At Adam Laxalt’s fourth annual Basque Fry, Republican speakers had a clear message for the conservative crowd gathered Saturday in Northern Nevada: If Democrats win this fall, they’ll turn the Silver State into California.
“If you can’t get excited about this election, then you might as well call us East California,” said former U.S. Rep. Cresent Hardy, who is the Republican candidate for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District.
The event, put on by the Morning in Nevada PAC at the Corley Ranch in Gardnerville, comes as Laxalt’s bid in the race to be Nevada’s next governor against Democratic nominee and Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak is heating up. And this year’s gathering drew a slew of prominent conservative speakers to rally the base, including White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch and retired Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell.
The gathering is based on Basque-style “lamb fries” that Laxalt’s grandfather, former Nevada Gov. and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, held in Washington D.C.
“From Lovelock to Las Vegas, he was at home,” said former Nevada Gov. Robert List.
But for much of the event, it was about propping up the younger Laxalt as the future of the Nevada Republican party. Laxalt kept his remarks brief, positive and focused on introducing the other speakers.
Loesch called Laxalt an “absolute rock star” and told the crowd that this year’s election “is the fight for your political lives.”
“It is a huge problem, dare I say, a scourge,” Loesch said. “You have all of these progressives, not from your state, moving into your state and they’re bringing their socialst values with them.”
Conway, who guided the final months of President Donald Trump’s 2016 bid as the campaign manager, likened Laxalt to both his grandfather and former President Ronald Reagan, calling them “happy warriors.”
Conway said she also sees “a lot of parallels” in Nevada’s gubernatorial race between Laxalt and Sisolak and the 2016 presidential race between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“He might as well just call you irredeemable and deplorable,” Conway said, seemingly referring to Sisolak and alluding to the comments Clinton made on the campaign trail in 2016 in which she said that half of Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables.”
Clinton edged Trump to win Nevada by 2 percentage points in 2016.
Sisolak campaign spokesman Grigsby Crawford issued a statement Saturday evening: “… Nevadans will notice this — while Adam Laxalt’s collection of B-list Republicans spewed falsehoods, Steve Sisolak spent the day in the community talking with Nevada families about real issues, like improving education and fighting for affordable health care.”
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, who is locked in a race with Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen in his bid for re-election, praised the Trump administration for the growth of the U.S. economy and promised to keep Nevada from following California’s lead in becoming a “sanctuary state.”
“When I’m re-elected to the United States Senate, we will secure these borders,” Heller said. “Nevada will not become a sanctuary state. Las Vegas will not become a sanctuary city.”
Assemblyman Jim Wheeler kicked off Saturday’s event by railing against the Golden State, listing off laws that the California Legislature has passed that he sees as problematic in the Democrat-controlled state. He cited a gas tax aimed at improving roads and a law that eases parole-eligibility requirements for some inmates serving life sentences.
“What that tells you is if we don’t have Adam Laxalt as our next governor, these laws will go through and we will be Nevada-fornia,” Wheeler said.
Protests at the fry
Last year, several protesters interrupted the Basque Fry, specifically Laxalt’s speech, with whistles and signs reading “Nevada rejects hate.”
This year, there was a single protester inside, who stood up when Heller started speaking. Douglas County sheriff’s deputies quickly escorted him off the property.
Outside the ranch, protesters from progressive groups including Battle Born Progress, NARAL Pro-Choice, PLAN Action and Northern Nevada Working Families Party took part in a demonstration that included an inflatable chicken made to look like Trump.
Debra Summey, 65 of Carson City, said she was protesting “to try to get people out to vote, so that they vote for the right people in the next election and so that we can get corruption out of the country.”