Nevada Democrats Are Fighting For Party Control

As arguably the most successful politician in Nevada’s history, Harry Reid must be dismayed by the condition of the Democratic Party in the state in 2021. Nevada Democrats are actively battling over the direction of the party.  

Reid built up a party machine that dominated politics in the state for nearly 30 years. Still, tough elections in 2018 and 2020 for establishment Democrats have opened up a line of attack for radical progressives to take over.

The takeover effort has been led by the Democratic Socialists of America, leading to a backlash from the Harry Reid faction of the party. The Washoe County Democrats have announced their separation from the socialist-controlled party, pledging to maintain an independent presence until conditions change.

Judith Whitmer, the socialist state chair, called Washoe County’s declaration an “insurrection, undemocratic, and ill-advised.”

Incumbent Democrats Governor Steve Sisolak and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto have expressed support for the Washoe County separation. Both have faced a political calculation about the danger of associating with the socialists with re-election campaigns facing them next year. The precedent was set with crushed re-election hopes for several House Democrats in the 2020 election.

The political divisions in Nevada are dictated by the uneven distribution of population and commerce in the state. Around 70 percent of the state’s residents live in Clark County, home of Las Vegas. Outside of Clark County, the state is consistently conservative and moderate, among Republicans and Democrats.

The clash among Democrats in Nevada is troubling the national party, with the “creation of a fully operating shadow party.” The Cortez Masto and Sisolak campaigns are reporting that a lack of coordination is adversely affecting their campaigns already, citing a loss of voter information and other communication issues.

Joe Biden carried Nevada by only two percentage points in 2020, and the national Democrats are gravely concerned that losing Cortez Masto’s Senate position in 2022 could be instrumental in losing control of the upper chamber.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are running Adam Laxalt against Cortez Masto. Laxalt is the grandson of Senator Paul Laxalt, perhaps Nevada’s most prestigious Republican historically. Adam Laxalt is the former Nevada Attorney General and is running against the current socialist trend of the state Democratic Party as much as he is against Cortez Masto.

Laxalt’s strategy may follow that of Virginia’s new Governor-elect, Glenn Youngkin. Motivating rural conservatives, Democrats and Republicans alike might turn Nevada red again amid failing socialist policies in Las Vegas and Washington.