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Will SCOTUS Changes Impact Nevada?


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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced Wednesday that he is retiring from the court, effective July 31.

That news sent Washington into a frenzy on how the fight over his replacement would end up.

All of that could impact Nevada in the November election, longtime journalist and political reporter Jon Ralston said.

He said if the Senate moves quickly to confirm a replacement, it could impact turnout for the general election.

"That could be much more of a driver for turnout for Democrats than for Republicans because Democrats will see -- we don't have the presidency, we've lost the court, we've got to take control back of Congress from the Republicans," Ralston said.

And in Nevada, Ralston said Democrats are making an all-out push to get people registered to vote. 

Ralston said if the turnout for this past weekend's State Democratic Party Convention in Reno is any indication the Democratic party base is fired up.

"The Reno base is in some ways more important than the Las Vegas base because Washoe County is the swing county," he said. "If Democrats can hold their own in Washoe County, they're going to win most of those statewide races."

Those statewide races are already starting to get intense.

An ad targeting Steve Sisolak, the Democrats' nominee for governor, accused the Clark County commissioner of being a 'crony and a career politician,' Ralston said. The ad is paid for by one of the groups that get money from the Koch Brothers.

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"This is actually a very smart move by the Republicans and [gubernatorial nominee] Adam Laxalt," Ralston said.

Ralston said Laxalt knows the Democrats will accuse him of being in the pocket of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and other special interests. So, calling Sisolak corrupt first is a good defense move. 

In addition, Ralston pointed out that Sisolak -- and most people in local government -- has a problem because of the way local officials vote on issues, and how they raise campaign money.

"There are going to be issues of pay to play," Ralston said. He said former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones ran into the same problem when she ran for governor. 

"It is very difficult for a county commissioner to win an important statewide race," he said.

Ralston said the campaign against Sisolak could get some traction with some parts of the state.

"I think it could be devastating, and I think Sisolak can't let it go on for much longer," he said.

But Laxalt has his own problem to deal with for the November election: Ryan Bundy.

Bundy is running as an independent. He is the son of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy. The Bundys faced prosecution by U.S. Attorneys in connection with their 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management. The case was dismissed, but the Bundys are considered folk heroes by many for taking on what they see as government overreach.

"He will siphon votes away from Adam Laxalt," Ralston said. "The question is whether he's going to siphon enough votes to really make a difference."

Ralston said Bundy won't raise much money but he does have "a fairly significant guerrilla campaign out in rural Nevada."

Laxalt is going to need a "super landslide in rural Nevada," Ralston said, like he did during the 2014 election.

"Every vote Ryan Bundy takes away from Adam Laxalt makes that less likely," he said.


Jon Ralston, editor and founder, The Nevada Independent

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