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Questions Arise Over Supreme Court Candidate's Political Leanings

As Nevadans gear up for the 2018 election -- primary day is June 12, after all -- a race that would normally barely get any attention has a lot of people asking questions.

Judge Jerry Tao is on the state appeals court, but he's running for the State Supreme Court.

However, he has raised a few eyebrows lately. Not only has Tao switched party affiliation from the Democratic Party to nonpartisan, but also because he was known for working with former Senator Harry Reid and is now running against Judge Elissa Cadish for the Supreme Court seat.

Caddish was nominated by Reid for the federal bench but the nomination was scuttled by Sen. Dean Heller.

And perhaps most surprising of all, according to Nevada Independent founder and editor Jon Ralston, is the fact Tao stated on his website he was an advocate for school choice.

"Why would a candidate for the state Supreme Court take a position on such a controversial issue?" Ralston asked -- especially because it is likely the issue will come before the court again in some shape or form.

Ralston said Tao has ties to a political strategy group that is also working on Attorney General Adam Laxalt's campaign for governor, and Michael Roberson's race for lieutenant governor. Ralston also said J3 Strategies has ties to Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the company run by Sheldon Adelson.

Support comes from

"I think that Sheldon Adelson and the Sands are interested in who is on the Supreme Court -- as is all business entities -- and Sheldon Adelson is probably going to support Jerry Tao," Ralston said. "Let's look at the campaign contributions when they come out, and we'll know if this theory is right or not."

Ralston also said he would not be surprised if a complaint has been or will be filed with the Judicial Discipline Commission because judges are not supposed to take positions on issues.

He believes it is all tied to the partnership that has taken over the Judicial Branch.  

Meanwhile, Assembly Democratic leader Jason Frierson came out with a list of education reforms he hopes to champion in next year's legislative session. The list includes a rainy-day fund to fund education, tax reform to better fund education and a clarification of where tax money from marijuana sales is going for education.

"They are not necessarily dramatic," Ralston said of Frierson's list, "but they're saying, 'We gotta keep going in the same direction that we're going.'"

Ralston pointed out the Democrats are almost certainly going to control both houses of the Legislature in 2019. That might make things in Carson City interesting: if Republican Adam Laxalt wins the governor's race, Ralston says he will have to make some interesting decisions about school funding, if the Democrats send him legislation to increase money for schools.

"Frierson wants to lay down a marker six months early, saying: 'Listen, this is what we are going to do. We are not going to go backwards. We're going to keep going forward,'" he said.


Jon Ralston, editor and founder, The Nevada Independent

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