Atkinson resigns in disgrace, Democrats “disappointed”

buh bye
Erstwhile state Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson during a video interview with the Latin Chamber of Commerce in January.

Nevada Democrats expressed “disappointment,” but for the most part remained silent following federal charges against Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who resigned Tuesday.

First reported in The Nevada Independent Tuesday, Atkinson will plead guilty to federal charges of misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use.

While condemning his actions, Nevada Senate Democrats’ Executive Director Cheryl Bruce said that “given what little information we currently have, we won’t be commenting on what appear to be ongoing investigations.”

Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy said that Atkinson made the right decision to step down. “The Nevada State Democratic Party holds our elected leaders to a high standard and we believe they must be held accountable for their actions,” he said.

Tuesday afternoon, Assistant Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro was elected as the majority leader, making her the first woman to serve in that position. “With less than 100 days of session remaining, our caucus will continue to focus on fighting for hardworking Nevadans,” Bruce added

Echoing other democrats, Gov. Steve Sisolak also said he was “extremely disappointed” in the news. “This admitted violation of the law goes against the integrity every elected officer in the state of Nevada should uphold,” he said. “By doing so, he betrayed the trust of the public, and therefore should be held accountable.”

He added that he was looking forward to working with Cannizzaro “to ensure our state government operates with the high standards of transparency and integrity that Nevadans deserve.”

In a statement, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said he wasn’t familiar with the details of Atkinson’s case.

“While I’m disappointed by his actions, he appears to be taking full responsibility, as he should,” Frierson said. “Our job is to focus on passing meaningful legislation that helps all Nevadans. We cannot be distracted from doing the work that voters elected us to do.”

The Senate Republican Caucus also responded calling the discovery troubling.

“Senator Atkinson has violated the integrity of our elections and broken the trust of the voters and his colleagues,” said Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer. “We hope this is an exception, but we must get all of the facts and determine how far this corruption goes. We must preserve the integrity of this institution.”

On the Senate floor Tuesday Atkinson acknowledged that he used campaign funds for personal use, but didn’t provide any details. He said he was taking full responsibility for his actions.

Atkinson, who was elected to the Assembly in 2002, became the first openly gay African American to serve in the Nevada legislature when he came out in 2013. In November, he was selected to lead the Senate Democrats after Aaron Ford, the former leader, won his election for Attorney General. He also owns the downtown bar Urban Lounge.

Atkinson deleted his social media accounts Tuesday.

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.


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