‘Really embarrassing’: GOP erupts into swing state civil war

Source: Politico | October 15, 2021 | David Siders

Republicans are in turmoil in a key battleground state.

Republicans have been feuding for months in Nevada’s largest county after a pro-Donald Trump insurgency with ties to far-right activists threw the party into chaos.

Now the turmoil is spreading across the battleground state, consuming the GOP in a bonfire of lawsuits, counterclaims and resignations.

The meltdown — the latest iteration of the hostilities that have wracked the party nationally in the post-Trump era — could prove especially damaging if the fissures linger into next year. Trump lost to Joe Biden in Nevada by just more than 2 percentage points, and Republicans have a chance of knocking off Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Gov. Steve Sisolak in 2022. National GOP groups are pouring money into those races — but the dysfunction within the state’s Republican Party is threatening to undermine those efforts.

In recent days, Republicans tied to a pre-existing leadership group in Las Vegas’ Clark County filed a lawsuit seeking to bar the state party from electing officers at its fall meeting on Saturday in Northern Nevada. On Thursday, a judge in Nevada denied their request, dismissing the case.

And that same day, the state party chair, Michael McDonald, pledged in an interview to counter-sue.

Meanwhile, several GOP officials in Washoe County — the state’s second-most populous county and a traditional bellwether — resigned from their posts earlier this week amid an uprising from pro-Trump activists within their ranks. In Carson City, former state Controller Ron Knecht resigned from his leadership position in his local Republican club and from the state party’s central committee, which he torched as “dysfunctional” on his way out.

“Oh my God,” said Amy Tarkanian, a former chair of the state Republican Party. “It’s really, really embarrassing, just as a whole.”

For the GOP’s shrinking band of traditionalists, the warring has laid bare the limited options remaining for them in a party that is still fiercely loyal to Trump and his baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged. Nearly a year after the November election, the party continues to reckon with the volatile forces set loose by the former president.

In Washoe County, some old-guard Republicans have simply left the GOP organization and formed a PAC to help elect Republican lawmakers, working outside of the party.

“We’re trying to focus on the very practical, important, productive business of taking back the legislature,” Knecht said.

At a minimum, the saga in Nevada has served as a public relations fiasco for the state GOP, with embarrassing coverage by the state’s largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and other influential outlets. The effort to oust the original leaders of the Clark County party involved activists with ties to the Proud Boys, a militant, far-right group, which drew national attention.

Two parties are claiming to represent the GOP in Clark County — one controlling the local party’s website, the other recognized by the state party.


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