Updated December 6, 2022 - 11:41 am
Several Nevada Republicans are calling for the state party’s leadership to step down after a failed “red wave” election and what some claim are years of bullying.
Republican organizers, campaign consultants and former county Republican Party chairpersons are calling on Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald — who has been party chair since 2012, longer than anyone else — to step down.
“After another disappointing election cycle for Nevada Republicans, the hallways, restaurants and offices are buzzing with the need for change at the top,” said campaign consultant Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, whose clients included Democratic North Las Vegas mayoral candidate Pat Spearman and Republican Lt. Gov-elect Stavros Anthony, in a statement to the Review-Journal.
McDonald said he is not going anywhere, and that the future of the Nevada Republican Party is bright.
“We are strong. For people to say we’re in a bad position, we’re probably in the best position we’ve been in, in a long time,” McDonald said.
Lack of results
Some Republicans behind the call for McDonald to step aside point to the latest round of election results in the 2022 midterms, with Republicans losing all three of their challenges in congressional seats, as well as the seat of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who was seen as one of the most vulnerable senators in the country.
But the Nevada Republican Party’s losses go further back. Republicans lost Nevada in the last three presidential elections, said conservative political activist and blogger Chuck Muth, who openly called for McDonald to resign in his newsletter Monday morning. Muth compared the Nevada Republican Party’s election loss to UNLV football’s season when its coach was recently fired.
“Keeping him would have amounted to the clichéd definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” Muth said. “It wasn’t personal; it was business. And it’s time for the Nevada Republican Party to follow UNLV football’s example.”
Muth said in the last six election cycles, Republicans can only boast of 2014 as a winning season, when the party won all six statewide constitutional offices and majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly.
“But even there, you can’t credit McDonald’s leadership for the victories. He just happened to be at the right place at the right time. It was an actual “red wave” election in which Democrat turnout was so depressed that their gubernatorial candidate actually lost his primary race to ‘None of the Above,’” Muth wrote.
But a GOP official disputed that charge.
“We took three of the top constitutional races. When people say it wasn’t a success, winning the governor’s mansion is a pretty big success,” said Alida Benson, Nevada Republican Party executive director. “We have to continue to adapt to changing conditions, but we’re really happy with taking back three of the constitutional seats.”
Lack of getting out the vote?
The group of Republicans looking to oust McDonald also claims the Nevada Republican Party did not do enough get-out-the-vote campaigning to help its candidates win.
“There’s not a lot the state party can do, but getting the vote out is one of them,” Muth told the Review-Journal. “It’s time for someone new to come in and see if they could do a better job.”
In 2020, former President Donald Trump lost by about 33,000 votes, with around 112,000 registered Republicans staying home. In the 2022 election, over 100,000 registered Republicans did not vote in Clark County, and U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt lost by only 8,000 votes, Muth said.
Sharelle Mendenhall, who ran for U.S. Senate but lost to Laxalt in the Republican Party, volunteered with other Republican candidates for the general election, knocking on doors for them. She said that the party did not do a good job getting out the vote and supporting candidates.
“At the end of the day, whether you like him or don’t like him, look at the numbers. … We’re going in the wrong direction. Winning the governor seat is one seat. We needed to do so much more,” Mendenhall said.
Republican Clark County Commission candidate Drew Johnson also recently criticized the Nevada Republican Party for leading voters to believe the election was rigged. He lost his race against Democratic incumbent Justin Jones by just 336 votes.
“Nearly 18,000 registered voters in my district did not vote,” he said in a post-election statement. “Many of these Republicans didn’t vote because people in our party’s leadership, other GOP candidates, and respected grassroots conservative activists led them to believe the election was rigged.”
McDonald said the party did stage a walk program to get the candidates out knocking on doors. Nationally, people are talking about how great Nevada Republicans did, as it was the only state to flip the governor’s seat red, McDonald said.
Benson said the party had about 60 events per week during the midterm campaign, between phone banking, door knocking and different events with committees. In the midterms, Republican turnout exceeded Democrats’ by 3 percent, Benson said.
“We are moving forward. We have something to build on,” McDonald said.
The party did see internal divisions during the cycle. Amy Tarkanian, a TV political pundit, strategist and former chair of the state party, was censured by the party when she came out in support of Democratic incumbent Attorney General Aaron Ford.
McDonald said that per the party’s bylaws, any consultant who works with Democrats is not allowed in party events, because they could access information that could be used to work against the party. He also criticized the Republicans who spoke out against him, saying they have worked with Democrats or did not do anything to help the Republican Party.
‘Fear, coercion and threats’
The group of Republican dissidents is also calling on Michele Fiore, Nevada GOP’s national committeewoman who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Democrat Treasurer Zach Conine in the 2022 midterms, to step aside.
“McDonald and Fiore both have a reputation for leading with fear, coercion and threats,” Mayo-DeRiso said. “This ‘thug’ mentality has yielded nothing but losses for the Republican party. It has resulted in a lack of unity and made it nearly impossible to recruit quality candidates.”
After the election, Fiore hurled ugly charges against Tarkanian in a speech to fellow Republicans that was caught on video.
Rory McShane, Fiore’s campaign aide, said McDonald has Fiore’s complete support.
“Michael McDonald is one of the best State Chairman in the country,” McShane said in a message to the Review-Journal. “Nevada was the only state in the country to flip a Governor’s mansion Republican. He is essential in Nevada maintaining its first in the west status, and I hope he doesn’t spend one minute of energy on these anti-Trumpers.”
One other key McDonald supporter? Former President Donald Trump, who has backed McDonald’s tenure as chairman, despite his loss of the state in 2016 to Hillary Clinton and in 2020 to Joe Biden. Not only that, but McDonald has survived leadership challenges before, including one in 2013 featuring Republican consultant Robert Uithoven that was backed by the GOP establishment at the time and another in 2019 featuring then-Mesquite Councilwoman Annie Black.