Las Vegans at Laxalt rally split over Trump and DeSantis for president 

By: - April 28, 2022 6:10 am

Las Vegan Lisa Noeth wears her preference for the 2024 presidential ticket, but not everyone at a Las Vegas political event for Republicans agrees. (Photo: Dana Gentry)

A rally Wednesday in Las Vegas featuring Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Adam Laxalt and his supporter, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, attracted a crowd of several hundred people, some who’ve already made their choice in the U.S. Senate primary race, and some who are still kicking the tires. 

“I’m undecided,” said Paul Merriman, who says he’s still considering Laxalt’s opponent Sam Brown. He said he donated to Brown. 

Merriman does know who he wants for president on the GOP ticket, even though former Pres. Donald Trump has yet to announce whether he’ll make another run at a second term.     

“DeSantis should run and Trump should be Secretary of State and give all his supporters to DeSantis,” Merriman said while awaiting admission to Laxalt’s Rise Up rally at a local nightclub.    

Registered Independent Paul Johnson is supporting Laxalt in the general election, should he win the primary. He says he’d probably vote for DeSantis over Trump. “I like his policies – education, health, financial – he’s done a great job.” 

He’s especially pleased that DeSantis “got rid of CRT” by not allowing critical race theory, a graduate level college course, to be taught in public schools. He also supports what critics call DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay bill, which prohibits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner.”

Supporters of the new Florida law allege discussion of same-sex relationships in the classroom “grooms” impressionable children. 

“You don’t teach kids about sex and transgenderism. How is that appropriate for kids?” asks Johnson, who suggests children are being “groomed from kindergarten all the way up…” 

Detractors say the legislation further stigmatizes gay students and engenders shame among young children of gay parents. 

“If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children,” DeSantis’ press secretary tweeted last month. 

Las Vegan Lisa Noeth supports Laxalt for Senate. But the t-shirt she donned for the rally proclaimed a Trump and DeSantis ticket in  2024. 

“DeSantis is a great leader. He’s my number one governor for America right now,” she said. “He’s standing up to all these leftist ideologies, including Disney. This heartens me that as much as America’s changed, I’m happy that we have at least this one person standing up for us. He is the only one so far.”

Last week, DeSantis revoked Disneyworld’s self-governance status in Florida, and in remarks at the time  suggested Disney productions indoctrinate children about sexuality. 

“I’m not comfortable having that type of agenda get special treatment in my state,” he said.

Noeth says DeSantis is a fitting replacement for former Vice-Pres. Mike Pence, who “turned away from us real conservatives. Pence is a part of the old Republican party that is no longer recognizable. They don’t represent the people. This is Trump’s America.”  

Melanie Johnston is set on Laxalt in the Senate race, but says she’s hoping she doesn’t have to choose between DeSantis and Trump for president. 

“That’s a decision that would be hard to make,” she says, adding she’s heard DeSantis isn’t going to challenge Trump. “I like both of them.” 

Twala and Michael Wagner say they haven’t made up their mind about the Senate primary, but they’re likely to split should DeSantis challenge Trump in a presidential primary. 

“I’d probably vote for DeSantis,” says Michael Wagner.  

“I’d vote for Trump,” says his wife. “I’d vote for the one I think would win.” 

Sondra Richardson is supporting Laxalt in the Senate primary but undecided on whether DeSantis or Trump is the best presidential candidate for Republicans. 

“That’s a hard question. I like both of them,” she says, adding she voted for Trump twice. “I’m still leaning toward Trump. I hope he runs. I’d like to see DeSantis as his vice president.”

“I’m going to hear what Laxalt has to say today,” says Grace Renshaw, who says she’s not sure about her choice in the Republican primary for Senate. “Actually, I’m here to see DeSantis.”  

Renshaw says Trump “has to finish the job” and then “let DeSantis take over.”  Pence, she says, is not in the picture. “There’s something very nefarious about that person.”  

This reporter was admitted to the rally but forced by Laxalt campaign official John Burke to leave before Laxalt and DeSantis took the stage.  

“You didn’t RSVP,” Burke said. 

“We know you’re media,” he responded when provided proof of the RSVP. 

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.

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