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PARTY LINES: Democrats boost conservative Republicans in campaign ploy

Why would Democrats donate to Republicans? Especially conservative Republicans?

Answer: To make winning general elections easier for their own candidates, apparently.

Suddenly, groups ranging from the Democratic Governors Association to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are making contributions in Republican primaries, hoping the GOP ends up with the most unelectable candidate in a general election.

In Michigan, Democrats intervened to help Republican John Gibbs, a Trump-endorsed, election-denying candidate who ran against Rep. Peter Meijer, one of just 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol. Meijer lost his primary to Gibbs on Tuesday, 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent.

Even House Democrats were not sanguine about their party’s tactics in that case, Politico reported. The New York Times called it “a disappointing low” for Democrats.

And it’s not just in other parts of the country. It’s happened here in Nevada, too.

A group calling itself the Patriot Freedom Fund aired ads in Republican primaries — including against gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo — in advance of the June primary, with the goal of benefiting the more right-wing candidate over a more moderate challenger.

And, according to fundraising reports, the group got its money from Democrats.

Home Means Nevada, a PAC connected to Gov. Steve Sisolak, donated $685,000. Leadership in Nevada, a PAC headed by longtime Democratic consultant Megan Jones, gave $40,000. New Day Nevada, another PAC headed by progressive consultant Riley Sutton, donated $78,000.

And a group known as the Nevada Alliance — which lists no registration information with the secretary of state’s office — lists another $230,000 contribution. The group lists other donations to liberal groups dating to 2020.

The danger of this strategy seems obvious: What if Democrats end up supporting a right-wing candidate who goes on to win the general election? Would donors want their money used for that purpose?

In its editorial, the Times noted: “… if Democrats believe that democracy is in danger and they need Republican support to save it — or at least a reality-based G.O.P. in our two-party system — then they have weakened their standing as defenders of democracy by aligning with those who would thwart it.”

Added the Times: “But even if this tactic helps win a few seats this year, it will come at a steep price, threatening the political survival of the few Republicans who are willing to rebuild a strong center-right party that will step up to protect democratic norms, an alternative that the United States desperately needs. … To defeat moderate Republicans will not strengthen the nation.”

So why do it? Well, because sometimes it works. And it’s certainly not new to the 2022 election cycle. In fact, Nevada Democrats have been doing it for a long time.

In 2010, with then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid facing a tough re-election, Democrats did their best to ensure that former newscaster and hotelier Sue Lowden didn’t get the nomination. They relentlessly hammered Lowden for various things, especially a stray comment she made about people bartering for health care using livestock.

In the end, Lowden lost, and Reid got the opponent he wanted, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, a right-winger given to outlandish remarks. Reid easily dispatched Angle, and won another term.

Once again, Nevada leads the nation.

No hand counting!

Even as the secretary of state prepares regulations regarding hand-counting of paper ballots for Nevada, four national voting-rights organizations are urging the state not to go forward with that idea.

The Brennan Center for Justice, All Voting is Local, the ACLU of Nevada and Silver State Voices said hand counting as a primary method of tabulation violates the Nevada Constitution’s guarantee that ballots accurately record a voter’s choice and to a uniform, statewide standard for counting votes accurately.

“The use of a hand count as the primary method of counting Nevada’s ballots and determining the results of an election diminishes the accuracy, efficiency and security of elections, and violates Nevada law, as well as voter protections enshrined in Nevada’s state constitution,” the comment reads. “And while the proposed regulations are an admirable attempt to ensure higher standards for a hand count, the regulations are not enough to address the underlying accuracy issues and remediate the legal deficiencies of the hand count processes.”

The newly appointed Nye County clerk has indicated he will conduct the November general election in that county using paper ballots that will be hand counted, after county commissioners backed a resolution to request that method. There are currently 32,562 active registered voters in Nye County.

Tarks are out!

Douglas County Commissioner Danny Tarkanian and his wife, Republican commentator Amy, have been expunged from the Douglas County Republican Party after both endorsed Democrats in statewide races.

Danny Tarkanian, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in the Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District this year, “promoted voting for Nevada State Treasurer candidate Zach Conine while Ms. Tarkanian endorsed Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and Treasurer Conine,” a news release sent by party Chairman Jim McKalip.

“The Tarkanians have made the choice to serve themselves and their elite friends,” the release says. “Our Douglas County Republican Central Committee made its choice and in accordance with our Bylaws, and after affording The Tarkanians the opportunity to state their case before our membership, with unanimous votes to remove each, we expelled them.”

The release goes on to endorse Republican primary winners Michele Fiore for treasurer and Sigal Chattah for attorney general. Fiore is reportedly under investigation by the FBI, and a former friend of Chattah’s released a text in which she said that Ford, who is Black, should be “hanging from a (expletive) crane.”

Tarkanian greeted his expulsion with a classic response.

“You are more than welcome to support a bad, dangerous, embarrassing and incompetent person just because they are a Republican. I have the good sense not to do so,” Danny Tarkanian wrote. “I have been a lifelong Republican. I don’t need this organization or its by-laws to tell me who to support.”

Added Tarkanian: “I take it this means I am no longer needed as a volunteer at tomorrow’s Farmers Market. You’ve done me a favor by freeing up some time to take Mrs. Exiled out for dinner.”

Amy Tarkanian later tweeted a photo of the couple happily strolling through the farmer’s market.

Endorsements update

The pro-business Keystone Corp. has endorsed the entire slate of Republican candidates for statewide office, including Fiore, Chattah and Jim Marchant for secretary of state, along with Lombardo for governor, Stavros Anthony for lieutenant governor and Andy Matthews for controller … The National Association of Police Organizations has endorsed Adam Laxalt for U.S. Senate. “He (Laxalt) has always supported law enforcement since his time as Nevada’s Attorney General and is the candidate who will ensure police officers across the country will have the tools they need to protect our communities,” said Michael McHale, president of the association. … Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed Lombardo for governor. “A veteran and law enforcement officer of 34 years, Sheriff Lombardo will bring economic opportunity, family values, and strong leadership to Nevada,” Reynolds said in a statement. “With his proven experience and heart for public service, I’m confident that Sheriff Lombardo will deliver for Nevada families on day one.”

Quotable, now and then

“I have cleaned up after Senator Catherine Cortez Masto once in the Nevada’s Attorney General Office and I will clean up after her again in the U.S. Senate.” — Adam Laxalt, August 2022.

Cortez Masto was “a role model” during her eight years as attorney general. — Adam Laxalt, Dec. 7, 2014.

Bonus quotable

“I’m done with Republicans thinking they can buy this election. I hope you’ll stand with me in keeping them out of power for good.” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, closing out another insipid fundraising email asking for money so Democrats can buy this election.

Contact Steve Sebelius at 702-383-0253 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

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