FALLON – Nevada Republican Party officials voted Saturday to delay a controversial pre-primary endorsement process for GOP candidates after a spirited debate at an all-day meeting.
The 81-135 vote by members of the GOP State Central Committee postponed the endorsement process, which has caused some rifts in the party, until the state GOP convention in Las Vegas in April. Any endorsements will now come after the candidate filing period ends in mid-March.
Gov. Brian Sandoval has refused to participate in the endorsement process.
A list of about 20 Republican candidates that were to be considered for endorsement at the meeting will now have to wait until this spring for possible action.
A nominating committee recommended a number of candidates for endorsement, including former state Sen. Sue Lowden, a candidate for lieutenant governor. Lowden had sought the pre-primary endorsement while her GOP opponent and Sandoval pick state Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, declined to participate.
Also winning a recommendation from the nominating committee was Carl Bunce, who is running for the state Senate in District 20. Republican Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, is the incumbent and is running for reelection. He too declined to participate in the pre-primary endorsement process.
But none of the committee recommendations were finalized at the central committee meeting, which saw a contentious debate over the endorsement issue.
Rob Tyree, a member of the Clark County Republican Central Committee executive board and member of the nominating committee, argued for the endorsements, saying they are incredibly important.
“We have the opportunity to help many of our best candidates to advance through the primary to get to the general election where they have a great chance of winning,” he said.
But Carol Shank, Pershing County GOP chairwoman, said the question of who to support in the primary should be up to Republican voters in the June 10 primary. Shank said she had no problem educating voters about the candidates.
Tyree said there was a lot of confusion about the endorsement process, which had previously been approved by party leaders. “There were a whole bunch of people who brought up concerns today who voted to do it in April,” he said.
In an effort to smooth over any party rift, it was also made clear at the meeting that any GOP incumbent who has not received an endorsement from the State Central Committee will, if unopposed or facing another GOP candidate who has not been endorsed, will automatically receive support from the party.
As a result, Sandoval will be getting the support of his party in his reelection bid.
Earlier in the day, party leaders voted to name Lee Hoffman of Elko County as the new state GOP national committeeman.
Hoffman, chairman of the Elko Republican Party, replaced Fallon resident James Smack, who served about half of his four-year term before stepping down to spend more time with his family.
Hoffman said he would work hard to represent all of Nevada’s Republicans. “I think my strength is my ability to reach a wide range of people,” he said.
The national committeeman is also a member of the Republican National Committee, which is considering a bid by Nevada and the city of Las Vegas to host the Republican National Convention in 2016.
Smack said earlier this year the committeeman’s job was offered to both former Gov. Jim Gibbons and current Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, but both declined.
Hoffman was voted in over David Espinoza of Washoe County and Pat Kerby of Pahrump in Nye County.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.