Sisolak pivots to Laxalt

steve and dina
Democratic nominee for governor Steve Sisolak addresses supporers Tuesday, including Rep. Dina Titus. (Photo: MIchael Lyle).

Steve Sisolak campaigned saying he was the only Democrat who could beat Republican Adam Laxalt in the race for governor.

Now he’ll get his chance.

Sisolak defeated fellow Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani  in Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. With still some votes to be counted, Sisolak had an impressive 12-point lead over “Chris G.”

The Democratic nominee immediately turned his sights to Laxalt. Addressing supporters in a ballroom at Aria, Sisolak acknowledged the primary had been tough, but said he talked to Giunchigliani Tuesday night, and “here’s one thing we both agree on: Nevada families cannot afford to let Adam Laxalt become our next governor.”

Then Sisolak ran through arguments sure to be echoed countless times on the campaign trail in the coming months:

“You want to improve our schools and keep our teachers in Nevada? Laxalt won’t get it done.”

“You want to create new jobs that pay, in industries that last? Laxalt won’t deliver.”

“Are you tired of paying too much for healthcare? Laxalt is not listening.”

“You want to protect women’s health and keep Planned Parenthood funded? Laxalt will slash it.”

“You want to protect Dreamers and stop the administration from tearing families apart? Laxalt will stand in the way.”

Laxalt, who was endorsed by Donald Trump on Twitter Tuesday, easily won his primary against state Treasurer Dan Schwartz.

___

The ballroom at the Aria where Sisolak had invited supporters had the air of confidence from the beginning of the night. Once The Associated Press called the election around 9:20 p.m.  the room erupted in chants and cheers.

“What are we?” someone shouted. “Union strong,” the crowd responded. Sisolak’s campaign enjoyed enthusiastic support from several unions, particularly those working on the Raiders stadium that Sisolak has strongly supported and that Giunchigliani has just as strongly opposed.

Long-time friend and supporter U.S. Rep. Dina Titus highlighted the stadium while introducing Sisolak to the crowd.

“He is not a talker, he is a doer,” Titus said. “He can make things happen, and that’s what a progressive really is.”

_____

At Giunchigliani’s watch party at the Bunkhouse Bar in downtown Las Vegas, the strain of the campaign could still be felt.

As the gubernatorial race results started flowing in, one supporter of Giunchigliani held up his phone to show a video clip from competitor Steve Sisolak’s watch party. “Look,” said the supporter. “Look at all those white men.”

A friend quipped in, “I think I spot a black guy!”

The night would not end well for the diverse crowd of supporters and friends who turned out what they hoped would be Nevada’s first woman governor. But the mood remained surprisingly upbeat even after the race was called for Sisolak. Chatter focused on other political races or local downtown happenings. A few cautioned post-op thoughts about what went wrong (they expected better numbers up north, they started campaigning too late, they were simply out financed, etc). Mostly, though, everyone chatted about upcoming races in the general election.

Then, when Giunchigliani took the stage herself to address the crowd, she urged them to do what they’d already been doing all night: “Move forward.”

Giunchigliani took sharp aim at Republican candidate Adam Laxalt, calling him “right of Trump” and urged her supporters to protect Nevada from him—presumably by supporting Sisolak. She added that she planned on talking to Sisolak about her disappointment in the brutally negative advertising during the primary but said the bottom line is she needs to move on.

Then, without actually saying Sisolak’s name, she also issued a subtle warning about keeping people accountable for progressive positions and promises: “You think you’re progressive, you damn well gotta be progressive.”

Giunchigliani praised her team for helping push the narrative left and tasked them with keeping other Democrats accountable for progressive policies that keep things like the working class and education at the forefront of people’s minds.

Whether her supporters heed this call and stay engaged remains to be seen. One campaign worker admitted he worried about apathy over Sisolak. “Lots of people don’t think he’s a Democrat at all,” he said, noting that he’d talked door-to-door at more than 2,000 registered voters.

He added, “It’s disappointing.”

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.
April Corbin
Reporter | April Corbin is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. Most recently she covered local government for Las Vegas Sun. She has also been a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of its student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April serves as treasurer of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter and is an at-large member of the Asian American Journalists Association. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise. She lives with her boyfriend, his toddler, three mutts and five chickens. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, exploring Nevada and defending selfies.
Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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