86°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Steve Sisolak becomes Nevada’s first Democratic governor in decades

Updated November 7, 2018 - 1:34 am

In what was one of the tightest gubernatorial races in recent Nevada memory, County Commissioner Steve Sisolak upended a rising Republican star to become the Silver State’s first Democratic governor in two decades.

As of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sisolak held 48.8 percent of the vote, compared to 45.9 percent for Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt.

“Today, people from every corner of the state stood up and turned out to say it’s time to bring people together. It’s time to prioritize our schools, our jobs and our health care. It’s time to stop the petty politics and get things done,” Sisolak said in his victory speech from Caesars Palace. “I want all of you to know that, no matter who you voted for, I will work my heart out for you.”

In a teary-eyed concession speech delivered shortly before midnight, Laxalt said he would help Sisolak in anyway he could.

“This was all of our campaign, not just my campaign. We can certainly take heart that we left it all on the field,” Laxalt said. “We fought as hard as we could. To come up short is always difficult.”

Sisolak will succeed Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is term-limited.

Sisolak, 64, has spent two decades in elected office in Nevada. He is the chairman of the Clark County Commission, a body in which he has served since 2008. He previously served 10 years as a Nevada System of Higher Education regent.

He survived a bitter primary battle with fellow Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani that not only forced him to spend a significant amount (more than $6 million before the primary alone) but also pulled him left of the the moderate campaign he had hoped to run in order to survive.

Sisolak attacked Laxalt for the Republican candidate’s desire to repeal the 2015 Commerce Tax championed by Sandoval, which has boosted education funding in the state, and for his early opposition to Medicaid expansion that the state received under the Affordable Care Act. Based on Tuesday night’s results, it appears that Sisolak’s message resonated with voters in the state.

Laxalt, 40, ran for governor after just one term as Nevada’s attorney general, which is the only other elected office he has held. He is the grandson of Nevada political giant Paul Laxalt, who was one of former President Ronald Reagan’s closest confidants and served as the state’s governor from 1967 to 1971 and as one of its U.S. senators from 1974 to 1987.

Laxalt, a former prosecutor in the navy who rose to the rank of lieutenant with the support of President Donald Trump, has run a campaign that energized the Republican base both in Nevada’s urban hubs and the rural parts the state.

His campaign focused heavily on conservatives’ fear that Nevada is moving too far to the political left, claiming that his Democratic opponent would do everything he could to turn Nevada into its more liberal western neighbor, California.

Laxalt was unable to overcome a handful of missteps along the campaign trail, including drawing signficant criticism from women’s groups after he said that he wanted to look at repealing Nevada’s laws protecting a women’s right to abortion, and the icy relationship with Sandoval, who withheld endorsement from the fellow Republican as his successor following a tense four years as the two clashed over policy and partisanship.

In total, the gubernatorial race saw unprecedented spending, with Sisolak’s campaign spending more than $13.5 million dating back to 2017, while Laxalt’s campaign spent $10 million.

The unprecedented level of spending dwarfs the amount seen in the last competitive race for governor in 2010, when Sandoval defeated Democrat Rory Reid in a race that saw the campaigns spend a combined total of $9.1 million.

The race also saw significant outside money, with the Republican Governors Association spending $9.9 million in Nevada and the Democratic Governors Association spending $7.7 million. The Koch network also got involved, spending more than $2 million to support Laxalt, while labor and teacher unions spent millions to help Sisolak.

And while Laxalt and Sisolak battled in the airwaves, they never made it to a debate stage for voters to see their contrasting styles — or contrasting policies — side by side.

Laxalt and Sisolak ran against independent Ryan Bundy, the son of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, as well as Libertarian Jared Lord and the Independent American Party’s Russell Best.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
THE LATEST
Trump aides heading to Nevada Basque Fry

Several current and former aides to President Donald Trump are headed to the annual Basque Fry, an event sponsored by former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt.