Should fundraising be a deciding factor in next month’s election, the Nevada Supreme Court could have a majority of women for the first time.
Two of four candidates for seats on the high court have overwhelming fundraising leads against their opponents.
Incumbent Lidia Stiglich, appointed to the Supreme Court in late 2016, raised more than $777,000 for her campaign and spent nearly $720,000, according to the Nevada secretary of state’s campaign disclosure website.
Those figures dwarf those of her opponent, Mathew Harter, a Family Court judge in Las Vegas who was first elected to the bench in 2008. He raised a little more than $13,000, spending more than $12,900 of that money, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Stiglich, a former Washoe County District Court judge who replaced retired Justice Nancy Saitta, joined Justice Kristina Pickering as the second woman on the seven-member high court. She is also the first openly gay justice in Nevada history.
Harter, who served as an arbitrator for the Eighth Judicial District Court from 2004 to 2008, listed himself as a “conservative” and “a textualist” in his decisions.
In another race for the high court, Appeals Court Judge Jerry Tao drew the attention of the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline for language in campaign material, which included the terms “left” and “liberal.”
He is facing District Judge Elissa Cadish, who raised more than $626,000 for her campaign, according to the latest campaign financial disclosure statements filed this week with the secretary of state’s office. She spent nearly $500,000 of that money.
She outraised her opponent by more than $500,000. Tao collected a little less than $110,000 and spent nearly $99,000 on his campaign, according to the secretary of state’s website.
Ryan Hamilton, a campaign adviser for Tao, pointed to differences in campaign contributions.
“The plaintiffs’ lawyers are desperately trying to buy a seat on the state’s highest court,” Hamilton said of Cadish’s donations. “That is in stark contrast to the diversity of donors who are backing Judge Jerry Tao’s campaign for Supreme Court. The question for voters is what these plaintiff lawyers are investing in by vigorously attempting to buy this seat on our state’s highest court.”
Cadish said she has received widespread support from the community.
“I’m proud of the support I’ve got in the community, and I’m proud all of those people have the confidence I can do an excellent job on the Nevada Supreme Court,” she said. “And I will do my best to make sure I don’t let them down.”
Judicial races in Nevada are nonpartisan, and the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct states that it is “impermissible in campaign materials for (judicial candidates) to align themselves with a political party or to affiliate themselves with a political party.”
Tao, who was appointed in 2014 to the Nevada Court of Appeals by Gov. Brian Sandoval, sat on the Clark County District Court bench from 2011 until he was appointed to the higher court.
Cadish, a Democrat, has served as a Clark County district judge since 2007, when she was appointed by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons.
Both Cadish and Tao have ties to former Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. Tao once worked as Reid’s speechwriter. In 2012, Reid proposed Cadish for a federal judgeship but was blocked by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
Appeals Court Judge Abbi Silver was unopposed in the primary for a third open seat on the bench. Silver, a former prosecutor and Municipal Court and District Court judge, will replace retiring Justice Michael Douglas. Judicial candidates with no opponents are barred from raising campaign money.
Should Cadish and Stiglich win their races, the court would be composed of four women and three men. Justices are paid $170,000 a year.