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Cegavske censure, anti-mask madness: Spring is in the air for Nevada GOP

John L. Smith
John L. Smith

April has been a busy time for the Nevada Republican Party.

In Carson City, it managed to tar with a public censure its only statewide elected official. Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s decision to place sworn duty over the GOP’s false voter fraud narrative earned her the ire of state party officials.

In Pahrump, anti-mask zealots on the Nye County Commission are now taking credit for Gov. Steve Sisolak’s announced plan this past week to loosen social distancing requirements and reopen the state to 100 percent capacity on June 1. The commission, you may recall, recently unanimously passed a legally sketchy resolution calling for the reopening.

Into that intrigue and oddity strolled North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, a longtime conservative Democrat who decided to switch parties and, as yet, has not announced that he regrets his decision. Lee’s not alone in being rumored to be considering a run against Sisolak.

The Cegavske censure provides a great example of how far off course the state’s Republican leadership has veered under the spell of Donald Trump. Cegavske is a solid conservative with one of the most impressive resumes in the party. With two terms in the Assembly and a dozen years in the Senate, she was elected secretary of state in 2014 and has taken the job seriously.

So seriously, in fact, that she refused to give in to the Big Lie promoted by Trump’s many Nevada acolytes about widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election in a race Joe Biden won by nearly 34,000 votes. Instead of sobering up and moving on, GOP officials knifed one of the party’s few shining stars.

In a statement its officials thumped, “The Nevada Republican Party holds our elected officials to a high standard. As such, this weekend the party sent a clear message that our officials must work for the people and we demand that our representatives at all levels of government uphold their Oath of Office.”

Even if they have to lie to do it.

For weeks Cegavske remained mostly silent as her own party tried to build a bonfire around the 2020 election using a pile of legal paperwork that was all wet. Following the censure, she reminded Trump’s fanboys that she was unimpressed.

“While I have been loyal to the Nevada Republican Party during my over two decades as an elected official, I have been unwavering in my commitment to oversee elections and administer Nevada’s election laws in a neutral, nonpartisan manner,” Cegavske said in a statement. “My job is to carry out the duties of my office as enacted by the Nevada Legislature, not carry water for the state GOP or put my thumb on the scale of democracy. Unfortunately, members of my own party continue to believe the 2020 general election was wrought with fraud — and that somehow I had a part in it — despite a complete lack of evidence to support that belief.”

Now there’s an adult in the room.

State GOP Chairman Michael McDonald and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, energetic promoters of the stolen election farce, should take political lessons from Cegavske. Instead, they continue to take the party in the wrong direction.

Then there’s the madcap case of Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo and his wife Melissa, a founder of the “No Mask Nevada PAC.” Although the vote on the resolution was unanimous, and was made despite the best efforts of Nye county District Attorney Chris Arabia and County Manager Tim Sutton to talk some sense into the commission, Team Blundo is positively crowing about its “victory” over the so-called tyrant in the Governor’s Mansion.

“This guy had pressure put on him from multiple rural counties, and Nye was the one I believe pushed him to the tipping point,” Melissa Blundo enthused on social media. “When County Commissioners started taking back control over their counties, the Governor couldn’t stand it. Instead of let them have the credit for believing in their constituents’ rights & freedoms, he decided he wanted to take the credit himself.”

So, it wasn’t the state’s multifaceted efforts using medical best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19 combined with a successful vaccination roll out that enabled Sisolak to make his announcement with a clear conscience, it was a legally specious resolution from Nye County that forced his quivering hand. I get it.

To his credit, Sisolak didn’t spend a lot of time addressing Nye County’s stand in the sand.

A graphic from the governor’s office offered a reality check, not that some folks are overly interested in reality. It states: “The mask requirement is a statewide standard. Counties have no ability to pass resolutions or create plans that attempt to override this requirement. This measure will remain in place to protect the health and safety of Nevadans and help get the state to full reopening.”

Says you, Sisolak.

That small detail about having no actual ability to pass such a resolution hasn’t stopped — you guessed it — the Nevada Republican Party from attempting to fundraise off it with an email push that includes a letter published in the Reno Gazette Journal endorsing the theory by Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus.

“This is HUGE,” State GOP Vice Chair Jim Hindle shouts in one pitch. “Especially as King Sisolak’s political calculation to open Nevada just HOURS before counties began announcing their reopening plans, was just another political strategy to take credit for opening back up the state.”

And just like that, the Nevada Republican Party solved the state’s widespread fraud issue and the COVID-19 crisis.

John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR. His newest book—a biography of iconic Nevada civil rights and political leader, Joe Neal— “Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice” is published by University of Nevada Press and is available at Contact him at [email protected] On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith

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