Ralston On Campaign Payments, Ryan Bundy And The Race For Governor


Associated Press

Ryan Bundy outside the courthouse in downtown Las Vegas.

Primary elections for governor are in June. Attorney General Adam Laxalt is expected to take the Republican nomination against State Treasurer Dan Schwartz. 

But in the general election, he could face a bigger problem in form of Ryan Bundy.

Bundy and his father Cliven Bundy have become folk heroes in some circles for facing down the federal government and winning.

Bundy along with his father, brother and several other supporters were charged in connection with the 2014 standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents at their ranch near Bunkerville.

In January, the judge overseeing their trial dismissed the charges after finding misconduct by the federal prosecutors. 

Ryan Bundy is running as an independent but could he siphon off enough votes to spoil the race for Laxalt?

Jon Ralston, publisher of the Nevada Independent and longtime political reporter, told KNPR's State of Nevada that part of the problem for Laxalt is that Bundy appeals to the same part of rural Nevada.

"The Bundy's have a cult following in rural Nevada," he said, "They are seen as fighting back against the oppressor the federal government. It is the Sagebrush Rebellion. The federal government owns too much land... This is the kind of thing that might come out of the mouth of Adam Laxalt."

Ralston pointed out that Laxalt won the attorney general position by appealing to rural Nevada not the urban centers of Las Vegas and Reno. He said Laxalt's win for attorney general was "unprecedented" because it didn't require Clark and Washoe county voters.

But Ralston says Laxalt will need all of those rural voters again for the governor's race and can't really afford to lose any of them to Ryan Bundy.

And on the Democratic side:

Democrats wonder if a story about Chris Giunchigliani’s campaign payments to her late husband has doomed her chances.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported in late March that Giunchigliani, who wants the Democratic nomination for governor, paid more than $1 million in campaign funds to her husband, Gary Gray, over 12 years.

Gray died three years ago in a car accident. He was also Giunchigliani's campaign manager and known as one of the most successful political consultants in Nevada.

The Giunchigliani campaign has said Gray was paid no more than any other campaign vendor.

Ralston said the payments were nothing new but the RGJ's story about the payments were so detailed as to raise more than a few eyebrows.

He said the payments go beyond just looking bad for Giunchigliani.

"This is more than just optics," Ralston said, "Gary Gray was a talented guy. But, if you're going to have your wife running for office donate your services for crying out loud! It looks terrible that you're enriching yourself."

And, he believes Giunchigliani's campaign is making it look worse, "they made it more of an issue by their reaction."

Ralston said the question is whether Giunchigliani's opponent is going to use the information against her. He said the primary is likely to be "ugly" and Steve Sisolak will be spending a lot of money to defeat her.

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Jon Ralston, publisher, Nevada Independent

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