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GOP PAC wants to sink Nevada treasurer’s expected run for governor

Dan Schwartz, Nevada’s “bad boy” Republican treasurer, made his long-expected 2018 gubernatorial campaign official Tuesday.

But before the announcement became official, a conservative super PAC had launched a campaign to sink Schwartz’s chances, setting up what’s likely to be a fiery primary race for the GOP nomination against fellow Republicans Jared Fisher and Adam Laxalt. Laxalt, the attorney general, has not formally announced his intentions, but is widely expected to make a bid for the seat his grandfather held.

Announcing his plans during a luncheon at the Nevada Republican Men’s Club, Schwartz said the “for sale sign in Carson City must come down.”

Schwartz attacked the practice of lobbyists giving campaign donations to state lawmakers, and told a pool of reporters afterward that there is a “thin line between donations and payments.”

“This state is really run by lobbyists,” Schwartz told reporters. “We have a government that is influenced inordinately by special interests across the state.”

Asked if he would accept campaign donations from lobbyists, Schwartz said, “Never say never, but at the moment I’m not planning on it.”

Doing his own thing

Schwartz promised the crowd that he would shake up the state’s political atmosphere in Carson City — something he has done often while treasurer.

He’s taken heat from legislators on both sides of the aisle since being elected in 2014.

Schwartz fought with lawmakers in his own party in 2015 over a commerce tax on business revenues of more than $4 million, going as far as proposing a three-page “alternative state budget” that relied on an illegal airport passenger tax and a politically dubious 25-cent-per-meal fee in protest.

Republican Senate Leader Michael Roberson ripped into Schwartz over the move, calling it disrespectful and “an absurdity.”

And those contentious interactions with legislators only continued in the 2017 session, with Schwartz embroiled in verbal battles over his hiring of a spokesman for the Education Saving Account, and altering the college savings program after the lawmakers rejected the plans.

On specific issues, Schwartz said he wants to repeal that commerce tax and diversify the economy. He said he’s committed to fixing education, possibly by increasing the pay for teachers, and he promised that he would not sign any bills until an Education Savings Account funding bill hit his desk.

Primary fight begins

Schwartz will have to battle the brass of his own party to get to the general election next November.

Hours before the gubernatorial announcement, the American Integrity Project launched a statewide digital and radio ad campaign attacking Schwartz over his “alternative budget” and the meal tax proposal.

“We plan to ensure that Schwartz’s latest campaign fails as spectacularly as his ill-conceived, publicity-seeking alternative budget gimmick failed back in 2015,” said Brian Baker, senior adviser to the American Integrity Project.

The group also released a polling memo that shows Schwartz well behind fellow Laxalt.

According to a polling memo from WPA Intelligence, a firm that’s worked for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s senatorial run, Schwartz is trailing Laxalt by nearly 60 points. The poll surveyed a random pool of 302 Nevada Republicans between Aug. 6-8 via telephone interviews, and had a 5.7 percent margin of error.

It claimed that 64 percent of the Republicans who responded would vote for Laxalt in the GOP primary, compared to just 5 percent for Schwartz. Thirty-one percent were undecided.

That poll also said that 40 percent of Republicans who responded knew who Schwartz was, compared to Laxalt’s 85 percent name recognition.

“As the polling shows, Dan Schwartz’s self-funded ego trip is nothing more than a nuisance and is hurtful to the eventual GOP nominee for governor,” Baker said.

Schwartz called the ads “ridiculous,” and told a pool of reporters after the event that those polling results released by the super PAC were vastly different than data his campaign has seen.

Schwartz said his group conducted a poll in June that showed a significantly tighter race: 34 percent of responders favored Laxalt, 30 percent favored Schwartz and 36 percent were undecided.

“Adam and his followers have done everything they can to convince me not to run,” Schwartz said. “And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why would they do that?’ If I was so unimportant, so far behind. Just come on and fight.”

In past election cycles, Baker ran PACs funded by GOP megadonors, the Ricketts Family and Sheldon Adelson. American Integrity Project has not received funding from either, he said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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