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The Nevada Independent

Trump decries Nevada gas prices, boosts Laxalt, Lombardo and GOP ticket

Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Carly Sauvageau
Carly Sauvageau
Election 2022

Former President Donald Trump attacked Nevada’s top Democrats as weak on crime and damaging to the economy during a Saturday campaign rally in Minden, Nevada for the state’s top Republican candidates, including U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt and gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo.

During a nearly 90-minute speech delivered in front of thousands of cheering supporters at the Minden-Tahoe Airport, roughly 12 miles south of the State Capitol, Trump blamed Democrats for high inflation and what he described as an “invasion” at the southern border, while also boosting down-ticket Republicans, including secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant and attorney general candidate Sigal Chattah.

“Under Democrat rule, the price of gas in Nevada is up 100 percent,” Trump said. “Two years ago, everything was so good in our country, and now, it's going to pieces. It's falling apart. You now have gasoline, $5 today, $5.54 a gallon.”

But the majority of his remarks disregarded Nevada entirely. Trump repeatedly attacked Democratic President Joe Biden, lamented the United States as a “failing nation” and denounced investigations into his conduct as political attacks — including the Department of Justice’s investigation into classified documents Trump took after leaving office.

“For six straight years, the witch hunts, hoaxes and abuses have been coming at us fast and furious,” Trump said. “We have a weaponized Department of Justice and FBI on everything. including of the courts. I mean think of this, how about, including the break in of my home, concerning the so-called ‘document hoax’ case.”

He also hinted at plans to run for re-election in 2024, saying about his presidential runs, “we may have to do it again,” followed by chants of “We want Trump” from the crowd.

The event marked Trump’s second visit this cycle to battleground Nevada, where Republicans are seeking to capitalize on high inflation and dissatisfaction with Democratic President Joe Biden to flip a slew of Democrat-held federal and statewide seats, including a pivotal seat in the U.S. Senate, three House seats and the governor’s office.

During his last Nevada visit, a trip to Las Vegas in July to boost Lombardo and Laxalt, Trump railed against Democratic crime policies, describing Nevada as a “cesspool of crime.” 

Trump echoed messaging from that Las Vegas speech, attacking Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak as weak on crime, and calling for the use of the death penalty to punish drug dealers.

The Saturday rally came just as mail ballots are being sent out to voters across deep red, rural Nevada, and just two weeks before the start of the state’s early voting period on Oct. 22.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt appears before the crowd during a "Save America" Trump campaign rally in Minden, Nevada on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

Along with Lombardo and Laxalt, the event featured “the entire Nevada Trump ticket,” who urged Republicans in the audience to turn out to vote in November. That ticket included Marchant; Chattah; Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents Congressional District 2; Sam Peters, candidate for Congressional District 4; Michele Fiore, candidate for state treasurer; Stavros Anthony, candidate for lieutenant governor; and Andy Matthews, candidate for state controller.

The group of candidates, who each delivered roughly five minute-long campaign speeches, offered praise for Trump, while addressing key issues for the Republican base, including the economy, crime and immigration. By and large, the group pointed to high inflation and rising gas prices, denouncing economic conditions in Nevada under Democratic control.

“Why we're hurting worse than any state in America — it's because of these policies,” Laxalt said in a speech focused on tying his opponent, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, to Biden.

Lombardo’s remarks centered on the key issues of his campaign, as he called for economic diversification and school choice and said he would “fix our safety.”

“The goal of government is to make criminals’ lives harder, not easier,” he said. “Sisolak has done the opposite, and we're going to fix that … because you're going to have a subject matter expert in the office of the governor.”

Marchant, standing alongside Trump, said he and the former president had both lost a “rigged election” in 2020, despite state election officials finding no evidence of widespread fraud in Nevada.

In a speech earlier in the event, Marchant highlighted his push for major election changes, including using strictly paper ballots and hand counting results. He also said he convinced a Nevada county to implement a “new prototype for the election system,” referring to Nye County, where the top election official plans to tabulate votes electronically and by hand.

But Marchant, a former assemblyman who has said Nevada has not had a legitimate election in more than a decade, did not hope to dissuade turnout with that message.

“No matter how much rigging they can do of the system, if you show up on November 8, in mass, with such a turnout, it doesn't matter what they do. We overwhelm the system. So it's critical that you get out and vote like you've never voted before,” he said.

Trump echoed Marchant’s claims about a “rigged election,” falsely claiming he ran twice and “won twice.” He also urged the crowd to vote in person on Election Day, saying that it would make it “harder for them to cheat.” 

Trump also referenced Jan. 6, 2021, while boasting about the size of the crowd at the Minden rally, saying that it was “the biggest crowd I believe I’ve ever spoken to.” On that day, Trump supporters gathered in Washington D.C., before violently storming the Capitol. Multiple Nevada residents have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with their participation in the insurrection.

Republican secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant waves to the crowd during a "Save America" Trump campaign rally in Minden, Nevada on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

Democrats moved swiftly to denounce the event following its announcement late last month, attacking Lombardo and Laxalt for their connections to Trump, who lost Nevada by roughly 2.4 points in both 2016 and 2020.

Since Trump’s endorsement of Lombardo in April, Lombardo has, at times, kept a distance from the former president. In an October debate against Sisolak, Lombardo, asked if Trump was a “great” president, said: “I wouldn’t say great. I think he was a sound president.” 

But soon after the debate, Lombardo’s campaign issued a press release stating, “By all measures … Trump was a great President.” On Saturday, he echoed that sentiment. 

“We're here to rally for the Republican ticket. And who's going to help us today? Who's going to help us? The greatest president, right? Donald J. Trump,” Lombardo said. “I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart for being here today and helping us, helping us achieve what we're trying to achieve.”

Laxalt, who earned the endorsement of Trump in August last year, has been a close ally of the former president, serving as the Trump campaign’s Nevada co-chair in 2020, and leading legal efforts to challenge the election. However, Laxalt recently acknowledged that Biden is the “legitimate president,” in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s editorial board.

Attendees arrive at the "Save America" Trump campaign rally in Minden, Nevada on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

Nearly 100 attendees gathered outside the event gates as early as four hours before the doors opened for the “Save America” Trump rally. Chants of "Let's Go Brandon" and a playlist featuring classic rock and country filled the air as people waited to be let in.

As the time neared for guest speakers to deliver opening remarks, the sea of red merchandise — featuring Trump graphics and candidate names, including Peters, Lombardo to and Laxalt — grew to an estimated 2,000-5,000 people, some who came from as far as Florida. By the end point of his speech, Trump said he was speaking to a crowd of 25,000 people.

John DeCicco, a North Las Vegas resident who flew to Reno a few days before the rally, pointed to crime, immigration and voting integrity as his top issues during an interview with The Nevada Independent. He identified himself as a supporter of Reno attorney Joey Gilbert, who finished second in the Republican primary for governor. 

DeCicco said he believed the 2020 election was rigged, and he agreed with Gilbert’s decision to contest the result of the primary. Gilbert alleged that algorithms in the voting machines were responsible for flipping votes, and for his loss in the election, though a judge dismissed the lawsuit finding “no competent evidence.” 

“Nevada was one of the six states, and it was probably more than that, where I think the Democrats cheated,” DeCicco said. “Personal opinion — Democrats can't win unless they cheat.”

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in Nevada’s 2020 election. The state’s Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, also found no “evidentiary support” for claims of massive fraud alleged by state Republicans following a review of those claims in 2021. 

Attendee David Entriken, an electrician who traveled to the event from Jamestown, California, expressed support for the message of the “Save America” rally.

“Our country is broken. We got to fix it,” he said.

Not all attendees were energized about the Nevada slate, though. When asked about his opinion of Lombardo, Steve Machutta, a Reno resident, said, “We're kind of on the fence … we thought we could have done better than him.” But Machutta still plans to vote for Lombardo, adding that he hopes for “anything better than what we have now.”

Nevada’s top-of-the-ticket races for governor and Senate are both considered “toss-ups.” Recent polling on the races shows the respective Democratic and Republican candidates in tight, almost dead even races.

Attendees wave signs during a "Save America" Trump campaign rally in Minden, Nevada on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

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