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Nevada GOP moves boldly into new leadership role

The Nevada Republican Party has officially chosen for the top two ballot slots for the 2014 election cycle a Hispanic and a woman, two demographics Republicans have struggled mightily to woo in recent elections. Yet Nevada Republicans, in the June 10 primary, will still have an opportunity to blow this opportunity.

And if they do, they’ll have Gov. Brian Sandoval to thank.

After decades of sitting in on their hands in the stands watching the game of GOP primaries as mere spectators, the Nevada Republican Party opted this year to take a more active leadership role in determining who its general election nominees would be after a slew of flawed, ideologically challenged candidates have undermined the party’s brand and relegated it to near-permanent minority status in the Legislature.

Remember 2012, when the Nevada Republican Senate Caucus endorsed and backed to the hilt two moderate candidates, Steve Kirk and Mari St. Martin, in competitive districts only to see them go down in flames in the general election resulting in Democrats continuing to control the legislative upper house, 11-10?

So this year, after decades of neutrality in Republican primaries, the Nevada GOP changed direction and decided to issue official primary endorsements. And at its convention in Las Vegas on April 12 the party officially endorsed moderate Brian Sandoval for governor and conservative Sue Lowden for lieutenant governor. A very strong, ideologically balanced ticket for the fall.

Alas, Gov. Sandoval has chosen to go down a different path. Indeed, breaking a long tradition himself, Sandoval hand-picked and endorsed his own candidate for lieutenant governor last summer, moderate state Sen. Mark Hutchison, without consulting anyone in the Nevada GOP and without even interviewing anyone else for the race.

So what Nevada GOP voters will be facing in June is a choice between Sandoval’s endorsed candidate — a white male and lawyer (as if we don’t have enough of those in office already!) — or the endorsed candidate of the GOP’s rank-and-file: a businesswoman with more than 30 years of direct experience in tourism and economic development, the two top responsibilities of the lieutenant governor.

Decisions, decisions.

Whichever way the GOP electorate goes in June, the Nevada GOP’s decision to get actively involved in primaries is a smart and long overdue decision. Now operating at a significant funding disadvantage thanks to ridiculous campaign finance restrictions, the party’s official seal of approval is about the only way left for the party to potentially make a difference and influence who its nominees will be.

The days of playing politics like Pontius Pilot and simply washing its hands of any involvement or responsibility in the nominating process are over for the Nevada GOP. A new era of active engagement has been ushered in.

Let the games begin.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass-roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.muthstruths.com.