Mike Pence coming to Nevada to headline Laxalt’s Basque Fry

Updated July 14, 2017 - 2:51 pm

Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker at Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s Basque Fry event on Aug. 26.

The appearance by the vice president is a major coup for Laxalt, who has laid the groundwork for a widely expected 2018 gubernatorial campaign. It’s also a signal to Treasurer Dan Schwartz, a fellow Republican mulling his own bid for governor, that Laxalt has the support of D.C. powerbrokers as well as grass-roots Nevada Republicans.

Laxalt hosts the Basque Fry in Gardnerville, south of Carson City, to support his Morning in Nevada PAC.

“We are truly excited for Nevada to welcome Vice President Mike Pence to this year’s 3rd Annual Basque Fry event,” Laxalt said in a statement. “This has truly become the grass-roots event for Nevada conservatives and Republicans, attracting residents from all 17 counties.”

Pence’s appearance could present an awkward dilemma for Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who’s running for re-election next year. After Heller announced his opposition to Republican legislation to replace Obamacare, a PAC connected to Pence associates announced it would run ads targeting Heller. While the group eventually backed off, Heller could be the deciding vote on the Senate’s new Obamacare replacement bill.

No matter what Heller does now, his standing with Nevada conservatives has taken a hit. Perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian is mulling a primary challenge to Heller. The response from grass-roots Republicans to Heller, if he decides to attend Laxalt’s event, could be a good indication of how much traction a primary challenge might have.

The 2015 event sold out, with 1,500 attendees, but the Corley Ranch, which hosts the event, has made changes to accommodate a larger crowd this year. General admission tickets cost $40 until July 29, when the price jumps to $55. Kids get in free.

“I expect the event to sell out quickly and that attendance will exceed either of the two previous Basque Fries,” said Andy Matthews, executive director of the Morning in Nevada PAC.

Laxalt patterned the Basque Fry gatherings after events his grandfather, former Nevada Gov. and U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt, held during his time in office. The Basque Fry has attracted many Republican elected officials and candidates trying to connect with the Republican base. Headliners at previous Basque Fries have included Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton and Dr. Ben Carson, the current HUD secretary.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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