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PARTY LINES: Lombardo, Sisolak commit to debate, but is it all talk?

Updated August 19, 2022 - 9:08 pm

Everyone says they want to debate. Just don’t count on that happening.

The campaign for the Republican nominee for governor, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, announced on Thursday that he has committed to three debates — one each in Las Vegas, Reno and Elko.

That followed a similar announcement the week prior from Gov. Steve Sisolak’s campaign. The campaign announced that the Democratic incumbent had agreed to a pair of debates in Las Vegas and Reno.

But don’t go thinking those announcements mean the two major party candidates are any closer to actually squaring off on a debate stage just yet.

Sisolak has accepted an invitation from KLAS-TV, Channel 8 and Univision for a debate hosted at UNLV on Oct. 18. In an email Friday, Channel 8 News Director Dan Salamone said Lombardo has not committed to that debate.

Sisolak’s campaign had said that if Lombardo does not accept the debate invitations from the Las Vegas and Reno television stations by 6 p.m. Friday, it “will consider Lombardo’s silence as a refusal to participate in these debates.” Sisolak’s campaign said that as of 6 p.m. it had not received a response from the Lombardo campaign.

When asked if Lombardo was committing to the same Las Vegas and Reno debates for which Sisolak has accepted invitations, Lombardo’s campaign indicated that it hasn’t agreed to any debates just yet.

“We haven’t announced which debates we’re doing yet, only that we are committed to doing debates in Reno, Elko, and Las Vegas,” Lombardo campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Ray said in an email.

In the U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, the probability of debates is in similar straits.

Cortez Masto has accepted invitations to three debates: one hosted by Channel 8 on Oct. 20; a Vegas PBS/Nevada Public Radio debate on Oct. 13; and a debate in Reno hosted by KOLO-TV, the Reno Gazette Journal and the League of Women Voters on a yet-to-be-announced date.

Meanwhile, Laxalt announced on Twitter that he has committed to television debates with KSNV-TV, Channel 3 and Nevada Newsmakers, a Reno-based current events talk show.

Laxalt’s campaign did not return a reporter’s phone call Friday. Cortez Masto campaign spokesman Josh Marcus-Blank said Laxalt is “not interested in debating, or we’d have an agreement already.”

The 2022 debate picture is setting up much like what happened in the 2018 race for Nevada governor, when Sisolak and Laxalt, then the Republican gubernatorial nominee, never came to an agreement to debate one another.

Sisolak declined to participate in a debate Laxalt had agreed to with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Channel 3, and Laxalt declined to take part in one Sisolak had agreed to with Channel 8.

The 2022 elections are a little less than three months away, so there’s still plenty of time to iron out the details for debates. But that’s assuming the candidates are actually committed to debating each other on stage, not just in news releases.

Endorsement update

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, endorsed Laxalt in his bid for Senate. Haley served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the Trump administration and is reportedly eyeing a run for president in 2024.

There also has been plenty of news about Republicans crossing party lines to endorse Democrats running for constitutional offices.

But even some Democrats are getting in on the game.

Michele Fiore announced that she received the endorsement of Tom Collins, a Democrat and former state assemblyman and Clark County commissioner. Collins has been a vocal critic of Sisolak over COVID-19 policies and unsuccessfully challenged him in the Democratic gubernatorial primary this year.

“Michele has always been a straight shooter with me, and even though we don’t share the same political party, I fully support and endorse her race for State Treasurer,” Collins said in a statement.

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

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