It’s critical for Steve Sisolak’s gubernatorial campaign to get strong support from primary-election opponent Chris Giunchigliani and the liberal factions of the Nevada Democratic Party if he is to win in November, a leading Nevada political scientist said recently on Nevada Newsmakers.
Sisolak is facing a tough general election against Republican Adam Laxalt, the current attorney general. If Laxalt wins, Nevada would have “the most conservative governor this state has ever seen and that includes Jim Gibbons,” said Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
For Sisolak, the key is getting “Chris G” to fire up the base, Herzik said July 26.
“If Chris G doesn’t do that, he (Sisolak) is not only dead in the water in Washoe (County), he’s dead in the water in Clark County and with the Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wing of the party,” Herzik said. “That has to happen. On Election Night, she (Giunchigliani) said, ‘I fully back him.’ Well, how fully is that?
“You really need, in a sense, is to activate that base,” Herzik said of Giunchigliani’s influence. “Because if there is going to be a blue wave, it has to come the more liberal wing of the party — women, Latinos and labor and Sisolak has problems with labor.”
The AFL-CIO decided collectively to endorse both Giunchigliani and Sisolak in the governor’s race during the primary campaign while the state teachers’ union ran ads during the primary painting Sisolak as the “most conservative Democrat” in the gubernatorial race.
The Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers also endorsed Sisolak and Sisolak has vowed to stand up for unions if elected.
Sisolak and Giunchigliani are current members of the Clark County Commission and have been at odds on issues in the past. If Giunchigliani doesn’t help unite liberal Democrats behind Sisolak, many Democrats may not bother to vote, Herzik said.
“They (liberal Democrats) are not going to vote for Laxalt,” he said. “They will just sit out. We’ve seen this from the Democrats before. If various factions within the Democratic Party either don’t get their way or don’t have a candidate who somehow wakes them up to show up on Election Day, their turnout can be abysmal.”
Lackadaisical voting in 2014 by Democrats led to GOP control of both houses of the 2015 Legislature, a Republican sweep of three of four congressional seats and all of Nevada’s constitutional offices, including governor, attorney general, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller and treasurer.
“One thing you can say about Republicans is that they show up, no matter if there is a good candidate or a bad candidate, especially in rural Nevada,” Herzik said.
“This is how (in 2014) Cresent Hardy became a congressman and the accidental Legislature of 2015 came to be with all the Republicans from Clark County,” Herzik said. “I am not saying that will be repeated but the Democrats need, if not a big blue wave, at least a blue current.”
Herzik does not see a Democratic wave sweeping over the 2018 general election in Nevada.
“I don’t see this blue wave materializing,” he said. “I don’t necessarily see the red wave, like some Republicans are now claiming.”
Ray Hagar is a journalist for “Nevada Newsmakers.” More information on the public affairs broadcast program, podcast and website are available nevadanewsmakers.com