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‘We will get to work’: DeSantis asks for Nevada’s votes at Basque Fry

GARDNERVILLE — Under a blazing sun, thousands gathered in northern Nevada on Saturday for the Basque Fry, some donning Trump MAGA hats, others sporting a “DeSantis 2024” cap and some wearing American flag cowboy hats.

It’s a signal that 2024 presidential election campaigning is underway: Some attendees have already picked their favorite candidate, while others are on the fence. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who officially announced his run for president in May, hopes he brought some people to his side.

“I’m asking for your vote and your support,” DeSantis told the approximately 2,500 people who flocked to Gardnerville for Adam Laxalt’s eighth annual Basque Fry, a tradition Laxalt started to fundraise for Republicans while also highlighting the state’s Basque heritage.

Laxalt, along with his political action committee, started the Basque fry in 2015, a nod to the events his late grandfather — former U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt — held in D.C., where he served Basque-style “lamb fries,” or fried lamb testicles.

For Laxalt, this year’s Basque fry represented a significant shift.

During the last presidential election, Laxalt co-chaired Trump’s presidential campaign in Nevada and used the event to try to help Trump win Nevada, although he lost the state to Biden by more than 30,000 votes. This year, however, after losing his race for U.S. Senate, he accepted a job as chair of Never Back Down, the political action committee funding the campaign for DeSantis, his friend and former roommate in the Navy.

“If we don’t do this now, we’re going to lose our country,” Laxalt said. “And I believe Gov. DeSantis is the only person in America that can win a primary and a general (election) and be a conservative warrior for all of us Nevadans.”

The 2023 group of speakers included DeSantis as the headliner, Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony, Dave Rubin with The Rubin Report and Steve Cortes with DeSantis’ PAC.

The speakers highlighted DeSantis’ “Florida blueprints” that he would bring to the Oval Office. They hit on big national talking points such as corporations that support LGBTQ+ people and the migration of people out of California.

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo was also scheduled to make an appearance Saturday, but he instead went to Las Vegas to attend the victory parade for the Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights.

Voters sizing up DeSantis to Trump

DeSantis outlined his accomplishments since he became governor, such as banning the Chinese government from owning land in Florida, intervening in bridge repairs to complete them quickly, authorizing the death penalty for pedophiles, banning sanctuary cities, fighting the “sexualization of minors” and eliminating “critical race theory” in K-12 schools.

“We’re not teaching kids to hate this country or hate each other with your tax dollars,” DeSantis said.

If elected, DeSantis vowed to bring accountability to the office. He wants to end the crisis on the southern border, fight “woke ideology” such as transgender issues in schools, companies and the military, and hold the government accountable for what he deemed “wrong” COVID-19 protocols. He also advocated for term limits for members of Congress and giving the president veto power for specific provisions in budgets.

“If you’re able to help me become the nominee for the Republican Party in 2024, then on January 20, 2025, at high noon, on the west side of the Capitol, I’ll have this left hand on top of the Bible, and I’ll have this right hand raised in the air,” DeSantis said. “We’ll be sworn in as the 47th president of these United States. We will get to work and we will get the job done.”

Attendees outline priorities

Several attendees of the event said issues important to them are immigration, Second Amendment protections, energy independence and education. Some come to the event every year, while some came for the first time to see DeSantis. They expressed being torn between him and Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.

Pat Disney, a resident of Minden, said she mainly wants someone who can win and put Republicans back in office. She came to hear DeSantis speak and she thinks he has a good chance to win.

“Donald Trump does have a good chance to win, but he also has a lot of problems,” Disney said. “DeSantis, we think, is really a viable candidate. … We want to hear what he has to say and see if he can step in if Trump can’t make it.”

She wants to see a return to having a government that “works to govern for everybody” instead of pushing “socialist” issues, such as taking away guns and giving immigrants “anything.”

Patti Roberts and Tony Latos, residents of Truckee, Calif., who also own property in Nevada, attended the Basque fry to hear DeSantis.

Roberts is on the fence between Trump and DeSantis.

“We really like DeSantis,” Roberts said. “I definitely see him in our future, for sure.” On the flip side, “Donald Trump has a lot of unfinished business,” she said.

But Latos is leaning more toward Trump.

Trump is not as worried about a political future, Latos said, whereas DeSantis faces more pressure. Regarding Trump’s indictment, Latos believes it is a move to damage him, and similar attacks would be made against DeSantis if Trump wasn’t there.

“I think Trump would be a wrecking ball in D.C.,” he said.

DeSantis too ‘extreme’

Ahead of DeSantis’ visit, some leaders of local, progressive groups condemned the Florida governor, calling him too “extreme” for Nevada, citing his record on abortion in signing a six-week ban, his “union busting tactics” and his restrictions in the classroom.

“DeSantis’ Individual Freedom Act whitewashes history by barring teachers from teaching lessons that would make students feel guilty, anguish or any other form of stress due to their color, race, sex or national origin,” Dawn Etcheverry, president of the Nevada State Education Association, said in a virtual news conference Friday. “A great public education reflects and celebrates students identities and their experiences and the culture to meet students where they are and prepare them for the real world.”

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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