Off-year elections provide tea leaves

Last week’s elections in Virginia, New Jersey and New York offered stark choices and lots of drama, a prelude to Nevada’s gubernatorial race next year. Pundits questioned whether the resistance would show up to repudiate Trump in an off-year election that typically draws few people, perhaps a harbinger of voter disillusionment in Nevada’s mid-term elections in 2018. Happily, the resistance won.

Nevada’s Democratic gubernatorial primary next June will feature two Clark County commissioners. Steve Sisolak, a former member of the Board of Regents, joined the Clark County Commission in 2008. He promotes himself as a champion of education, vowing to “restore funding to at least pre-recession levels and prioritize class size reduction” should he be elected Governor. In the “Meet Steve” tab of his campaign website he promises to “build on his successes diversifying the Las Vegas economy and recruiting new industries in the solar, clean energy, bio-tech and medical industries.”

It’s a bit surprising that his website doesn’t yet mention his fame as a leading proponent in Southern Nevada for the huge tax giveaway to the Raiders to build a new stadium financed by dollars that could otherwise have been directed to his goal of increasing education funding. Maybe he realizes that progressives were widely opposed to diverting tax funds to the wealthy owner of the Raiders. If he doesn’t crow about his deal making, primary-voting Democrats might forget.

But there’s little chance his primary opponent, Chris Giunchigliani, will let the Raider deal slide, especially since she was a very vocal opponent of the Raiders’ taxpayer-funded corporate welfare. Chris G., as she is widely known, is a true progressive, with a strong record of supporting education and human services during her 16 years as a state assemblywoman before being elected to the Clark County Commission in 2006. When announcing her candidacy, she told reporters she intended to run an “inclusive, progressive, grassroots campaign” targeting public education funding, mental health and substance abuse issues, living wage jobs, and helping “mom and pop businesses.”

As a former executive director of the Nevada State Education Association, Giunchigliani (it’s pronounced june-killee-onny) spent years driving a motor home all over the state, meeting union members and spending time in rural and northern Nevada. Her reputation as one of the smartest, hardest-working members of the Nevada Legislature and her steadfastness in support of progressive issues make her a favored candidate for those who see 2018 as the best opportunity in a lifetime to elect a progressive leader who would become the first female governor in Nevada’s history.

A few members of the Democratic establishment—namely, former U.S. senator Harry Reid and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus—have endorsed Sisolak, but progressive leaders on the ground are strongly behind Giunchigliani. The winner of the Democratic primary will likely face Republican Adam Laxalt, Nevada’s current attorney general, who hopes to ride the coattails of the Laxalt family name into the governor’s mansion.

Laxalt shows every sign of running a model Koch brothers campaign, complete with xenophobic dog whistles and racial animosity. He supports the unnecessary Sanctuary City ballot measure and wants to repeal the minuscule corporate tax championed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. His Facebook page has a poll of potential voters regarding the NFL “take a knee” protest, although the majority of comments shame him for deliberately misrepresenting the protest in an effort to score misguided political points.

But the more Laxalt copies the Trump playbook, perhaps the better. After Republicans spent a year trying to destroy Obamacare, Maine voters sent a clear message last week when they overrode their governor’s five vetoes and expanded Medicaid. As Republicans raise taxes on working people to give more to the rich, the resistance is guaranteed to grow, just in time for the 2018 elections.