior to leaving his job in the attorney general’s office in September 2017, campaign finance reports show Duncan had raised some $190,000, indicating that he was not exactly inactive in terms of campaigning over the first eight months of 2017.
Duncan, a Republican running for Attorney General, served as the First Assistant Attorney General from early 2015 until he left the office to take a job at the law firm Hutchison &Steffen. Two months later, Duncan “officially” announced his run for attorney general.
“We raised the bulk of the money and worked hard on the campaign after we left office,” Duncan said.
Duncan’s campaign manager, John Vick, said that raising $190,000 from January through August amounted to Duncan “testing the viability of a statewide candidacy.”
“Wes was up front when asked in April 2017 that he was interested in running for Attorney General if Adam Laxalt sought another office,” Vick added. “Smart candidates test the waters, raise money and make sure they have support for the office they seek. Wes spent time talking with community leaders and donors during 2017.”
David Damore, a political science professor at UNLV, said “those waters must be pretty deep if you need $200,000 to determine if you are viable or not.”
Democratic state Senate Leader Aaron Ford, who like Duncan was rumored last spring to be running for attorney general, raised $68,000 in that same time frame.
In total, Duncan’s campaign raised roughly $516,000 in 2017, an spent about $76,000, meaning that more than one-third of his campaign’s 2017 totals came before he left the attorney general’s office.
There is nothing illegal or even unusual about public employees raising money for their campaigns so long as it’s done off the clock of the public job, which Duncan said was the case for him.
“I could have stayed in that office. There was no ethical prohibition keeping me from staying in that office,” he said.
But Duncan said he chose to leave in September because it was getting to the point where he “could not have done both jobs well.”
“I was just not comfortable staying in a public office while doing that,” Duncan added.