Stumbling Laxalt Campaign Now Faces Major Primary Challenge
After Ethics Scandal Envelops Adam Laxalt’s Campaign, He Faces Challenge from State Treasurer
The Republican primary in Nevada is shaping up to be a lot nastier than originally expected.
Just months ago, it looked like Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who has all but announced his candidacy for governor, would have a clear path to the nomination. But now, with lingering ethics questions plaguing his campaign, the entrance of Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz into the race today poses a serious threat to Laxalt’s ambitions.
“The Republican primary has descended into chaos,” said DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold. “Adam Laxalt’s ethics scandal has created a free-for-all for governor. Now, two statewide elected Republicans will be throwing punches in a nasty race to the right.”
In their preview of the race, elections analysts at Sabato’s Crystal Ball wrote that, “recent polling suggests that Laxalt isn’t all that well-known after a little over two years in office.” The polling in question shows Laxalt with a slim 4 point lead over Schwartz, with a plurality of voters still undecided.
And judging by Schwartz’s recent comments about Laxalt, this will be a bruising primary contest. Schwartz was not afraid to go right for Laxalt’s political Achilles heel, claiming that Laxalt was “bought” by megadonor Sheldon Adelson and which may have resulted in special treatment:
Yet Adelson “has bought” Laxalt, Schwartz suggested.
He cited news reports earlier this year that Laxalt, on Adelson’s behalf, urged Nevada’s top gaming regulator to influence a high-stakes trial between Las Vegas Sands Corp. and its’ former Macau CEO.
“I really question, and it is a question and not a statement, as to whether Sheldon has bought Adam,” said Schwartz.
He’s also attacked Laxalt’s record as a self-serving grandstander during his tenure as Attorney General:
“I don’t know what Adam’s message is. Adam’s message is ‘I’m a conservative.’ Well so am I. But can you govern? I just haven’t seen that,” the treasurer said. “Adam has really devoted himself to federal issues and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m really focused on what’s happening in Nevada.”
And even in his announcement today, he went right after Laxalt.
He’s described Laxalt as “alt-right” and criticized him for a scheduled appearance this month at a Las Vegas conference featuring former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s fresh off a presidential pardon in a contempt of court conviction related to detaining immigrants.
In January 2017, Laxalt’s “Large War Chest and Cleared Field” Appeared to Have Given Him Free Pass Through GOP Primary.According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, “The large war chest and a cleared field have set Laxalt up as one of the lone major players for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, both expected to have serious prospects in a race for the governor’s seat, declined to run in recent weeks.” [Reno Gazette-Journal, 1/16/17]
In February 2017, Laxalt’s War Cheat Seemed to “Set” Republican Side of 2018 Governor’s Race. According to a column by Ray Hagar, “The 2018 race for governor seemed to be set last month when news broke that Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt already has raised a $1.5 million campaign war chest and Democratic Clark County Commish Chair Steve Sisolak has $3.8 million.” [Nevada Newsmakers, Ray Hagar, 2/9/17]
Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Recent Polling Suggests That Laxalt Isn’t All That Well-Known… Schwartz May See an Opening to Confound the Seeming Favorite. According to the University of Virginia Center for Politics Sabato Crystal Ball, “On the Republican side, state Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) is expected to run — he had $1.5 million sitting in his campaign account at the end of 2016 — but state Treasurer Dan Schwartz (R) may also seek the post, possibly setting up a competitive GOP primary. Recent polling suggests that Laxalt isn’t all that well-known after a little over two years in office, and Schwartz may see an opening to confound the seeming favorite.” [University of Virginia Center for Politics, 4/20/17]
June 2017 Poll Showed Laxalt With Slim 4 Point Edge Over Schwartz. According to the Nevada Independent, “The poll, conducted by Democratic campaign consultant Doug Schoen, sampled 600 Nevadans statewide in telephone interviews between June 7 and 20. It found 34 percent of respondents favored Laxalt, 30 percent favored Schwartz and 35 percent were undecided.” [Nevada Independent, 6/28/17]
Schwartz Suggested Sheldon Adelson “Bought” Laxalt. According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, “Schwartz said he was not concerned about Adelson’s financial support of Laxalt: ‘Sheldon is a good man. I’m not disparaging him. But this world is full of billionaires and full of millionaires. He’s not the only guy in town.’ Yet Adelson ‘has bought’ Laxalt, Schwartz suggested. He cited news reports earlier this year that Laxalt, on Adelson’s behalf, urged Nevada’s top gaming regulator to influence a high-stakes trial between Las Vegas Sands Corp. and its’ former Macau CEO. ‘I really question, and it is a question and not a statement, as to whether Sheldon has bought Adam,’ said Schwartz.” [Reno Gazette-Journal, 7/19/17]
- Schwartz on Laxalt: “If You are In the Pocket of the State’s Richest Citizen, What Does This Suggest for Your Administration If You’re Elected Governor?” According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, “”This to me, makes me even more nervous about the attorney general,” Schwartz added. ‘If you are in the pocket of the state’s richest citizen, what does this suggest for your administration if you’re elected governor?’ Asked if Laxalt and Roberson are both ‘in Adelson’s pocket,’ Schwartz said, ‘I believe they are.’” [Reno Gazette-Journal, 7/19/17]
Schwartz Said Laxalt Had No “Economic or Financial Experience” and Wanted to be “Alt-Right” to Attract Base. According to the Nevada Independent, “‘He’s a good guy but I have some issues with his philosophy. He’s young. He doesn’t have any economic or financial experience, and I think that’s what the state needs,’ said Schwartz, who said a new poll he commissioned showed him four points behind Laxalt. ‘He wants to be alt right. He’s sort of throwing red meat to that wing of the party.’” [Nevada Independent, 6/28/17]
Schwartz Said He Didn’t Know “What Adam’s [Laxalt] Message is.” According to the Nevada Independent, “Schwartz said those activities form a clear distinction between him and Laxalt. ‘I don’t know what Adam’s message is. Adam’s message is ‘I’m a conservative.’ Well so am I. But can you govern? I just haven’t seen that,” the treasurer said. “Adam has really devoted himself to federal issues and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m really focused on what’s happening in Nevada.’” [Nevada Independent, 6/28/17]