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Big upsets in Nevada GOP endorsements at state convention

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Joey Gilbert, Sam Brown

Republican candidate for governor Joey Gilbert, left, and candidate for U.S. Senate Sam Brown received official endorsements Saturday at the Nevada Republican Party convention in Las Vegas.

The Nevada Republican Party Convention held last weekend in Las Vegas had some surprising results, with neither of the front-runner candidates for governor or U.S. Senate winning their party’s endorsement.

Joey Gilbert walked away with a 66% win for governor and Sam Brown received 80% support for Senate. Neither Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo nor former attorney general Adam Laxalt earned an endorsement.

Elko County Republican Party Chairman Lee Hoffman explained that the convention included voting on pre-primary endorsements – something that has been done in the past but not often. The rules called for separate votes that allowed for more than one candidate to win an endorsement.

“In a lively, and sometimes contentious convention, Republican Party delegates from counties across Nevada rejected the recommendations of the State Party Nominating Committee by voting to endorse Joey Gilbert for Governor, instead of the front-runner Joe Lombardo. They also voted to endorse Sam Brown for U.S. Senate,” Hoffman said. “It looks like there is strong grassroots support for Gilbert and Brown. It will be up to the Republican primary voters to make the final decision.”

In the gubernatorial race, Hoffman said only Lombardo’s name was put forward by the nominating committee. Supporters of Reno attorney Joey Gilbert objected, which led to more candidates being included. Support of more than 50% was required to earn an endorsement.

Lombardo received only 31.5%. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee received 40% and venture capitalist Guy Nohra 49.2%, so none of them were endorsed.

Only Gilbert won an endorsement, with 68% of the vote.

“Saturday’s overwhelming victory left no doubt that the changes and solutions I’ll bring as Governor resonate overwhelmingly with Nevadans: Nevada First, election integrity, law and order, medical freedom and privacy, 2nd Amendment protection, parental rights, securing our water supply, and fixing our worst-in-the-nation schools,” Gilbert said in a statement. “I will continue to work hard for all Nevadans and provide strong, courageous leadership.”

In the race for Senate, both front-runner Laxalt and U.S. Army veteran Sam Brown were nominated. However, Laxalt received only 50% support and Brown 80%, so Brown was the only candidate to be officially endorsed by Republicans at the state convention.

“I’m grateful to be the only U.S. Senate candidate to receive the endorsement of the Nevada Republican Party,” Brown said in a statement. ““Combined with Nevada’s largest network of grassroots donors and volunteers, this endorsement makes it clear that Nevadans are ready for new conservative leadership and the Duty First movement.”

Both Lombardo and Laxalt have been considered frontrunners in their races based on polling. Last week, Lombardo received an endorsement from former president Donald Trump.

Elko Republican Ralph Sacrison attended the convention and said he was pleased with the outcome.

“I was shocked to see only Lombardo on the gubernatorial slate,” he said. “It did not come across as transparent.”

But the process worked to bring the other candidates into the picture.

“It was simply a rank and file rebellion against a very typical establishment star chamber,” he said.

The Nevada convention results were not surprising to those familiar with Republican Party politics in the state, which has seen frequent disagreements.

“You still have the tension between the establishment wing and the base wing,” a University of Nevada, Las Vegas political science professor noted in an April 2014 Associated Press article titled “Nevada GOP heads into convention torn at core.”

A rift over support for presidential contender Ron Paul in 2008 led to the Nevada GOP party leader abruptly shutting down the state convention, the article noted. That was followed by more controversial candidates, including 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Sharron Angle.

This year’s conflicts have drawn less attention than in the past, however. As of late Monday afternoon, neither The Associated Press nor most major new outlets in the state had reported on the GOP endorsement results.

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