Some Nevada Democrats blame party infighting for defeats

The vaunted Nevada Democrat political machine brought in Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Secretary-elect Cisco Aguilar and Atty. Gen. Aaron Ford last week.

But Gov. Steve Sisolak and his running mate Lt. Governor Lisa Cano Burkhead, both lost. In a year with the Democrats exceeded expectations almost everywhere in the country, Sisolak was the only incumbent Democratic governor to lose his seat.

Sisolak’s COVID-19 policy, which closed casinos and led to high unemployment, was unpopular, and his opponent, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, is well known in the state. However, some Nevada Democrats say partisan infighting is also to blame for Sisolak’s loss.

The progressive and mainstream wings of the Nevada Democratic Party were feud since last year, when progressives and members of the Democratic Socialists of America have been elected to all senior positions in the state party. Before the internal elections were lost, the leaders of the state party sent their entire treasury to the Democratic Senators’ Campaign Committee. After the election, they quit their jobs and formed a new group, Nevada Democratic Victory.

The party’s top elected officials chose sides. Cortez Masto and Sisolak allied with Nevada Democratic Victory. Like all Nevada Democrats, they worked closely with the United States so-called Reid machine, a voting and promotion built by the late Sen. Harry Reid. The machine’s paid recruiters — union members furloughed from Las Vegas casinos — knocked on more than 1 million doors this election cycle.

The NV Dems, as the progressive insurgents are called, decided to focus on electing Democrats to local positions.

“We supported their work, but we didn’t work together or coordinate our efforts,” NV Dems Chair Judith Whitmer said of Nevada Democratic Victory. “We focused heavily on down ballot racing while they were at the top of the ticket. But of course we did everything we could to support all of our candidates.”

Most NV Dems have political preferences different from those of their incumbent peers, but all praised Reid, who died last year.

Reid came from an impoverished working-class background, and both sides viewed him as an advocate for Nevada’s working class. But without him, no one was able to bring together the progressive and mainstream wings of the party.

“There’s a very real leadership vacuum,” said Chris Roberts, chairman of the Clark County Democrats. “Late. Reid was a coalition builder. … Diverse and diverse coalitions of people liked and admired him. And there is no one who has taken his place to earn the respect and admiration of these diverse groups of people.”

The relationship between the party’s two wings is so contentious that the NV Dems were not invited to the Nevada Democratic Victory election night party at the Encore, a five-star hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Instead, the NV Dems kept on the phone until 7:00 p.m., when polling stations closed statewide, and threw a small watch party with an Olive Garden spread.

“We weren’t invited. We do the work here; they can have fun,” Roberts told the Times on election night. “It’s not about partying right now and throwing parties at the Encore isn’t something we should be doing.”

Mallory Payne, a spokeswoman for Nevada Democratic Victory, disputed the idea that the party was divided. “Nevada Democrats have worked together this year to not only achieve a Senate majority this cycle, but also great victories up and down the vote,” she said in a statement. “The Nevada State Democratic Party, in partnership with Nevada Democratic Victory, has run a successful multi-million dollar turnout and advocacy program that has helped our candidates in key races. We appreciate their efforts.”

People associated with Nevada Democratic Victory had previously expressed doubts that the newly elected progressives in the state party had the ability of their predecessors to raise money, campaign and select candidates who could win in Nevada. Donna West, a former Clark County Democratic Party leader, has criticized the new leadership, and Whitmer in particular, as being difficult to work with.

“I found that working with her could be really difficult, that she doesn’t really work well together and doesn’t work to reach a consensus,” West said said the intercept last year.

Democratic disunity is certainly not the only possible explanation for Sisolak’s defeat. Its COVID-19 guidelines closing casinos two months and lead two 28% unemploymentYou hurt him politically.

The NV Dems “had no say in wins or losses,” Chris Sloan, senior campaign adviser for the Democratic Governors Assn., told The Times.

Sloan cited three other factors that contributed to Sisolak’s loss: the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy, heavy spending from out-of-state donors, and Lombardo’s notoriety.

“The fallout from the pandemic was too great a hurdle,” Sloan said. “Sisolak could have beaten two out of three, but three out of three was too much.”

The difficult decision to close Las Vegas casinos saved lives but contributed to Sisolak’s loss, the North Carolina governor said. Roy Cooper added at a DGA press briefing on Wednesday.

“He did the right thing because he knew he wanted to take care of the health and safety of the people who lived in Nevada and I think that was an issue that hurt him a lot,” Cooper said.

Lombardo too hammered Sisolak on the governor’s ties to a COVID-19 testing company that has billed the federal government at least $165 million for testing did not work.

Nonetheless, this year’s Nevada Democratic campaign was markedly different from previous cycles. In the past, Nevada Democrats have worked together to elect all Democratic statewide candidates. This year marked the first time in Nevada that a campaign coordinated outside of the state party has taken the top of the ticket, Whitmer said.

Historically, the state party has also worked hand in hand with the unions in coordinating election campaign events. This year, however, the unions acted largely independently. The largest teachers’ union in the country, the Clark County Education Assn.declined to endorse a gubernatorial candidate this cycle, citing teacher shortages and low student academic achievement.

Nevada’s Democrats aren’t the only ones pointing fingers at election defeats. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused of “calcified machine politicsfor her party’s poor performance in New York, where Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee, lost his seat.

“Not once has the Democratic Chairman of the State of New York ever called me,” Ocasio-Cortez told the New York Times. “All he’s done is upset me and all progressive candidates. We have to stand together as a team.”

Whitmer has similar views and hopes Nevada’s top Democrats will “realize their mistake.”

“I think some of those razor-thin margins could have been wider margins if we could work together as a team here in Nevada,” she said. “We have to pull ourselves together and work together because we are stronger that way.”

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