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Republican trio sues GOP director for defamation

Updated October 21, 2022 - 5:47 pm

A trio of Republicans who ruffled feathers by endorsing Democratic incumbent Attorney General Aaron Ford this election cycle is suing the executive director of the Nevada Republican Party for defamation.

The three Republicans suing are Amy Tarkanian, who previously served as the Nevada Republican Party chair, Elliot Malin, a lobbyist from Reno, and Jason Guinasso, a Reno-based attorney.

They claim that Nevada Republican Party Executive Director Alida Benson defamed them during a Sep. 20 Clark County Republican Party meeting where the county party’s central voted on a resolution to censure Republicans who had come out in support of Ford and other Democrats this election. That censure bars them from “any and all involvement with” the Clark County Republican Party Central Committee, according to the complaint.

Benson told attendees that those Republicans, including Tarkanian, Malin and Guinasso, “are actively making money and campaigning for Democrats.” Benson also specifically named Malin and Tarkanian at another point in the meeting, saying that they “are personally profiting by supporting Aaron Ford,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also names one of the meeting attendees, James Blockey, as a defendant over comments he made at the Sept. 20 meeting. According to the complaint, Blockey claimed that “these people [named in the Resolution] are paying to get Democrats [elected] … they are working for Democrats, getting paid … it’s like being a campaign manager for [Democrats.]”

Those comments, the trio claims, have harmed their reputation and ability to earn money in their respective fields.

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Bradley Schrager, who has typically represented Democratic candidates as well as the state Democratic Party in the past.

Tarkanian, Malin and Guinasso were part of a group of more than a dozen Republicans who in July crossed the political aisle to support Ford by forming a “Republicans for Ford” committee to boost his re-election bid against attorney Sigal Chattah.

Chattah has faced criticism leaked texts showed her saying that Ford, who is black, “should be hanging from a (expletive) crane. Chattah claims the text wasn’t racially motivated but is an insult informed by her Israeli heritage, while Ford has said the remark was racist and evoked lynchings.

“It is unacceptable that Sigal Chattah — an unprepared, dangerous candidate who lacks the experience, foresight and temperament to be able to do right by Nevadans — is the Republican nominee for Attorney General,” Tarkanian told the Review-Journal in July. “I’m proud to be voting for (Attorney) General Ford this November, and I implore fellow Republicans who value commonsense public servants to do the same.”

Tarkanian has also endorsed Democratic incumbent Treasurer Zach Conine over his Republican opponent, Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore.

The FBI has interviewed people at City Hall about Fiore and last year raided her home as part of a campaign finance violation investigation, but so far no charges have been filed.

“If they want to campaign openly for a Democrat, that’s their right. They just won’t be doing it from inside the Republican party,” Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald said Friday when reached by phone.

McDonald said that those Republicans “are openly campaigning against Republicans and for someone who goes against our values.”

Asked if Chattah and Fiore represent the party’s values, McDonald did not answer directly.

“They won the primaries, so they’ve earned that right to ask Republicans and everyone else for their vote. That has to stand for itself,” he said.

McDonald questioned the timing of the lawsuit, which was filed the day before early voting begins in Clark County. But he said he expects the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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