(Mike Chamberlain) – A bit of last-minute maneuvering that shuffled the roster of Nevada GOP candidates has ruffled feathers and generated angry reactions from some local Republicans.
Michele Fiore had filed to run in State Senate District 9 against incumbent Dennis Nolan, who happens to be the only Republican up for re-election who voted to override the governor’s veto of tax increases in the 2009 legislative session. On Friday, the last day for candidates to file, Fiore switched to Congressional District 1, a seat held by Democrat Shelley Berkley.
Fiore had received a Rule 11 letter, which is, in effect, an endorsement by the state and national Republican parties. It allows the candidate to make use of resources, such as donor lists, from the state party and permits the Republican National Committee to contribute directly to the candidate during the primary. Sources have told me that granting these letters is rare, especially to a novice candidate like Fiore.
Before Fiore’s entrance, political newcomer Craig Lake had been the GOP frontrunner in CD-1. The last-minute jockeying upset Lake and his supporters. In an interview I conducted with Lake earlier today, he said he was not informed of the entrance of a new opponent until he received a phone call at 8:00 a.m. on Friday asking him to meet with state GOP chairman Chris Comfort. At that time, he was told that another candidate had been granted a Rule 11 letter, adding, “They wanted to offer me a deal I couldn’t refuse.”
He was surprised to find out the other candidate was Fiore, of whom he said, “She’s greener than I am.” He later stated, “If I felt she was a better candidate I would step down. But she’s not.”
As others have reported, and as Lake confirmed to me, he was offered the support of the party if he withdrew from the CD-1 race and entered the campaign for Secretary of State. Rob Lauer is the the only Republican registered for that race. He reportedly accepted the same deal earlier to quit his campaign for CD-3, a race in which former state senator Joe Heck received a Rule 11 letter. Lauer is the subject of lawsuits alleging wrongdoing in some business dealings, as the R-J reported today. (Lauer denies the allegations.)
When asked if this might have been the reason GOP leaders wanted him to enter the SoS race, Lake said that he was informed during the meeting that they had reason to question Lauer’s viability as a candidate but that they would not reveal any specifics about Lauer’s situation to him. Lake stressed that he was never interested in the SoS post.
He revealed that he has spoken to Fiore since this transpired. “I don’t want to make it personal,” he said. But he believes “the state party mishandled this.”
“We feel like we were the best candidate and believe it’s right to expose backroom deals,” Lake said. He added, “I don’t want to make it personal.”
The events of the last few days have energized some of Lake’s supporters. A couple of his volunteers have created a Facebook group “Republicans against the misuse of Rule 11” which gained 151 members in less than 24 hours.
It would be a shame if short-sighted thinking on the part of the GOP leadership were to sour a young, promising candidate like Craig Lake.