Nevada’s competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary is a high-stakes affair in more ways than one — the losing candidate will be legally required to give back hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations.
Although both gubernatorial candidates Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani reported raising huge sums over the course of 2017, the totals fail to indicate just how much they’ll have to return to donors if they don’t prevail in the gubernatorial primary.
Nevada law requires any candidate that loses a primary election to return campaign donations in excess of $5,000 to the contributor no later than the 15th day in the second month after the election date.
That provision would be a problem for both Sisolak and Giunchigliani, who both took dozens of contributions over the state’s $5,000 contribution limit for primary elections over the calendar year (state law sets a $5,000 per election cap on contributions, so the maximum one individual or business could donate to a candidate in one election cycle is $10,000.)
According to a review of their campaign finance reports, Sisolak and Giunchigliani combined raised $935,500 throughout 2017 that exceeded the primary donation limit, meaning it will either have to be refunded or used for the general election.
The bulk of that amount comes from Sisolak, who is at midterm and already has a $5.75 million war chest and raised $2.579 million last year. He’ll have to return $736,500 if he loses to Giunchigliani in the June 12 primary, including $690,000 to the 138 donors who gave his campaign the maximum $10,000 contribution.
Giunchigliani, who is giving up her seat to run, will have to return $199,000 if she is defeated. She reported raising more than $832,000 in 2017, with most of her donations coming from family members and a handful of casino companies. At least $165,000 of that total will be repaid to the 33 donors who gave single $10,000 donations.
Campaign expenditure reports filed with the Nevada secretary of state’s office show both candidates are already spending large amounts of money on the campaign. Sisolak reported spending $356,266 on public relations, oppositional research and brand messaging in 2017, including:
Giunchigliani spent $191,252 in 2017, almost 50 percent less than Sisolak. Some of her contributions went to other campaigns, including North Las Vegas City Council candidate Anita Wood, Clark County School District Board Trustee Chris Garvey and Democratic State Sen. Yvanna Cancela.
Giunchigliani made fewer payouts to consultants and public relations firms than Sisolak. The firm of Penn, Schoen, Berland & Associates were paid $36,800 and Spiros Consulting was paid $12,500.