Updated September 27, 2021 - 11:35 am
CARSON CITY — The new union representing state police and other public safety workers, fresh off a partial win in contract arbitration with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s administration, is backing one of Sisolak’s potential Republican opponents in the 2022 race for governor.
The Nevada Police Union said last week that it would back former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, who announced his candidacy on Sept. 20. Heller, who also served three terms as Nevada’s secretary of state, lost the 2018 Senate race to Jacky Rosen.
The union represents 735 state peace officers including highway patrol troopers, parole and probation officers, university police and others. It was one of four that formed under a 2019 law granting collective bargaining rights to state employees, but the only one that could not reach a contract agreement with the state before the Legislature adjourned this year.
Sisolak promised he’d support collective bargaining rights for state workers when he was running for governor, and signed Senate Bill 135 in the 2019 legislative session that authorized bargaining for 11 groups of state workers, about 22,000 people in all.
In arbitration, the union in July won sought-after 2 percent raises, longevity bonuses and higher education pay incentives but lost its bid to limit public and administrative review of body camera footage. The state had offered a flat 3 percent pay hike.
In a statement released Thursday, the union said it backed Heller “because he supports us and Sisolak doesn’t.” Calling the governor “anti-union” and “anti-police,” the union cited the collective bargaining impasse, higher health insurance costs and ignored requests for better working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In backing Heller, the union snubbed Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for governor. A political action committee backing Lombardo, Better Nevada PAC, mocked the union’s endorsement on Twitter, noting that a Heller son-in-law works for the union’s lobbying firm, Tri-Strategies Ltd.
Three other Republicans have said they will run: North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, businessman Guy Nohra and Reno lawyer Joey Gilbert.
Sisolak campaign spokesperson Molly Forgey said the endorsement “reads more like a problem” for Lombardo, Heller’s GOP primary opponent. She added that Sisolak “has a long career of supporting Nevada’s unions and workers, including law enforcement.”