Race for lieutenant governor features primaries on both sides
Top: Democrats Lisa Cano Burkhead, Deborah March, and Kimi Cole. Bottom: Republians Stavros Anthony, Dan Schwartz, and John Miller
By now, Nevada voters have likely heard about the crowded field of candidates challenging Gov. Steve Sisolak in this year’s primary race for a shot at the state’s top office.
But another primary election for a high-ranking office is progressing with far less fanfare: that of lieutenant governor.
In Nevada, the lieutenant governor’s job is often described as “symbolic” and while it is an executive office it holds little day-to-day statutory authority.
The lieutenant governor’s duties include presiding over the part-time state Senate when the Legislature is in session, serving as the vice chair of the Department of Transportation, and chairing the state Commission on Tourism. The lieutenant governor also serves as a member of several other boards and committees in the state, including the Board of Economic Development and the Audit Committee.
Beyond that, the lieutenant governor is first in the line of succession to governor, if the governor is unable to serve due to death, disqualification or resignation.
Ultimately, the position— with a $63,648 annual pay— is only as powerful as governors choose to make it. As one candidate put it there’s “probably not much” a lieutenant governor can do without the support of the governor, after all “the governor has the ability to veto legislation.”
Eleven people filed to run for lieutenant governor this year. The following is a look at the candidates who are running the most active campaigns.
Lisa Cano Burkhead: She was appointed as Nevada’s lieutenant governor by Sisolak in December. Prior to her appointment, she served as the principal at Foothill High School for six years, a school in Henderson with high minority enrollment. She worked as a teacher and school administrator for more than two decades before leaving to start a consulting business.
She has also served on the Paradise Town Board in Clark County and ran an unsuccessful campaign for the state Assembly in 2002. Cano Burkhead graduated from University of Redlands, with a double major in English and Spanish.
During the first fundraising quarter, Cano Burkhead reported $139,629 in contributions and $54,597 in expenses, giving her $160,299 cash on hand.
Cano Burkhead said mental health is one of the biggest challenges students and educators faced during the pandemic. After being appointed, she joinedthe Nevada Department of Education and State Superintendent Jhone Ebert in a series listening sessions to develop policies on mental health, school safety and supporting educators and students, Cano Burkhead said. She said she plans to bring those policies to the next Legislative session if elected.
The newly created Office of Small Business Advocacy, which falls under the purview of the lieutenant governor’s office, was established through Assembly Bill 184 in 2021 and aims to facilitate business growth in Nevada. Cano Burkhead said under her leadership, the office is “already securing grants for small business, including a $10,000 grant for an Historic Westside small business.”
As the current chair of the Commission on Tourism, Cano Burkhead is working with Travel Nevada and other agencies to create a marketing campaign to lure tourists to other parts of Nevada besides the Las Vegas Strip. Bilingual fluency has allowed her to promote Nevada as a travel destination in several Latin American countries during meetings with official representatives, she said.
“I’ve spent decades pulling together parents, teachers, and administrators to do what’s best for our students. I’ve taught in classrooms, balanced budgets, negotiated agreements, and literally made sure the buses run on time. I’ve led education reform efforts, helped turn around struggling schools, and built partnerships between our schools, communities, and businesses,” Cano Burkhead said.
“Governor Sisolak could have picked anyone to be his partner, but he picked me because I am exactly the right leader at the right time for our state,” Cano Burkhead said.
Cano Burkhead’s endorsements include the politically powerful Culinary Union, the Nevada AFL-CIO, and SEIU Local 1107.
Debra March: She has been the mayor of Henderson—Nevada’s second most populous city— since 2017, but is unable to run again due to term limits. Before elected mayor, March served on Henderson’s city council for eight years after being appointed in 2009 and re-elected twice. From 2004 to 2009 March also served on the Henderson planning commission. March is also a former executive director of the UNLV Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies
She is the current chairwoman of the Regional Transportation Commission and the Regional Flood Control District. March graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
During the first fundraising quarter, March reported receiving $257,489 in contributions and spending $191,790., giving her $552,282 cash on hand as of the start of the second quarter, the most of any lieutenant governor candidate of either party.
March said she has used her role as mayor to create “multiple education initiatives and prioritized funding for public schools and early learning,” and is currently working with the Clark County School District to locate a Career and Technical Academy in west Henderson that will break ground this fall.
As mayor of Henderson, March said she has worked to diversify the city’s economy through economic development, adding that her experience would be beneficial to the Board of Economic Development if she were elected lieutenant governor. She pointed to the 164-acre campus Haas Automation is developing in west Henderson, the creation of two Google data centers, and completion of the Dollar Loan Center sports venue in old Henderson, which she said is expected to have an economic impact of “up to $26 million.”
March said she would leverage her experience as chairwoman of the Regional Transportation Commission to “ensure a strong statewide transportation network for residents and visitors,” and push for “utilizing Interstate 11 to spur economic growth in our Central Great Basin.”
“I believe experience and leadership do matter, and I have 12 plus years of experience leading a transformation in Henderson, from a suburban, bedroom community to an economic leader in our state. As the Mayor of the second largest city in the State and a previous Councilwoman, I have brought transformational projects not just for Henderson, but for Southern Nevada and Nevada that diversify our economy, remove blight, and create educational opportunities for our children,” she said.
“I know we have some serious issues to work on together such as affordable housing, addressing the climate crisis, protecting public lands, and ensuring we have high paying jobs and economic diversification,” March said.
March’s endorsements include the National Latino Peace Officers Association Advocacy, Laborers International Union 872, Henderson Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, the Clark County Black Caucus, and AFSCME Local 4041.
Kimi Cole: She was elected the chair for the Rural Democratic Caucus in 2017 and is currently serving a second term. Cole also served as the Chair of the Douglas County Democratic Party for four terms. Prior to her entry into politics, Cole worked in the construction industry as a project manager and small business owner before retiring.
Cole said she was “politically activated” after she started her gender transition in 2009 which exposed her to systemic barriers and inequalities in Nevada.
During the first fundraising quarter, Cole reported receiving $42,474 in contributions and spending $52,758.
Cole said she believes the office of lieutenant governor can be used to “shine a light” on issues that should be addressed statewide. During a listening turn, Cole said most Nevadans talked about the lack of affordable housing. The lack of policies in Nevada to address affordable housing pushed Cole to run for the office. Cole said development and zoning in Nevada needs to be reevaluated. Urban sprawl contributes to water waste, said Cole, adding that density could make housing more affordable and allow for better mass transportation systems.
Cole said she would utilize her position on the state Commission on Tourism to push Nevada’s tourism sector towards outdoor recreation, in addition to gaming. Advertising Nevada’s natural resources from Red Rock Canyon to the Ruby Mountains could bring economic opportunities to more rural parts of Nevada, said Cole.
“I look at issues like a big jigsaw puzzle,” Cole said. “You put together a picture you can work with, instead of giving up because they look so complicated.”
“The economy has got to be good for all, it can’t just be headlines from the stock market. That doesn’t relate to everyday people who are struggling to make ends meet. The perspective and challenges are different based on where people live,” Cole said.
Her endorsements include the United Rural Democrats, the Barrier to Entry PAC, and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada Action Fund.
Stavros Anthony: He represented Ward 4 on the Las Vegas City Council since 2009. Prior to his time on the council, Anthony was elected as a member of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents.
Last year, Anthony ran for a Clark County Commission seat but was defeated by Democrat Ross Miller by 15 votes out of 150,000 cast. He petitioned a judge to grant a new election after the narrow loss, but was rejected.
Before his time in public office, Anthony was a police officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for nearly 30 years. After rising to the level of Captain he retired and started a career in politics. He graduated from Wayne State University and received his masters in political science and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
During the first fundraising quarter, Anthony reported receiving $350,149 in contributions and $33,508 in expenses, giving him $309,092 cash on hand heading into the second quarter.
In the lieutenant governor’s capacity as presiding officer of the state Senate, Anthony said he would try to eliminate the state’s permanent vote by mail system established in 2021, and push for voter ID laws in the state.
Anthony said he’s been promoting tourism in his role as a Las Vegas councilman for 12 years, giving him a background to serve as the chair of the Commission on Tourism if elected as lieutenant governor. He is also currently a board member on the Regional Transportation Commission, which he said combined with his LVMPD Traffic Bureau experience qualifies him to serve as vice chair of the Department of Transportation.
Anthony said as lieutenant governor he would leverage the Office of Small Business Advocacy to push for lower taxes, reduced fees, and lightened licensing and regulatory burdens on small businesses.
If the governor’s seat stays in the hands of Democrats, Anthony said he would continue to work with the governor to advance his priorities, adding that he would “do the best I can no matter who the governor is.”
“I’m the best choice because I’m the only one that has experience in tourism, transportation, small business advocacy and homeland security… I’m the only one that has experience in every single one of those areas and I can hit the ground running. Everyone else running for lieutenant governor does not have the experience that I have,” Anthony said.
Anthony’s endorsements include the Nevada State Republican Party, Gun Owners of America, and the Nevada Veterans Association, Veterans in Politics.
Dan Schwartz: He is the former Nevada State Treasurer, a position he held for one-term after being elected in 2015. Schwartz declined to run for reelection, instead choosing to run for governor during the Republican primary in 2018, losing to Adam Laxalt, who then lost to Steve Sisolak. Two years later Schwartz lost the Republian primary for the 3rt Congressional District to Dan Rodimer, who then lost to Susie Lee. Schwartz first ran for public office in 2012, when he ran in the 4th Congressional District and lost a primary to Danny Tarkanian. He also served as Finance Chair for the Nevada Republican Party from 2012 to 2014.
Prior to his political career, he worked as a banker, publisher, and entrepreneur. While living in Hong Kong, he ran the Asian Venture Capital Journal, a publication focused on the Asian financial market. Schwartz graduated from Princeton as an undergraduate before receiving a law degree from Boston University, and a masters in business administration from Columbia.
During the first fundraising quarter, Schwartz reported receiving $173,695 in contributions, nearly all of it his own money, and spending $90,473.
During his time as treasurer, Schwartz said he was responsible for advancing the Nevada Prepaid Tuition Program, a 529 College Savings plan. He also grew the state’s College Kickstart savings program while in office. Schwartz also said that under his tenure he oversaw substantial growth in returns to the state’s investment program.
As treasurer he strongly supported allowing parents to use public funds to pay for private school tuition. That program, passed by legislators in 2014, did not survive court challenges, but Schwartz said he hasn’t lost hope for the policy, despite setbacks to recent efforts to revive a version of the policy.
And while treasurer Schwartz also took the highly unusual step of presenting an alternative state budget to the the Legislature, for which he was publicly and angrily rebuked by then Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, and which went nowhere.
Schwartz said he would use his position as head of the Office of Small Business Advocacy to advocate for lower taxes, which he believes would spur economic growth. He added that he was “the first” to criticize the 2015 tax package proposed by then Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, which established a tax on businesses with more than $4 million in gross revenue. He also said he believes he could use his connections in investment groups to bring business to Nevada.
Schwartz said if elected he would use his position as chair of the Commission on Tourism to focus on driving more tourism in rural areas, which “will take some creativity but is worth doing.”
Enacting voter ID requirements is another top priority for Republicans, said Shwartz, adding that he would use his capacity as the presiding officer of the state Senate to advocate for the policy.
“In the Republican primary, I’m the only one who has had a successful career in the private sector. I’m also the only one who has been elected to state office so I’m familiar with Carson City,” Schwartz said. “I think that puts me in a position to hit the ground running in Carson City and to realistically advance priorities on education and diversifying the economy. No one else has that experience or background.”
John Miller: He is the founding CEO of Lexicon Bank, a private bank in Las Vegas that provides loans to local businesses. He currently serves on the bank’s board of directors. He’s also worked on the board of several other banks, including Mission Valley Bancorp, a community-based bank in California, where he’s still a member.
Since 2000, Miller has worked in investment advisory and consulting in the banking and insurance industries. Miller attended the University of Notre Dame, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Philosophy.
During the first fundraising quarter, Schwartz reported campaign contributions totaling $465,133, the majority of it coming from his own pockets, and spending $251,982 in expenses. Going into the second quarter, Miller reported $561,218 cash on hand.
Miller said as a business person he is qualified to lead on diversifying the economy. During the pandemic, when businesses were forced to shut down, Lexicon bank secured more than $115 million in funding for over 600 small businesses during the first round of the Small Business Administration’s Payment Protection Program (PPP). In total, Miller said the bank lent out about $850 million during the pandemic to small businesses in Southern Nevada. Miller said he’s shown that “community investment in Nevada makes a difference in our state and we need more of that.”
An advocate of “public private partnerships” in education, Miller said specialized education, like trade schools and certification programs, falls under economic development and can also create career-ready graduates.
Regardless of which party maintains control of government, Miller said a lieutenant governor’s role is to improve tourism, transportation, and economic development. As someone with a long career in banking and business, Miller said he believes he can add value to all the boards and commissions on which a lieutenant governor serves.
“The role of the lieutenant governor for the state of Nevada requires a person who has signed the front of a check and has taken risk and understands the difficulties of not only starting and running a business in our state but also employing Nevadans and fostering the future of Nevada,” Miller said.
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