Conservative of the Year: Carl Bunce
Carl first appeared on Nevada’s political radar screen in 2007 as a field coordinator for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, where he organized and trained supporters for the 2008 presidential caucus. He also ran for Congress that year, gaining invaluable political campaign experience.
Unlike many first-time candidates, Carl didn’t disappear from the political world after suffering a loss. Instead he volunteered as Precinct Coordinator for the Clark County Republican Party and trained and organized some 350 precinct captains for the 2010 mid-term elections.
In 2011, Carl was named the Nevada chairman and executive director of the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign. That same year, he was elected Vice Chairman of the Clark County Republican Party.
Carl’s involvement hasn’t been without controversy. His effectiveness in organizing Ron Paul’s emerging “liberty movement” in Nevada ruffled quite a few establishment feathers. But there’s no denying his accomplishments. And let’s face it, not everyone can be a uniter, not a divider, like me.
Last year, Carl stepped forward and took on the herculean task of challenging turncoat Senate Minority Leader “Moderate Mike” Roberson in State Senate District 20. And despite the tremendous fundraising and establishment backing advantage the incumbent RINO enjoys, Carl’s experience has positioned him to pull off a major upset – which would rid the Legislature of a fake conservative and replace him with a true, principled conservative.
And for that, Citizen Outreach is proud to name Carl Bunce as this year’s Conservative of the Year.
Conservative Rising Star: Leo Bletnitsky
If you’ve attended a political event with conservatives present anywhere in Clark County over the last couple of years, odds are you’ve seen Leo Bletnitsky even if you didn’t know who he was. I mean, the guy is EVERYWHERE.
Leo is a Russian immigrant and a lifelong conservative, despite growing up in the leftist San Francisco Bay Area. He’s a co-founder of the Las Vegas Jewish Cigar and Shooting Club and is president of the Las Vegas Republican Jewish Coalition. He’s also an elected member of both the Clark County Republican Party and Nevada Republican Party.
Leo was recently tapped as the Executive Director of New America PAC Nevada, a Federal political action committee dedicated to spreading the conservative message to minorities through technology, grassroots activism and traditional avenues.
If you haven’t run into Leo yet, don’t worry. You will.
Conservative Organization of the Year: Virgin Valley Tea Party
Last year Connie Foust took over and renamed the Mesquite Tea Party – and, oh, how I wish I could clone her and it.
The newly-rebranded Virgin Valley Tea Party has been super-active in recent months, weighing in on several local, state and federal issues, featuring high-profile speakers at their meetings, and hosting a major debate between the two GOP candidates seeking the nomination in the 4th congressional district race.
Plus, unlike some tea party organizations that have opted not to endorse candidates in primaries, the VVTP has jumped in with both feet, providing much-needed and appreciated leadership for conservative “tea party” GOP voters.
Congratulations President Foust and keep the tea party fires burning!
Courage under Fire Award: Assemblyman Jim Wheeler
Jim Wheeler was a major unheralded success story for conservatives in 2012. He actually blazed a trail that many other conservative candidates are following this election cycle.
After then-incumbent Republican Assemblyman Kelly Kite (District 39) voted to extend $620 million worth of “temporary” tax hikes in 2011, Jim decided to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and run against him in the 2012 Republican primary. And won.
He then went on to not only keep his promise to oppose and vote against any and all tax increases – including the “sunsets” – in the 2013 legislative session, he chalked up the second most conservative voting record in Citizen Outreach’s annual Ratings of the Legislature.
Naturally, with a record like that, the long knives have been out – including from a number of his GOP colleagues and especially the minority leader.
Last summer in a speech, Jim used an unfortunate analogy regarding slavery to make a point about how committed he was to representing the interests of his constituents. His comments were largely taken out of context by liberals and used to ridicule and belittle the conservative firebrand, not only in Nevada, but across the country – including a segment on the nationally-televised “Colbert Report.”
As a result, Jim soon drew a Republican primary opponent, and most of the donor community that normally supports GOP incumbents abandoned him and fled to the hills. As a part-time citizen legislator, it would have been an easy and understandable decision for Jim to throw up his hands and say, “I don’t need this.”
Instead, he filed for re-election and is, surprisingly, in a position to retain his seat despite the maelstrom of controversy. And for that, win or lose in the primary, Jim has certainly earned our Conservative Courage under Fire Award for this year.
Reagan Legacy Award
In 1976 – despite the Republican Party establishment telling him it wasn’t his turn and to not run against incumbent Republican moderate President Gerald Ford – former conservative California Gov. Ronald Reagan defied the “powers that be” and gave Republicans a choice in the primary.
Reagan didn’t win that primary, but he sparked a renewed conservative movement that led him into the White House just four years later. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Similarly, the Republican Party establishment in Nevada – led by moderate Gov. Brian Sandoval – unilaterally decided last summer that moderate, freshman state Sen. Mark Hutchison was to be the GOP’s lieutenant governor nominee despite the fact that other more accomplished and experienced Republicans were considering the race.
Sue Lowden – a former conservative state senator, former Nevada Republican Party chairman and former U.S. Senate candidate against Harry Reid, who has extensive experience in tourism and economic development (the job’s primary responsibilities) – was extremely interested in running for this position and formed an “exploratory committee” shortly after Hutchison’s anointment was announced.
She was immediately pressured by very powerful people in the state to abandon the effort, and arms were twisted to shut off any possible financial support for her challenge. In addition, a whisper campaign using the same opposition research talking points used in the Reid race was launched, including feeding negative information to liberal members of the press and blogging community.
Rather than force her out of the race, the heavy-handed anti-Lowden campaign only emboldened the longtime conservative activist. And despite being outraised by at least a 4-1 margin, Sue could still pull off a major upset on primary election day.
But even if she comes up short, the very act of taking on the entrenched Republican establishment and giving Republicans a choice, not an echo, in the lieutenant governor race – not to mention her decades of service and generous financial support to the conservative movement and conservative candidates over the last 25 years – has earned Sue Lowden this year’s Reagan Legacy Award.