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Nevada’s Republican gubernatorial primary is one of the most open races in the nation with candidates including a former senator, sheriff, former boxing lawyer and others vying for a chance to challenge Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak .
The race is taking place in a state that has leaned on Democrats in recent years, but could be ripe for a big GOP victory amid low approval ratings from President Biden and backlash against the management of the pandemic by the Democrats.
Some of the biggest players in the primary include former Senator Dean Heller, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore, North Las Vegas Mayor John Jay Lee, attorney Joey Gilbert and venture capitalist Guy Nohra.
In such an open race, endorsements can make all the difference. And the GOP’s chief endorser — former President Donald Trump — has yet to weigh in on this state race like he has in several others nationwide.
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This is something candidates seem to be acutely aware of.
Nohra, a Lebanese immigrant who came to the United States in high school before entering the biotech industry after college, recently hired three Trump-affiliated GOP consultants, a fact he repeatedly mentioned in a Press release.
Nohra points to his business background as proof that he can make government more efficient and draws on his history as an immigrant who escaped a civil war to emphasize that the United States is a “land of ‘opportunities’ which should be adopted.
He says these qualities will help him “win” Trump’s approval.
“I have the same background, I’m a businessman, I’m going to solve problems, I’m America’s first person,” Nohra told Fox News. “I’m going to win it because I think the president… is going to see who’s working the hardest, who’s putting all the resources into it, he’s going to see who’s serious about winning this.”
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Heller told Fox News that as governor he would focus on tackling crime and improving schools, but his main issue would be revitalizing Nevada’s economy.
“People want jobs – a strong economy, good jobs, not just good jobs but better jobs,” Heller said. “If you’re the candidate who can prove you can produce better jobs here in this state, I think that crosses the spectrum.”
Heller has a checkered history with Trump, but said he spoke with the former president earlier today on several occasions during a debate last month, according to The Nevada Independent. And he told Fox News he thinks Trump should approve it because the couple have successfully collaborated in the past.
“President Trump and I have worked together for years,” Heller said. “We had our differences…but needless to say, I helped him on his program, his America First program. In fact, there’s not another Republican in the state of Nevada who has done more than me. on the America First program.
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Lombardo, meanwhile, draws on his law enforcement background as he navigates the fundraising realm. The Sheriff has raised over $3.1 million for his campaign so far.
“The beautiful thing about Joe Lombardo is that he is Joe Lombardo,” campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Ray told Fox News. “He’s a law enforcement candidate…He’s going to make sure law and order reigns in Nevada.”
Ray also said Lombardo will aim to improve the school system, diversify the state’s economy and reverse the course of Sisolak’s virus policies.
“I think it sort of comes down to the fact that the people of Nevada are fed up with his response to COVID. They are fed up with the collapsing economy, and clearly he hasn’t the vision that Nevada needs,” she said.
Lombardo is emerging as one of the top contenders in the race with a campaign that focuses less on Trump than the other candidates. But Lombardo’s campaign manager Matthew Brasseaux told Fox News the sheriff would be happy to have Trump’s backing.
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“We would appreciate the support of anyone willing to support our values and our campaign,” Brasseaux said. “We have already received the endorsement and support of party leaders across the state, and we would be honored to receive the endorsement of President Trump as well. Broad support will continue to build our momentum to successfully end the one-party rule in Carson City this year.”
Former boxer and Air Force reservist and current attorney Joey Gilbert is campaigning hard against attacks on how Sisolak and the Biden administration have handled the pandemic.
“I started battling the COVID madness, as I call it, in March 2020,” Gilbert said in an interview with Fox News. “I was just off the jump.”
Gilbert denounced the consequences of Sisolak’s pandemic policies, including “massive pain, economic damage, psychological damage to our children and our elderly, emotional damage”, high unemployment and more.
And he said he was Trump’s most genuine supporter in the Nevada GOP race.
“I’m the only candidate who was Trump from the jump,” Gilbert added. “All these other guys had to do their poll and decide what to do. Go see who was announcing our president at his rallies in 2016 – Joey Gilbert.”
Fiore may have taken the more creative route to courting Trump. When she announced her campaign for governor of Nevada last year, she took out television commercials in West Palm Beach, Florida.
There are probably very few Nevada voters in this media market. But Trump lives there.
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Trump associate Roger Stone also penned an op-ed in the right-wing publication Gateway Pundit reinforcing Fiore and attacking Lombardo.
Democrats, meanwhile, say Republicans could hand them the election if they choose a candidate in their primary based on Trump’s support.
“Republican gubernatorial candidates are welcome to fight over who Trump loves more, but the reality is that Nevada doesn’t love Trump, and his blessing carries no weight here,” the Party said. Nevada Democrat in a statement.
“Governor Sisolak outperformed all Republican candidates combined in 2021, and while we are under no illusion that Democrats will have an easy path to victory in 2022, we are very confident that with hard work, we will send Governor Sisolak back to Governor’s Mansion.”
The GOP primary in Nevada is June 14 and the general election is November 8.