Chattah, Ford make closing arguments in contentious battle

By: - October 19, 2022 6:08 am

Sigal Chattah, Aaron Ford

She struts across the stage like a rock star, music blaring in the background, camera in hand taking video of the crowd.  

“Who’s ready to bring the fire to Douglas County?” she yells. The crowd cheers. “Smells like a red wave.”

But Republican candidate for attorney general Sigal Chattah is no rock star. Her greatest hits (or misses, depending on your perspective) include declaring her opponent, Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Black man, “should be hanging from a f–king crane”; longing for fewer “pronoun badges” and transgender individuals in America, while describing them with an offensive slur; and inviting comparisons with Sen. Joe McCarthy and former Pres. Donald Trump by calling for the imprisonment of political foes. 

Chattah insists she’s never considered apologizing to Ford for what was widely viewed as a racist comment.  

“I think he’s a corrupt public official and I think he’s betrayed Nevadans. I’m not going to apologize for that,” she said. 

Ford has refused to engage with Chattah, choosing instead to focus on his own accomplishments, including securing a $284 million settlement over opiods. 

On the campaign trail, Chattah’s blamed Ford for all things crime-related, from fentanyl use in rural counties to the recent fatal stabbing of a showgirl and a tourist on the Las Vegas Strip. 

The sheriff of Las Vegas, Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo, is held harmless in her indictment.

“The best thing that could happen to an attorney general like myself is to have the sheriff of Clark County be my running mate and our next governor,” Chattah told the crowd at a recent rally with Trump in Douglas County. 

But in a quieter moment in her Las Vegas office, Chattah, who was born in Israel and moved to the U.S. at age 14, said if elected, she’ll be a bipartisan nightmare for anyone engaged in public corruption. 

She says she’ll investigate Trump (who she calls the “best president of my lifetime”), his Nevada band of fake electors (including Nevada Republican party boss Michael McDonald), and look into whether Lombardo, her “running mate,” has adequately policed his own department. 

She says her opponent, Attorney General Aaron Ford, should have beat her to it.   

“That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re attorney general,” she said during an interview in mid-October. “You’re supposed to investigate and indict public corruption. There’s a failure to do that. That’s why I’m running.”

She says she’d “absolutely” investigate the so-called fake electors for their alleged role in attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. 

“I prosecute the crime, not the criminal,” she says, adding she’s “not going to be a party-line prosecutor.”

“I can only tell you what I’ve said before, which is we don’t comment on investigations, whether they exist or otherwise, period,” Ford said of the fake electors. “But what I have said publicly is that it’s on my radar. And I’ve also said in view of the fact that the DOJ has announced that they are looking into it, I have said out loud that we will be helping them with their investigation as well.”

“Look at what’s going on in New York. The AG’s office is indicting the former president of the United States,” Chattah says as evidence of Ford’s inaction.  

To be accurate, the New York AG has not indicted Trump. She’s filed a wide-ranging civil lawsuit alleging that Trump defrauded lenders by inflating his property values, and defrauded governments, including Clark County, by undercutting values to lower tax liability. 

Chattah says if elected, she’d “absolutely” investigate Trump. “I don’t care whether you have an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ by your name. If you’re in a criminal enterprise, public corruption, you’re getting investigated.”

“I can say we’re familiar with the complaint,” Ford said of the suit involving Trump Las Vegas. “And similar to what I’ve said a minute ago, we don’t announce an investigation. But it’s concerning to me with the complaint and the allegations.”

Ford also declined to say whether he’s investigating allegations that Gov. Steve Sisolak facilitated  licensing for Northshore, a COVID testing company with a dismal record for accurate results.  

Chattah says when the FBI’s multi-year probe into allegations that Metro police, under Lombardo’s leadership, were protecting some pimps while targeting their competitors ended in charges against one pimp and no police, Ford should have investigated. 

“If there is any type of case that Aaron Ford should have stepped in, it’s that one,” she says.

In fairness to Ford, the FBI’s investigation of Metro began during Adam Laxalt’s tenure as AG.   

“Because we don’t announce investigations, you don’t know if we’ve assisted in investigations. So it is unfair to say that we’ve not, although you can’t say that we have,” Ford said of the FBI’s probe of Metro. “I’ve passed laws related to increasing penalties for pimps and perpetrators and sex traffickers and supported laws that provide services to victims and survivors. So it has been a priority in my office, and we will work to eradicate it as much as we can.” 

Culture warrior

Chattah’s tweet about pronoun badges and transgender people prompted condemnation from her opponent and human rights organizations. “This is just the latest in a series of unhinged, violent attacks…” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement, calling her a “racial candidate that is spewing nonsense to rile up fringe voters…”

How does an individual’s gender identity affect Chattah? 

“I didn’t say anything about gender preference,” she responds. “If the Department of Education went back to teaching normal curriculum, like English and grammar, our children wouldn’t need pronoun badges.”

She says every child is affected “when there’s indoctrination in our schools that is being used by …drag queens or whatever name they go by. I don’t think children should be exposed to sexually explicit narratives.”

Chattah says she’ll introduce a bill to ensure transparency in school curriculum and a Parental Bill of Rights, that “includes barring instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade,” according to her website. 

Chattah says the measure, which sounds identical to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, is not akin to the law.  

“There’s a reason why the Supreme Court ruled that religion can’t be taught in schools. The reason is because children are susceptible to indoctrination. So if you take the Bible out of the classroom, then you can also take sexually deviant curriculums out of our schools…” 

Chattah says drag queens lead a “sexually deviant lifestyle. I don’t find any reason for drag queens reading books to children.”

Chattah wants acknowledgement that parents are ultimately responsible for their child’s well-being. During the pandemic, Chattah, along with then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Joey Gilbert, unsuccessfully challenged the mask mandate in Clark County schools.  

Chattah also challenged Sisolak’s pandemic-era restrictions on church attendance, arguing they violated the First Amendment and singled out places of worship. She appealed a federal court ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the churches.

‘Stadiums to wazoo’ 

Last month, a U.S. Department of Justice probe determined Nevada was warehousing children with behavioral problems in out-of-state institutions, a practice that violates their rights. 

Chattah says Ford should have intervened in the placement of children with behavioral needs out of state before the DOJ investigated and forced the state’s hand. 

“The fact that we’ve got stadiums to wazoo and we don’t have long term mental health facilities is a massive embarrassment to the state,” she said, adding most people rely on Lakes Crossing, a mental health facility “with 400 beds for 3 million people. What we need is to address the needs of the state of Nevada, not people that come in to watch a football game.” 

Why did it take DOJ intervention for the state to invest in mental health? 

“I can’t answer that,” says Ford. ”It’s a dynamic issue that’s been longstanding and it’s not something that’s been ignored. It’s just at the end of the day, more work needs to be done.”

Ford bristles at the notion that mental health investment wasn’t prioritized in the same way as a football stadium.

“Simply because you have funds going to different things doesn’t mean that they’re not priorities,” he said. “At the end of the day there are decisions relative to the economy and jobs that play into the decision-making process of legislators as they did when I was in the Legislature, but there are also decisions related to education and social services. To say that they are not a priority is a mistake.” 

‘Make crime illegal again’

Chattah, who has defended white collar criminals such as topless club mogul Rick Rizzolo and Leon Benzer, the mastermind behind a scheme to pack homeowners’ associations and gain kickbacks from vendors, has branded Ford a criminal for minor arrests in his 20s that involved stealing tires and failing to appear in court. She also holds Ford, a former lawmaker, responsible for criminal justice reforms enacted after his time in the Legislature.  

Her website decries “…bail reform, decriminalization and defunding law enforcement” for seeking “to reduce criminal recidivism through alternative methodologies such as mental health diversionary programs, youth offender diversionary programs, safe injection sites, etc.” 

Chattah contradicted herself when she said during a debate that “as somebody that’s been in criminal justice for 20 years, I am a huge proponent of diversionary programs,” in cases involving mental health, drug addiction, or individuals “who shouldn’t be incarcerated.”   

Other low-level offenders should not be in diversion programs, Chattah says, based on her own experience with clients.  

“Normally, when there is a low-level offense that goes unpunished, many defendants will reoffend, and in due time, low-level offenses turn into felonies and violent felonies.”

Abortion 

In May, before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Chattah said during a primary election debate that she believes “life begins at the time of fetal heartbeat” and suggested “sentencing enhancements on unborn children, victims of unborn children,” at the time of quickening – the detection of fetal movement.

Chattah did not respond to questions at the time about whether she was seeking to imprison women who abort their pregnancies at any stage, or just after fetal movement is detected.

In July, after her primary victory and the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, Chattah tweeted, “I never alluded to incarceration of women getting abortions.”

While she says she will support Nevada’s abortion law, a campaign questionnaire says she favors prohibiting abortion except when necessary to protect the mother’s life. 

Chattah says she was unaware of the existence of so-called crisis pregnancy centers, unregulated facilities usually located in proximity to abortion clinics, that advertise abortion-related services but attempt to persuade women to remain pregnant.  

“I think that’s predatory behavior,” she said, adding that the practice sounds “deceptive” and that if elected, she’ll investigate.  

“Obviously, I’m familiar with the issue and the topic,” Ford said.”I think the stories you’re referencing are relatively brand new, and I haven’t had a chance to delve into any of what’s been reported.” 

Several Nevada Republicans have endorsed Ford, the Democrat, over Chattah. Among them is Michael Roberson, a former leader of the state Senate who sparred with Ford when they were both in the Legislature. When endorsing Ford, Roberson called Chattah “unhinged” and a “charlatan.”  

Chattah said she “couldn’t pick Roberson out of a line up.” 

Ford is trouncing Chattah in the money race. He’s raised $2.55 million this year and spent $2 million. Chattah has raised $424,160 and spent $629,168.  

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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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