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Attacks on Whitmer continue as race for Democratic Party chair heats up

Updated March 1, 2023 - 9:23 am

With just a few days to go until Saturday’s election for Nevada Democratic Party chair, establishment Democrats are attacking current Chair Judith Whitmer from all sides, including unearthing Florida-based felony charges from 27 years ago.

Court documents revealed Whitmer was charged in 1996 when she was 40 years old with organized fraud and grand theft of more than $750 but less than $5,000, according to court records. The state of Florida abandoned the first charge of organized fraud, but on the second charge of grand theft, Whitmer pleaded no contest.

The judge withheld adjudication, meaning the court ordered probation but did not formally convict Whitmer of a criminal offense. If she had gone through a jury trial, she would have been found guilty, according to Florida lawyers. While she was not formally convicted, the offense remained on her record. She was later found to have violated her probation, court records show.

Bradley Schrager, an attorney who represents Democratic candidates and organizations, said each state has different technicalities, but “the facts are fairly clear” and have not been denied.

“It’s unfortunate that that comes to light now,” Schrager said. “But it’s good that it came out before the election so that people have full information.”

Bounced checks

Whitmer declined an interview with the Review-Journal, but in a statement said that she found herself in an “impossible situation” as a young woman. The charges had stemmed from checks that had been bounced.

“As Democrats, we believe that neither poverty nor the challenges that come with it should disqualify anyone from anything,” Whitmer said in the statement. “I’m proud to have emerged from those circumstances and built a better life for myself, my children, and my grandchildren. That’s the promise of this country, and it’s what our party is proud to fight for.”

She said she was disappointed her opponents are focusing on the past rather than the party’s future. “I was elected by people who were tired of their voices not being heard and I’m going to continue fighting for them, for a better party, and for a better Nevada for us all,” she said.

Coordinated campaign

Indeed, churning up old criminal records from almost 30 years ago is just one of many efforts the mainstream Democrats have taken to regain control of the Nevada Democratic Party after Whitmer — representing the more liberal wing of the party — won the seat in 2021.

Most of the major Silver State Democrats, including the late Sen. Harry Reid’s hand-picked successor, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, recently endorsed Whitmer’s opponent and the establishment-backed candidate, Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-North Las Vegas. Besides the Democratic congressional delegation, many of the Democratic state legislators announced their support for their fellow legislator.

On Tuesday former Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak also encouraged members of the central committee, the governing body of the party, to vote on March 4 for Monroe-Moreno along with the other officer candidates on her “Democratic Unity” slate.

Critics have come from the more progressive side of the political spectrum, too. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, reportedly expressed “disappointment” in Whitmer’s leadership, according to a report from Politico.

Despite the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America endorsing Whitmer in 2021, the group announced in a statement a couple of weeks ago that it is not endorsing any candidate after an “admittedly disappointing relationship” over the last two years.

Contracts with allies

The Review-Journal also reported the Nevada Democratic Party paid two of her allies nearly $200,000 for different services since 2021. In addition, the party quietly removed more than 200 central committee members from the roster. Whitmer claimed it was a standard procedure conducted by the secretary when a member fails to send a proxy for two regular meetings during a two-year term, and she argued she saved the party money by streamlining services that her friend offered.

Progressive political activist Norman Solomon called the establishment Democrats’ attacks against Whitmer a “battle between top-down corporate money and bottom-up progressive activism” in a column he published Tuesday.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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