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Nevada Republicans to vote this weekend on fate of February caucus

Updated September 21, 2023 - 7:09 pm

The Nevada Republican Central Committee will vote this weekend to officially allow for a presidential caucus in 2024 — or to scrap the idea and stick with the state-run primary.

At its fall meeting Saturday in Winnemucca, members will vote on a resolution that will amend party rules to allow the Nevada Republican Party to hold a caucus, in addition to the state-run primary election.

In order to administer the caucus, the Nevada GOP will charge presidential candidates $55,000 to participate, or $35,000 if the candidate hosts an event with the state party. The caucus is scheduled for 5 p.m. Feb. 8 at precinct meetings across the state.

If members vote to delete the language in question, the Nevada GOP’s planned caucus will be official. Some Republicans, however, have expressed opposition to the caucus, citing concerns of voter confusion and frustration, as the Nevada Secretary of State will hold its legislatively mandated presidential preference primary two days before the party’s planned caucus.

“If we didn’t have a primary, I’d be all in on the caucus,” said David Gibbs, president of the Nevada Republican Club, whose leaders sent a letter to county party chairs in opposition to the planned caucus. “But we shouldn’t do both.”

Gibbs said the average voter who raises kids and works does not pay attention to these details. They’ll get their ballot for the state primary in the mail, see their favorite candidate isn’t on there and be confused. If someone can’t go to the caucus the night of Feb. 8, then they won’t get to vote for their preferred candidate, he said.

Clark County Republican Party Chairman Jesse Law told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday he expects the majority of members Saturday to be in favor of the caucus. At his county party’s meeting Tuesday, he took a vote and found 95 percent of his members support the caucus.

‘Time-honored tradition’

From the perspective of Nevada Republican Party leadership, the caucus is a time-honored tradition, having been used since the 1980s. Rather than a state-funded primary in which a candidate files a declaration of candidacy, the party-funded caucus allows for local members of a political party to nominate their preferred candidate.

While state lawmakers did away with the caucus in 2021, believing that a presidential primary would allow for more voter participation, the Nevada Republican Party isn’t ready to let that go.

Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, a staunch election integrity advocate who has also pushed unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, said the caucus is a way to ensure a secure and transparent election. It will use voter ID, paper ballots and will be limited to registered Republicans, he said.

Steps have already been taken for the First in the West Nevada Caucus, named for Nevada’s role in the Republican National Committee’s early state lineup. Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy paid the required $55,000 fee to enter the caucus, McDonald said.

McDonald previously told the Review-Journal that he has had a great response from presidential candidates’ campaigns.

But a political action committee backing DeSantis has criticized Nevada Republican Party leadership over the process, calling them a “Trump puppet” and alleging that they have favored Trump.

The Review-Journal reached out to several presidential campaigns Wednesday about which election they’d participate in, including the campaigns of Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, but did not receive a response before deadline.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com.

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