Election 2024

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Indy Elections: The Lombardo-Democratic establishment fundraising battle

Plus: What’s behind an unusually large $129,000 legislative donation?
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
Indy Elections

Indy Elections is The Nevada Independent’s newsletter devoted to comprehensive and accessible coverage of the 2024 elections, from the race for the White House to the bid to take control of the Legislature.

In today’s edition: An analysis of campaign finance reports in races with Democratic and Lombardo-backed candidates, an explanation of why a legislative candidate reported a more than $129,000 donation, a new abortion rights-related legislative campaign ad and a response from the secretary of state to a lawsuit over voter roll cleanup.

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We want to hear from you! Send us your questions, comments, observations, jokes or what you think we should be covering or paying attention to. Email your newsletter editor Tabitha Mueller at [email protected].

Days until: 

  • Primary ballots are prepared and mailed out: 29
  • Regular primary Election Day: 49
  • Election Day: 196

How are Lombardo candidates stacking up in the fundraising battle?

By Eric Neugeboren and Tabitha Mueller

The legislative fundraising battle is tight between GOP candidates backed by Gov. Joe Lombardo and their likely general election opponents supported by the Democratic establishment.

The Nevada Independent identified 10 legislative elections that are expected to be competitive — based on voter registration data and past election results — and have establishment-backed candidates in both parties. In these races, there is an even split where the Lombardo-backed candidates raised more money from January through March and races where the Democratic candidate had a fundraising lead. 

Last Monday marked the deadline for candidates to report their contributions and expenditures through the first three months of 2024 — the last time they’ll need to do so before the primary election in June.

Democrats control 13 seats in the 21-member state Senate (one short of a two-thirds supermajority needed to override a veto) and 28 seats in the 42-member Assembly. 

Some of these candidates still have to prevail in their June primary race, but establishment-backed candidates have an early fundraising lead, giving them a leg up in their races.

Read below for highlights of noteworthy races, and click here for a more detailed story.

Incumbent behind in fundraising

  • In Senate District 11, incumbent Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) was significantly outraised by her likely GOP challenger, Lori Rogich.
  • Rogich raised around $160,000, buoyed by a maximum $10,000 donation from GOP megadonor Miriam Adelson.
  • Harris’ $63,000 haul included support from top Democratic legislators.
  • But the district’s registration still leans Democratic, and Harris is an incumbent (an advantage in legislative races)

Narrowest fundraising difference

  • First quarter fundraising hauls were very close between the establishment-backed candidates in the open Assembly District 35 race in southwest Las Vegas, one of a handful of swing Assembly seats. Incumbent Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow (D-Las Vegas) is not running for re-election.
  • Republican Rebecca Edgeworth, a doctor and professor at Touro University Nevada, raised more than $27,800. Democratic business owner Sharifa Wahab, meanwhile, raised more than $26,700 with support from several legislators. 
  • Wahab only spent $515 in the first quarter, while Edgeworth spent more than $7,500.

Recovery advocate posts six-figure haul

  • Democrats have a pickup opportunity in Assembly District 4 after Assemblyman Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas) vacated the seat to run for state Senate.
  • Democrat Ryan Hampton, an advocate for opioid recovery, reported raising $125,000 in the first quarter and has more than $200,000 in cash on hand. Republican businesswoman Lisa Cole raised around $51,000 in the first quarter and has around $88,000 in cash on hand. 
  • Nonpartisans comprise the largest share of registered voters in the northwestern Las Vegas district, while Republicans have a narrow voter registration advantage over Democrats. 

Tides turn in Assembly District 37

  • Assemblywoman Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas) reported raising $63,000 in the first quarter and has around $140,000 in cash on hand.
  • David Brog, the Lombardo-backed Republican candidate, reported raising $32,000 and has around $130,000 in cash on hand. The hauls mark a shift from last year, when Brog more than doubled Backus’ haul, prompting a pro-Lombardo PAC to tweet that Brog was “well-positioned to flip this crucial seat.”
  • Democrats have a slight voter registration advantage in the Summerlin district. Backus won her 2022 race by around 800 votes and lost the same race in 2020 by a similar margin.

What we’re reading and writing

Establishment-backed candidates have financial lead in key legislative primaries by Tabitha Mueller and Eric Neugeboren

*Spoiler alert* all but one establishment-backed candidate is leading their competitor.

A state law legalized street vendors. Now they say local rules threaten their future. by Sean Golonka

Gotta love regulations.

Millions roll in to Nevada ballot initiatives from unions, Uber and dark money groups by Eric Neugeboren and Tabitha Mueller

Rollin', rollin' (Roll on), rollin' toward the ballot

NV Supreme Court says broader abortion ballot question is constitutional by Eric Neugeboren and Tabitha Mueller

Just in time for petition supporters to gather 102,362 signatures from voters by June 26.

Rosen, House Democrats keep war chest lead; self-funding GOP candidates narrow gap by Gabby Birenbaum and Eric Neugeboren

TIRED: Raising money.
WIRED: Candidate loans.

SOS: Most election fraud reports in Nevada don’t warrant criminal prosecution by Eric Neugeboren

The analysis reinforces that voter fraud is not widespread in the Silver State.

Nevada 'fake electors' accuse state of withholding exculpatory evidence by Gabby Birenbaum

It’s always about the emails.

Indy Ad Watch

Rochelle Nguyen – “Rochelle Nguyen Will Protect Choice

State Sen. Rochelle Nguyen (D-Las Vegas) launched a six-figure digital ad campaign describing herself as a champion of abortion rights. 

The 15-second ad highlights Nguyen — who is fending off a primary challenge from Culinary Union-backed Geoconda Hughes — and her endorsement from Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada.

“When Trump’s Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I fought to protect abortion rights in Nevada,” Nguyen says in the ad, which will run through the June primary election. 

Tabitha Mueller

The Lightning Round

🤑 A $129,000 donation? — Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama (R-Las Vegas) reported a nearly $129,200 donation from the Morning in America PAC, a registered super PAC that supported unsuccessful 2022 U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt. Kasama’s campaign said the donations were refunds of contributions Kasama made last year to the Super PAC after she decided to run for U.S. Congress. Following a conversation with the Secretary of State’s Office, Kasama amended her report, writing "REFUND" after the Morning in America PAC donation and another $28,000 donation to her Hawk PAC. She will face Democratic businessman Ron Nelsen in the Assembly District 2 general election.

🛑 Assembly candidate drops bid — Las Vegas real estate professional Clem Ziroli, a Republican, announced he is no longer seeking the open Assembly District 34 seat. It means Republican Brandon Davis and Democrat Hanadi Nadeem will square off in the general election. The seat is considered a safe Democratic seat and is represented by Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D-Las Vegas), who is running for Clark County Commission.

👀 Ethics Commission won’t play ball — The Nevada Commission on Ethics announced that it will not submit a bill draft request for the 2025 session. “This decision comes after two consecutive legislative sessions where the Commission's proposed legislation garnered support, only to fail to become law after lawmakers amended the bill to exclude themselves from the Commission’s oversight,” members of the commission wrote in a press release.

1️⃣ Endorsement Watch Pt. 1 — The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce released its initial slate of endorsements for Assembly and Senate last week. These include Sen. Rochelle Nguyen (D-Las Vegas) over her Culinary-backed challenger Geoconda Hughes; Higher education regent Shelly Crawford over Assemblywoman Clara Thomas (D-North Las Vegas) in the Senate District 1 race; and Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) over Regent Laura Perkins. The chamber also endorsed incumbent Sen. Carrie Buck (R-Las Vegas) for Senate District 5 and Rebecca Edgeworth, a Gov. Joe Lombardo-backed candidate for Assembly District 35, two closely watched races that could determine whether Lombardo keeps his veto power.

🧑‍⚖️ The SOS strikes back — Attorneys representing the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office have filed a motion to dismiss the case brought by the Republican National Committee and Nevada GOP challenging the state’s process of removing inactive voters. The filing (linked here) includes a fiery introduction that accuses the Republicans of filing the lawsuit as “an attempt to fan the flames of mis- and distrust in the election process.”

Native Voters Alliance announces endorsement process — The Native Nevada Voters Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering political strength within Indigenous communities, announced that it is establishing an endorsement process that “meticulously evaluates and endorses candidates who not only resonate with, but are steadfast in advancing the rights and priorities of Indigenous communities.”

Tabitha Mueller, Riley Snyder and Eric Neugeboren

And to ease you into the week, a few “posts” to “X” that caught our eye: 

We’ll see you next week. 

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